Use of Passenger Rail Infrastructure for Goods Movement: Economic Feasibility Study from California’s San Francisco Bay Area

As demand for freight movement rises, so does truck traffic. In turn, traffic congestion, harmful emissions, maintenance costs, and accidents increase. One alternative to truck transport of goods is mixed-goods service on passenger rail networks, a concept that offers several benefits to the involved parties. These benefits include additional revenue for rail operators, more reliable travel times, reductions in harmful trucking externalities, and more efficient usage of existing facilities. As a case study, the use of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system in California for FedEx Express cargo movement is examined. FedEx Express was selected because the company’s major hub is located at Oakland International Airport (OAK). To analyze the potential costs and benefits of BART mixed-goods service, two alternatives are compared against the status quo of truck-only transport. The first alternative assumes minor capital investment; the second assumes far greater capital investment, including a jointly operated BART–FedEx facility at OAK. Truck vehicle miles traveled (VMT), FedEx Express operating costs, BART operating costs, and carbon dioxide emissions are determined for the status quo and each alternative. Analysis shows that given sufficient demand, mixed-goods service can be profitable for passenger rail systems, cost-effective for air freight carriers, and highly effective in reducing truck VMT and associated externalities.


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  • Accession Number: 01152778
  • Record Type: Publication
  • ISBN: 9780309142922
  • Report/Paper Numbers: 10-2942
  • Files: TRIS, TRB, ATRI
  • Created Date: Jan 25 2010 11:26AM