TRANSPORTATION RESEARCH BOARD
2016 EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE*
Chair: James M. Crites, Executive Vice President of Operations, Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport, Texas
Vice Chair: Paul Trombino III, Director, Iowa Department of Transportation, Ames
Executive Director: Neil J. Pedersen, Transportation Research Board
Victoria A. Arroyo, Executive Director, Georgetown Climate Center; Assistant Dean, Centers and Institutes; and Professor and Director, Environmental Law Program, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C.
Scott E. Bennett, Director, Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, Little Rock
Jennifer Cohan, Secretary, Delaware Department of Transportation, Dover
Malcolm Dougherty, Director, California Department of Transportation, Sacramento
A. Stewart Fotheringham, Professor, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University, Tempe
John S. Halikowski, Director, Arizona Department of Transportation, Phoenix
Michael W. Hancock, Secretary, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Frankfort
Susan Hanson, Distinguished University Professor Emerita, Graduate School of Geography, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts
Steve Heminger, Executive Director, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Oakland, California
Chris T. Hendrickson, Hamerschlag Professor of Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Jeffrey D. Holt, Managing Director, Power, Energy, and Infrastructure Group, BMO Capital Markets Corporation, New York
Roger B. Huff, President, HGLC, LLC, Farmington Hills, Michigan
Geraldine Knatz, Professor, Sol Price School of Public Policy, Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Ysela Llort, Consultant, Miami, Florida
James P. Redeker, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Transportation, Newington
Mark L. Rosenberg, Executive Director, The Task Force for Global Health, Inc., Decatur, Georgia
Kumares C. Sinha, Olson Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
Daniel Sperling, Professor of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science and Policy; Director, Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis
Kirk T. Steudle, Director, Michigan Department of Transportation, Lansing (Past Chair, 2014)
Gary C. Thomas, President and Executive Director, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Dallas, Texas
Pat Thomas, Senior Vice President, State Government Affairs, UPS, Washington, D.C.
Katherine F. Turnbull, Executive Associate Director and Research Scientist, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, College Station
Dean Wise, Vice President of Network Strategy, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, Fort Worth, Texas
Thomas P. Bostick (Lieutenant General, U.S. Army), Chief of Engineers and Commanding General, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, D.C. (ex officio)
James C. Card (Vice Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard, retired), Maritime Consultant, The Woodlands, Texas, and Chair, TRB Marine Board (ex officio)
Alison Jane Conway, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, City College of New York, New York, and Chair, TRB Young Members Council (ex officio)
T. F. Scott Darling III, Acting Administrator and Chief Counsel, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
Marie Therese Dominguez, Administrator, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
Sarah Feinberg, Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
LeRoy Gishi, Chief, Division of Transportation, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C. (ex officio)
John T. Gray II, Senior Vice President, Policy and Economics, Association of American Railroads, Washington, D.C. (ex officio)
Michael P. Huerta, Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
Paul N. Jaenichen, Sr., Administrator, Maritime Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
Therese W. McMillan, Acting Administrator, Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
Michael P. Melaniphy, President and CEO, American Public Transportation Association, Washington, D.C. (ex officio)
Gregory G. Nadeau, Administrator, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
Mark R. Rosekind, Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
Craig A. Rutland, U.S. Air Force Pavement Engineer, U.S. Air Force Civil Engineer Center, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida (ex officio)
Reuben Sarkar, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation, U.S. Department of Energy (ex officio)
Barry R. Wallerstein, Executive Officer, South Coast Air Quality Management District, Diamond Bar, California (ex officio)
Gregory D. Winfree, Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation (ex officio)
Frederick G. (Bud) Wright, Executive Director, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Washington, D.C. (ex officio)
Paul F. Zukunft (Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard), Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (ex officio)
* Membership as of March 2016.
