Getting Innovations in Metropolitan Freight Implemented

Recent U.S. Census and commodity flow data indicate that more than 80% of people in the U.S. live or work in metropolitan areas, and 65 percent of American goods originate or terminate in such areas. As a result, how well goods move in metropolitan areas--of whatever sizes--has significant economic and social implications. To meet this challenge, freight professionals frequently scan for innovative practices or technologies developed elsewhere that could address top priority freight issues in their home areas. Except for a small minority of "early adopters," most freight professionals want assurance that implementing these innovative practices and technologies will likely get the intended results and not waste scarce resources. When addressing complex metropolitan transportation problems (e.g., safety, capacity, economic development), freight professionals from state departments of transportation (DOTs), regional authorities (e.g., MPOs, COGs, ports), and cities not only grapple with scarce resources, they also often need to orchestrate an exceptionally diverse community of stakeholders (e.g., private-sector shippers and carriers, public policy makers, residents, academics, planners, and engineers at other levels of government) to identify and get traction for workable innovative solutions. Each type of stakeholder has different reward systems, views of the world, and goals that can block coalitions from forming and getting the job done. While resistance to innovation or any new ways of doing business is normal and expected, it can also derail an otherwise well-designed plan. Although information about innovations or "best practices" in metropolitan freight is now widely available, research has not sufficiently addressed the question of why some of these succeed and others do not. Armed with such research results, freight professionals could much better tailor innovations to the specific circumstances they find in their home areas. Such tailoring not only increases the chances that genuinely new approaches and technologies applied to metropolitan freight issues will actually be implemented, but it will also result in significantly greater tangible benefits (e.g., improved reliability, travel time, safety, or lower costs as well as community and environmental impact) sooner than would otherwise have happened. Because web-accessible catalogs of metropolitan freight-related best practices are relatively new, it is also not yet clear the roles these play when freight professionals evaluate the use of innovations or implement them once commitments are made. Sample questions requiring research for practical implementation include: (1) How does particular content or ways of delivering catalogs of innovative ideas make a difference in getting freight-related innovations from one area repeated in another? (2) How do other mechanisms (e.g., peer support, pilot studies, forums for information exchange and problem solving) build confidence and resolve to try something new in a metropolitan area? (3) How can government agencies at the federal, state, and metropolitan levels best help accelerate the adoption of innovative freight-related practices? (4) What types of federal, state, and local technical assistance most effectively support successful implementation of freight innovations at the metropolitan scale? What modes of delivery have the greatest chances of moving such innovations from concept to reality? Concern with effective translation of innovations in freight from one place to another is obviously not limited to metropolitan areas. As a result, lessons learned in designing and conducting this research could provide a starting place for exploring at other scales of freight issues (e.g., interstate commerce, international trade) in later, separate studies. The objectives of this research are to (1) identify critical success factors that appear important to getting innovative ideas in metropolitan freight fully implemented; and (2) identify methods, models, and environments that accelerate the adoption of innovative practices and technologies in metropolitan freight.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $375000.00
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 08-106

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 225
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001
  • Project Managers:

    Rogers, William

  • Start Date: 20150805
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • Source Data: RiP Project 40198

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01572352
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 08-106
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Aug 6 2015 1:00AM