You have probably seen it on the internet and perhaps you’ve participated in one. But when ultimate frisbee students took the Harlem Shake a mile high on a Frontier Airlines flight the FAA wasn’t laughing. In this news report you can see the video and the response from the FAA. Of course whenever we are dealing with transport and people, safety first, right?
This video however has had me thinking of a concept known as ‘elasticity’ in transport studies. Have a look here to familiarize yourself with the concept:
Road Transport Elasticity by Activity
The concept of elasticity is very useful to understand the economic behavior of transport supply and demand. Depending on the transport activity, a movement is linked with different elasticities. Emergencies tend to have low, if any, elasticity. Commuting has also a very low elasticity as this category of movements is related to a fundamental economic activity that provides income. This fact is underlined by empirical evidence that shows that drivers are marginally influenced by variations in the price of fuel in their commuting behavior, especially in highly motorized societies. Since work is a major, if not the only, source of income, commuting can simply not be forfeited under any circumstances short of being cost prohibitive. Activities that confer limited economic benefits tend to have high elasticities. Social and recreation-oriented movements are commonly those whose users have the least cost tolerance. Consequently, as transport costs increase, recreational movements are those who experience the fastest decline.
Please see this graph to visualize the concept better: Elasticity
From Rodrigue, J-P, C. Comtois and B. Slack (2009), The Geography of Transport Systems, Second Edition, New York: Routledge.
Of course, elasticity here refers to road transport but this video has had me thinking about the last sentence; “Consequently, as transport costs increase, recreational movements are those who experience the fastest decline.” But what if transport was more elastic towards recreational use. Or can this be measured in other ways? Are we missing the point maybe? There are so many activities that I can think about that involve fun and recreation and that we do even if they are ‘expensive.’ Road trips, back-packing, joy-rides, scenic-travel etc. What if it was the priority of national governments to subsidize recreational travel, would we travel more often? What if we didn’t have to pay for transport? Capitalism ≠ fun :-/
I guess that for now people will have to continue exploring other ways and more ways and more ways to have fun with our current transport systems. Point is, we need more elasticity and we need to look at the ways human and non-human actors push the boundaries of the concept.