A NEW PERSPECTIVE FOR POLICY MAKING
Committee for a Study of Intercity Passenger
Travel Issues and Opportunities in Short-Haul Markets
Transportation Research Board
Transportation Research Board
Washington, D.C. 20001
Transportation Research Board Special Report 320
Railroads, economics, passenger transportation, planning and forecasting, policy
Transportation Research Board publications are available by ordering individual publications directly from the TRB Business Office, through the Internet at www.TRB.org or nationalacademies.org/trb, or by annual subscription through organizational or individual affiliation with TRB. Affiliates and library subscribers are eligible for substantial discounts. For further information, contact the Transportation Research Board Business Office, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001 (telephone 202-334-3213; fax 202-334-2519; or e-mail TRBsales@nas.edu).
Copyright 2016 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America.
NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competencies and with regard for appropriate balance.
This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to the procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Medicine.
This study was sponsored by the Transportation Research Board.
Cover design by Beth Schlenoff, Beth Schlenoff Design.
Cover photo credits (clockwise from top left): Baona, iStock; Baona, iStock; Kentaroo Tryman, Media Bakery; Delmas Lehman, Dreamstime; Andreas Schlegel, Media Bakery; Christopher Futcher, iStock.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: National Research Council (U.S.). Transportation Research Board. Committee for a Study of Intercity Passenger Travel Issues and Opportunities in Short-Haul Markets, author. | National Research Council (U.S.). Transportation Research Board, issuing body.
Title: Interregional travel : a new perspective for policy making / Committee for a Study of Intercity Passenger Travel Issues and Opportunities in Short-Haul Markets, Transportation Research Board, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Other titles: Special report (National Research Council (U.S.). Transportation Research Board) ; 320.
Description: Washington, D.C. : Transportation Research Board,  | Series: Transportation Research Board special report ; 320
Identifiers: LCCN 2016005376 | ISBN 9780309369657
Subjects: LCSH: Transportation—United States—Planning. | Transportation and state—United States. | Choice of transportation—United States. | Transportation corridors—United States—Planning. | Transportation geography—United States.
Classification: LCC HE206.2 .N39 2016 | DDC 388.0973—dc23 LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2016005376
The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln, as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to bring the practices of engineering to advising the nation. Members are elected by their peers for extraordinary contributions to engineering. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president.
The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) was established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to advise the nation on medical and health issues. Members are elected by their peers for distinguished contributions to medicine and health. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president.
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Learn more about the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine at www.national-academies.org.
The Transportation Research Board is one of seven major programs of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The mission of the Transportation Research Board is to increase the benefits that transportation contributes to society by providing leadership in transportation innovation and progress through research and information exchange, conducted within a setting that is objective, interdisciplinary, and multimodal. The Board’s varied committees, task forces, and panels annually engage about 7,000 engineers, scientists, and other transportation researchers and practitioners from the public and private sectors and academia, all of whom contribute their expertise in the public interest. The program is supported by state transportation departments, federal agencies including the component administrations of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and other organizations and individuals interested in the development of transportation.
Learn more about the Transportation Research Board at www.TRB.org.
Committee for a Study of Intercity
Passenger Travel Issues and Opportunities
in Short-Haul Markets
Martin Wachs, University of California, Los Angeles, Chair
J. Barry Barker, Transit Authority of River City, Louisville, Kentucky
John C. Bennett, Amtrak (retired), Ocean View, Delaware
Alan J. Bing, ICF (retired), Kittery Point, Maine
Matthew A. Coogan, Independent Consultant, White River Junction, Vermont
Thomas B. Deen (NAE), Stevensville, Maryland
Genevieve Giuliano, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Mark Hansen, University of California, Berkeley
Keith L. Killough, Arizona Department of Transportation, Phoenix
Charles F. Manski (NAS), Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
Nancy A. McGuckin, Independent Consultant, Los Angeles, California
Paul F. Morris, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., Georgia
Christopher A. Nash, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
Clinton V. Oster, Jr., Indiana University, Bloomington
Joseph P. Schwieterman, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
Katherine F. Turnbull, Texas A&M University, College Station
Transportation Research Board Staff
Thomas R. Menzies, Jr., Study Director
Katherine Kortum, Program Officer
Transportation is the subject of public policy for many reasons. It underpins the economy and affects the daily rhythm of life. It is a key determinant of the location of commerce and social activity, the quality of the environment, and the size and shape of communities. It is a major user of energy, producer of emissions, and source of public safety concern. Advances in transportation technology and the expanding reach of transport networks have had transformative effects on society. While these impacts alone ensure government attention, a substantial portion of the supply of transportation itself is a direct responsibility of the public sector. The nation’s vast infrastructure of highways, railways, airports, and airways is planned, financed, managed, and operated by federal, state, and local governments to differing degrees, and often exclusively by government. As a result, public-sector investments in transportation can be profoundly important. Within a few years of the building of the Interstate highway system, its influence had become evident, especially in shaping the country’s cities and their metropolitan regions. A growing awareness of these effects stimulated the creation of new policy goals and responsibilities for state- and metropolitan wide transportation planning agencies.
