Integrated Modeling and Simulation Framework for Freight Transportation in Metropolitan Areas

Globalization, international trade and economic developments led to an increasing with time volume of freight flows by all transport modes. Freight traffic at ports, airports, rail yards, warehouse/distribution nodes contributes to congestion, environmental pollution, and traffic accidents and puts tremendous pressure on Metropolitan areas to deal with such issues. Economic forecasts are unanimous in predicting the need for additional capacity in order to keep pace with rising demand. Adding capacity by following the traditional way of building new infrastructure is no longer as feasible as it used to be especially in Metropolitan areas where the scarcity and cost of land are obstacles difficult to overcome. Advances in information technology, telecommunications, data management and computation tools, together with recent research in systems optimization and control, makes possible new approaches to the freight transportation problem. A prerequisite for proposing any solution that would make the existing freight transportation system more efficient - especially in complex environments such as in a Metropolitan area - is a careful and accurate analysis and understanding of freight movements. This by itself is a very challenging problem due to the presence of multiple modes of transportation which interact and affect each other in a complex manner which cannot be captured by a single mathematical or simulation model. What is needed is a large simulation environment where all modes of freight transportation can be modeled together with their interactions, data can be collected and processed in real time, new approaches can be tested and evaluated, the impact of predicted future demands can be analyzed, etc. In this study we propose to develop such a software environment for the Metropolitan area of Los Angeles with emphasis on the area that includes the two major ports and the adjacent highway and rail network(s). Given that the development of a full simulation environment is a multi year project, the emphasis of this project would be to set up the structure of this simulation environment where researchers developing different models, optimization and control algorithms, data analysis algorithms, etc., would be able to insert their modules into this overall simulation environment with little effort and without disturbing neighboring modules and algorithms. Therefore our simulation environment system for freight transportation will be an evolving machine allowing additions, improvements, changes on a modular basis while maintaining the integrated nature of the overall system. We plan to demonstrate our system by integrating existing models developed by METRANS researchers such as: (i) the train model by Dr Dessouky, (ii) terminal and traffic network models by Dr Ioannou and Dr Chassiakos, (iii) terminal cost model by Dr Ioannou and others. In addition we plan to use real traffic data from the roadway network adjacent to the Los Angeles/Long Beach ports and demonstrate how such incoming data can be processed (filtering, vehicle classification, etc.) within our simulation environment to generate inputs for use by other modules. In our effort we plan to interact with other METRANS researchers as well as researchers in the field and Caltrans in an effort to establish our simulation environment as the core of a test bed for studying freight transportation in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area.