Importance of Statewide Freight Research

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates domestic freight volumes to grow by more than 65 percent, increasing from 13.5 billion tons in 1998 to 22.5 billion tons in 2020. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the volumes of goods shipped by trucks and railroads are projected to increase by 98 percent and 88 percent, respectively, by 2035. Since the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) required states and metropolitan planning organizations (MPO’s) to consider urban freight in their long range plans, a number of states have adopted statewide freight forecasting models.

California is home to the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles in the San Pedro Bay, the largest container port complex in the U.S. and the fifth largest in the world. California is the world’s 12th largest source of carbon dioxide emissions, and recently took the lead by adopting the AB 32: Global Warming Solutions Act. AB 32 requires the state’s global warming emissions to be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020, and be achieved in an “environmentally just” manner. While existing policies such as California’s emissions standards for vehicles and renewable energy requirements are expected to meet the 2020 goal halfway, additional policies will be needed to fully comply with the Act. Senate Bill 375 is the country’s first law to control greenhouse gas emissions using land use strategies. The amended Senate Bill 391 requires that the California Transportation Plan be updated by December 31, 2015 with a plan to address how emissions reductions would be achieved and identifying integrated multimodal transportation system options that would be needed to achieve such results. These regulations and policies make it crucial for the state to have the necessary tools at its disposal in the next decade to analyze different economic, social, and environmental policies associated with goods movement.

Partnership with Caltrans

The University of California Irvine (UCI) Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) has a strong ongoing research collaboration with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) through the Partners in Advanced Transit and Highways as well as the Testbed Technical Assistance and Development Programs (more about ITS...). The UCI Statewide Freight Transportation Research Group continues on this established partnership to pursue a new focus on statewide freight research with the Caltrans Division on Transportation System Information (TSI).

Recent Developments

Under this focus, our group recently concluded a two-year study for Caltrans entitled “Assessment and Development of Commodity Flow, Logistics, and Other Relevant Goods Movement Data Sources to Facilitate Statewide Freight Modeling.” The primary purpose of this project was to consolidate a number of publicly available data sources within a single “data repository”. This repository, named the “California Online Freight Data Repository” (Cal-FRED) was cited the US DOT Freight Model Improvement Program as a source for freight data, and won second place at the Transportation Research Board SHRP 2 Symposium on Innovations in Freight Demand Modeling and Data. More recently, the UCI Statewide Freight Transportation Research Group was commissioned by the California Department of Transportation to conduct a scoping study for a statewide freight model, “Conceptual and Methodological Development of a California Statewide Freight Demand Model”. This study yielded a set of recommendations and initial data preparation for implementing such a model for the state.

Latest Activities

Presently, the UCI Statewide Freight Transportation Research Group is developing the statewide freight demand model for the State of California. The proposed project timeline is two years long, and the deliverables are expected to be used as a cornerstone for long term post-project plans. These plans include policy analysis with test cases and scenarios defined by the different users of the model; integration and validation with other models in the state; outreach/training of users and potential users via documentation, conferences, and workshops; and further development of the enhancement modules that are accepted.