Freight and the Environment

Metro has recently produced an interesting little document by the title “Profile of the Regional Freight Transportation System.” The Daily Journal of Commerce has a brief piece today on the trends this report discusses.

Unfortunately it’s still in draft form and therefore not on Metro’s web site. I’ll be sure to post a link when it becomes final.

The document is being used to inform both the Regional Transportation Plan update and the recently formed freight task force.

But one table in the document caught my eye. It lists a number of characteristics of different modes of freight. Here’s an excerpted version:

Mode BTUs/Ton-Mile Emissions/Ton-Mile
Truck 3,337 3.25 gms
Rail 345 0.50 gms
Ship 471 unavailable
Barge 368 unavailable
Air 28,000 unavailable

Of course, Truck freight is the fastest growing mode by far, and it has the worst (save air) energy and emissions impacts. Some of this is due to lack of investment in rail, some is due to business factors like e-commerce and just-in-time inventory management. But it speaks to a national policy failure in allowing the environmental factors to be externalized rather that included in the actual costs of using these modes.

And by the way, even after truck freight doubles, trucks will still be a single-digit percentage of all the vehicles on the road. Let’s not take our eye off the key challenge: SOVs.

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