Modal Comparison of Domestic Freight Transportation Effects on the General Public Academic Article uri icon


  • Data from 2001 to 2009 were used to update the 2009 modal comparison study conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute, which used data from 2001 to 2005. The objective was to develop performance measures of rates per ton-mile to facilitate multimodal comparisons between inland towing, rail, and truck in six topical areas: cargo capacity, traffic congestion, energy efficiency, air quality, safety, and infrastructure. The study focused on several vital issues from a snapshot in time. Credible publicly available and independently verifiable data from federal, industry, and academic sources were used. The scope of the study and several data limitations necessitated the use of assumptions that were based on sound engineering principles, as well as development of innovative methods, to arrive at plausible results and fulfill the study's unconventional objectives. The study results showed that waterborne transportation continued to compare favorably with rail and highway modes for the examined performance measures. Any waterborne freight diversion to either of the two modes likely would result in serious negative effects on freight transportation operations and in possible system breakdowns. Chain reaction effects would jeopardize the well-being of the general public and the national economy.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Protopapas, A., Kruse, C. J., & Olson, L. E.

citation count

  • 4

complete list of authors

  • Protopapas, Annie||Kruse, C James||Olson, Leslie E

publication date

  • January 2013