Government investments in transportation have impacts that extend well beyond city and state borders. However, understanding and accounting for these impacts can be difficult when they transcend the jurisdictional boundaries of those planning and making the investments. The United States contains hundreds of metropolitan regions, and their social and economic interconnections with neighboring metropolitan regions are growing. These metropolitan regions are often linked by heavily used travel corridors that span multiple states. Viewing public investments in transportation from the perspective of a single metropolitan region, an
individual state, or the nation as a whole is therefore not sufficient. As the frequency and range of personal travel grow, so must government efforts to understand the trips that are made through travel corridors that connect and cross neighboring states and to ensure that appropriate investments are being made in the transportation systems that accommodate them.
Trips between 100 and 500 miles are referred to as “interregional” in this report. Travel in this distance range accounts for about three-quarters of all long-distance trips. Interregional trips can involve more than one transportation mode and are often made through multistate corridors. A reason for singling out 100- to 500-mile trips is that they are especially prone to neglect because of deficiencies in transportation planning and programming from a multistate and multimodal perspective. Two of the major modes of intercity transportation whose ridership is heavily oriented to 100- to 500-mile trips are buses and trains. They are almost exclusively interregional forms of transportation. Both modes, however, are frequently missing from or inconsistently addressed in the planning and programming of the transportation investments made by government.
As explained in more detail in Chapter 1, this study was sponsored by the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB’s) Executive Committee out of concern that interregional trips are not given attention proportional to their prevalence, despite periodic proposals to invest in new interregional transportation systems such as high-speed trains. Even when such proposals hold promise, they encounter the fundamental problem of decision makers having relatively little information on interregional travel demand and often not being in a position to coordinate the planning and programming of transportation investments from an interregional perspective. Two years before the Executive Committee conceived the study, the Obama administration had announced a plan to provide states with more than $8 billion in grants to add and upgrade intercity rail service, and the voters of California had approved a plan to develop a new intrastate high-speed rail system. The Executive Committee was thus aware that the attention of policy makers was turning to interregional travel and concluded that a study aimed at understanding this component of the transportation sector would be timely.
The statement of task for the study is provided in Chapter 1. It calls for a broad-based review of what is known about the demand for and
supply of interregional transportation and, if merited, recommendations on how this segment of transportation might be better served. To conduct the study, TRB convened a 16-member committee of experts in travel demand, transportation supply, economics, and public policy led by Martin Wachs, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Professor of City and Regional Planning at the University of California. The contents and findings of the report represent the consensus of the committee members, who served uncompensated in the public interest.
The committee convened in person eight times between July 2012 and June 2015 and held several conference calls during preparation of the report. Data-gathering sessions during these meetings included briefings by many individuals with varied backgrounds from government, the transportation industry, consulting, and academia. The committee heard from current and former top officials of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), who described federal efforts to address transportation needs from an interregional perspective and provided background on the Obama administration’s plan to provide federal grants for intercity rail. They also explained how existing federal transportation financing and grant programs may be used for multistate and multimodal projects. Sessions with officials from the agencies that administer the federal highway, rail, and aviation programs gave the committee information on how those programs view interregional trip making. Along with representatives from state and regional associations, they described the challenges that public agencies face in providing transportation capacity that aligns with the country’s interregional corridors.
