Air Pollution Impacts of Shifting Freight from Truck to Rail at California’s San Pedro Bay Ports

Escalating concerns about air quality in southern California have led authorities at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, also known as the San Pedro Bay Ports (SPBP), to adopt a number of measures designed to mitigate emissions. One way to do this is to shift some of the containers currently transported by drayage trucks to trains. This alternative is attractive because it would decrease congestion and air pollution on the area’s main freeways (I-710 and I-110) and the arterials that serve the SPBP. In addition, it would increase road safety along the busy Alameda freight corridor between the SPBP and downtown Los Angeles. One drawback would be an increase in pollutant emissions from train operations in the Alameda corridor; however, trains tend to pollute less than trucks per ton-mile, and new federal regulations are tightening the emissions standards for diesel locomotives. The goal of this paper is to quantify the net impact of such a modal shift on the emission of particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOX), the two air pollutants of most concern in the SPBP area. This analysis relies on microscopic simulation to capture emissions resulting from stop-and-go traffic on the freeways serving the SPBP. It was found that emissions of both NOX and particles less than 2.5 µm in diameter (PM2.5) can be significantly reduced by switching from drayage trucks to trains. This finding suggests that a modal shift should be encouraged, especially if there is unused train capacity and if the shift does not conflict with the shippers’ interests.


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  • Accession Number: 01152455
  • Record Type: Publication
  • ISBN: 9780309142922
  • Report/Paper Numbers: 10-3311
  • Files: TRIS, TRB, ATRI
  • Created Date: Jan 25 2010 11:39AM