Freight & Commercial Transportation

THE ACCESS ALMANAC: Planning for High Speed Rail

Martin Wachs

California is contentiously debating whether or not to build a high speed rail system and, if so, how to build it and where to start. This debate reveals enormous differences among Californians. Surprisingly, it also suggests that planning studies and technical analyses increase, rather than resolve, our differences.

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2018-02-13T22:56:08+00:00Categories: ACCESS 41, Fall 2012|Tags: |

Urgent Action Required

Melanie Curry

At a recent conference in Berkeley sponsored by the University of California Transportation Center, On the Road to Sustainability: From Research to Practice, researcher after researcher discussed the climate implications of a wide range of transportation issues. Participants heard how better coordination of systems for dealing with empty freight containers could reduce the numbers of truck trips; what effects, if any, various finance and land use policies have on the amount of driving people do; what new fuels are in the works and whether they hold potential for greenhouse gas reductions; how much aggregate— rock—is needed to complete California highway projects (a lot) and how much of it must be transported from overseas quarries. . . .

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How Privatization Became a Train Wreck

Eric A. Morris

September 15, 1830 saw the grand opening of the world's first steam intercity passenger railway. It also saw the first railway death, when William Huskisson, prominent Tory MP and railway supporter, misjudged the speed of an approaching locomotive and was run over. He was not to be the last British politician to wish he’d never had anything to do with the railways. From 1994 to 1997, John Major’s government conducted an audacious privatization of British Rail. The system was broken up into almost a hundred pieces and sold. Ten years later, disgust with the privatization and its aftermath cuts across British society. There are few stakeholders, from riders to drivers to railway executives to shareholders to regulators to politicians, who do not consider the experiment a dismal failure.

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Economic Consequences of Transport Improvements

T.R. Lakshmanan and Lata R. Chatterjee

Transportation specialists agree that investments in transport infrastructure can generate large developmental payoffs throughout society. But how those effects come about is not readily understood.Variables such as the state of the transportation network, the region’s stage of economic development, the competitive structure of the region’s markets, and technological and institutional changes in transportation, communication, and production systems all affect improvements and the changes they generate, as well as how the overall economy responds. As these contexts vary, so do underlying forces of change, and the consequent social and economic effects. To study them, we can classify these effects along temporal (short-term, long-term) and spatial (local, regional, global) scales. Short-term effects tend to be easier to recognize than long-term ones, but many of the richest effects are subtle and take a long time to be realized.

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Ports, Boats, and Automobiles

Sir Peter Hall

Ever wonder how new cars get from assembly lines to dealers? Especially those imported cars that have been selling so well in the US? From factory to salesroom, automobiles follow a closely choreographed distribution channel. You’ve seen car-carrier trucks on the highway and perhaps even specialized rail cars or square-sided ships designed to carry automobiles. Less visible though are the underlying corporate Ports strategies of manufacturers. Although major automobile importers ostensibly do the same thing—make, import, and sell new cars—their overall business strategies make for very different transportation strategies.

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2017-05-30T22:47:45+00:00Categories: ACCESS 22, Spring 2003|Tags: |

Location Matters

Markus Hesse

The merger of modern communications technologies and physical distribution systems is transforming many aspects of the shipping industries, including their locations and the way they use space. But these changes are not evidence of the promised dissolution of distance that was expected with the advent of global telecommunications. Instead, electronically sophisticated freight handlers are finding that locational considerations are as compelling as ever. In recent years freight services have been expanding via all modes—trucks, airplanes, railroads, oceangoing ships, inland waterway vessels, and pipelines. As Amelia Regan recently reported in these pages (ACCESS No. 20, Spring 2001), this expansion has been accompanied by the incorporation of new technologies aimed at integrating producers, wholesalers, freight forwarders, retailers, and consumers.

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Transforming the Freight Industry: From Regulation to Competition to Decentralization in the Information Age

Amelia Regan

Thirty-five years ago, the common-carrier freight industry was backward and inefficient—the result of strict federal regulation that suppressed competition and innovation. Regulators determined rates, routes, entry of new firms, and even the kinds of goods firms could carry. In one Transforming famous instance, a trucking firm was licensed to carry frozen hush-puppies, nothing more, between two given cities in Louisiana, and was not permitted to carry anything on its return journeys.

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2017-05-30T23:10:33+00:00Categories: ACCESS 20, Spring 2002|Tags: |

Clean Diesel: Overcoming Noxious Fumes

Christie-Joy Brodrick, Daniel Sperling, and Harry A. Dwyer

What is the truth about diesel engines? Are they inherently dirty? Do they belch clouds of black soot? Are they unsuited to cars, as evidenced by 1980s class-action suits against GM’s diesel “lemons?” Do they make an unnecessary racket when idling and accelerating? Are their emissions toxic and a threat to human health? Many ask, in this age of ultra-clean transport, why do we still have diesel engines? The governor of Tokyo and air quality regulators in southern California have both launched campaigns to ban them. But there’s another side to the story of diesel engines. European regulators assert they are an answer to climate-change threats. Many automotive companies claim that new diesel engines are dramatically improved and as clean and quiet as gasoline engines. And freight companies rely almost exclusively on diesel engines for their trucks because they are durable and efficient. Indeed, diesel engines continue to increase their market share worldwide, now accounting for about forty percent of all roadway fuel consumed.

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High-Speed Rail Comes to London

Sir Peter Hall

Right now, monster traffic jams surround London’s St. Pancras station as they dig up the space in front of the great neo-Gothic Victorian pile to build an extension to the Underground station. As drivers sit motionless, they see mysterious red signs directing traffic to mysterious destinations: "CTRL WORKS TRAFFIC 1J," "CTRL WORKS TRAFFIC 2J-4J." The explanation can be found not far away, at the back of the station: behind security fences, Victorian coal gas tanks are being demolished or (because some are landmark structures) moved, while giant tunnel-boring machines are eating into the London clay. All this frenetic activity has one purpose: construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, Stage Two—the UK’s new link to the continent of Europe, and one of the largest civil engineering projects since Victorian times—at last happening.

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What Can a Trucker Do?

Amelia Regan

Trucks play critically important roles in the US economy. Measured by its value, nearly seventy percent of freight is carried exclusively by truck while another eighteen percent spends at least part of its journey on the road. For most motorists, traffic congestion is a nuisance; for truckers, it can be crippling. If truckers are inconvenienced, costs rise for everyone. The strength of each region’s industrial base depends on the ability of freight-transport companies to provide swift and reliable goods movement at tolerable costs. In addition, trucks caught in traffic congestion generate significant negative externalities including pollution, lost productivity, accident costs, and stress.

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2017-05-31T21:27:06+00:00Categories: ACCESS 17, Fall 2000|Tags: |