In other sessions the committee heard from representatives of the intercity rail and bus industries and from experts in the evaluation and planning of high-speed rail. Subsequent briefings were devoted to understanding the challenges associated with forecasting travel demand, assessing and conveying forecasting uncertainty, and predicting how travel behavior will evolve in response to changing telecommunications and information technologies. Along with briefings from USDOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), these sessions helped the committee understand the importance of detailed and up-to-date information on long-distance travel behavior and better analytical tools to inform transportation investment decisions in interregional markets, where demand uncertainty can be substantial.
The committee benefited from the briefings, information, and ideas offered by many individuals and organizations during the course of the study. Thanks go to the following USDOT officials who briefed and assisted the committee: Patricia Hu and Thomas Bolle of BTS; Jeffrey Lindley, Mary Lynn Tischer, and Tianjia Tang of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Joseph Post, Nan Shellabarger, and Ralph Thompson of the Federal Aviation Administration; and Chad Edison, Scott Greene, and Neil Moyer of the Federal Railroad Administration. They provided program overviews, and FHWA’s Tang supplied the committee with trip-making data vital to the committee’s work.
Former USDOT officials Susan Binder of Cambridge Systematics and Mortimer Downey and Roy Kienetz of Parsons Brinckerhoff discussed national policies and federal funding programs that pertain to interregional transportation, and Janet Oakley of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and Rich Brancato of the Coalition of Northeastern Governors provided state-level perspectives. Andrew Galloway of Amtrak and Louis Thompson of Thompson, Galenson, and Associates discussed issues facing intercity rail systems and the challenges that arise in the planning of high-speed railways. David Hall of BoltBus provided a firsthand account of the changes that have been taking place in the intercity bus industry and of its revitalization. Andrew Mack of Xpress West provided insight into the challenges that face proponents of new, infrastructure-intensive interregional transportation systems. Thanks go to all for deepening the committee’s understanding of the institutional, planning, and decision-making environment that applies to interregional transportation.
Thomas Adler of RSG, Inc., Marisa Di Natale of Moody’s Analytics, and Richard Kuzmyak of Renaissance Planning Group discussed the challenges associated with forecasting travel demand and conveying the uncertainty of forecasts. Patricia Mokhtarian of the Georgia Institute of Technology discussed the ways in which changes in information and telecommunications technology may be affecting travel behavior. The committee thanks all four. Their discussions were especially helpful in
informing and shaping the committee’s views on the importance of better analytical tools and more detailed and up-to-date data on long-distance travel behavior.
Thomas R. Menzies, Jr., and Katherine Kortum were the principal project staff. Menzies managed the study and drafted the report with assistance from Kortum under the guidance of the committee and the supervision of Stephen R. Godwin, Director, Studies and Special Programs, TRB. Colin Smith of RSG, Inc., supported the committee in its analyses of FHWA trip table data. Timothy Devlin and Claudia Sauls provided extensive support to the committee in arranging its many meetings and in managing documents. In addition, the committee acknowledges Norman Solomon, who edited the report; Juanita Green, who managed the production; Jennifer J. Weeks, who prepared the manuscript for prepublication web posting; and Javy Awan, Director of Publications, TRB, under whose supervision the report was prepared for publication.
The report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise in accordance with procedures approved by the institution’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making the report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. Thanks go to the following individuals for their review of this report: Jennifer Dill, Portland State University, Oregon; Emil Frankel, Eno Center for Transportation, Washington, D.C.; Michael Goodchild, University of California, Santa Barbara (emeritus); Matthys Levy, Weidlinger Associates, Inc. (retired), Burlington, Vermont; D. Bruce Montgomery, Magplane Technology (retired), Hampton, New Hampshire; Stacey Mortensen, San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, Stockton, California; Mark Muriello, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, New York City; Joseph Schofer, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois; Louis Thompson, Thompson, Galenson, and Associates, LLC; and Roger Vickerman, University of Kent, England. The review was overseen by Lawrence Brown, University of Pennsylvania,
Philadelphia, and Susan Hanson, Clark University (emerita), Worcester, Massachusetts. They were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of the report rests solely with the authoring committee and the institution. Karen Febey, Senior Report Review Officer, managed the report review process.