Quantifying the Impact of Freight-Efficient Land Use Patterns to Support Effective Decision Making

Although recent research efforts have focused on improving the integration of freight and land use planning, as well as reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (including from freight), quantifying the impact of freight movements has not been addressed and is a critical need. The goal of this proposed research is to provide quantitative information on how smart growth or similar land use planning that considers efficient freight movement (through more compact regional development patterns, rail-oriented industrial development, freight villages or clusters, co-location of manufacturing and distribution hubs, etc.) can impact truck vehicle miles of travel (VMT) and transportation energy use and emissions. The National Cooperative Freight Research Program (NCFRP) addressed this same question in NCFRP Report 24: Smart Growth and Urban Goods Movement, but only in one metropolitan area of the United States. The proposed research would build on NCFRP Report 24 to look at other metropolitan areas and thereby create a more generalizable and transferable body of information. This information would allow truck and freight impacts to be included in the evaluation of land use strategies for reducing VMT, energy, and emissions. Freight traffic is currently responsible for about one-quarter of transportation GHG emissions in the United States, with trucks responsible for nearly four-fifths of that amount. Freight travel is forecast to continue to increase in step with long-term economic growth. The U.S. Department of Energy projects a 56 percent increase in truck traffic and a 33 percent increase in rail tonnage between 2010 and 2035. These increases will greatly impact the nation’s ability to achieve objectives for environmental sustainability and livability. As metropolitan areas and communities throughout the country increasingly adopt “smart growth” land use strategies, planning for efficient freight movement must be part of the picture. Much attention has been focused on the potential of land use strategies for reducing vehicle travel, as well as providing a range of other economic, social, and environmental benefits. A considerable amount of research has been directed into characterizing and measuring the impacts of strategies such as more compact/higher density neighborhoods, greater mixing of uses, pedestrian-friendly design, and infill development—strategies that are often collectively known as “smart growth.” However, this research has almost exclusively focused on the impacts on passenger travel and has generally ignored goods movement and other truck travel. The new research would provide needed information on the effects of various land use strategies, including freight-oriented strategies as well as general “smart growth” strategies, on goods movement, particularly truck travel, and associated environmental effects. The objective of this research is to estimate the impacts of land use strategies, including freight-specific strategies as well as general urban form, on freight-related travel, energy use, and other environmental and community impacts. The research would involve identifying potential freight-impacting land use strategies and characterizing how they might affect freight movement; designing and implementing one or more research approaches (empirical data collection, modeling, etc.) to measure the impacts of freight-impacting land use strategies on freight travel patterns; and summarizing findings and describing potential policy implications. The research should consider how effects might vary depending upon regional factors such as existing development patterns, projected growth, and industry mix. The research should build on the framework/typologies developed in National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Project 08-96. The research should, at a minimum, provide quantitative estimates of impacts of land use strategies on (1) truck VMT; (2) the potential for shifting modes of commodity movement, particularly truck to rail; and (3) energy and GHG emissions associated with freight movement. The research should demonstrate the viability of the tools and methods applied for NCFRP Report 24 in other metropolitan areas with characteristics different than the Puget Sound region. The research should provide a qualitative assessment of additional factors, including: (1) impacts on regional air pollutant emissions; (2) access to jobs, particularly for low-income workers; (3) livability, including noise, safety, and air pollution impacts, especially on “environmental justice” communities; and (4) impacts on economic competitiveness and productivity. The research should describe additional research that might be conducted to assess these factors quantitatively.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 08-111

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

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

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Rogers, William

  • Start Date: 20160509
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • Source Data: RiP Project 40806

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01598915
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 08-111
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: May 8 2016 1:00AM