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Environmental Assessment of Air and High-Speed Rail Corridors (2013)

Chapter: Chapter Two - Spatial Incompatibility

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Two - Spatial Incompatibility ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2013. Environmental Assessment of Air and High-Speed Rail Corridors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22520.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Two - Spatial Incompatibility ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2013. Environmental Assessment of Air and High-Speed Rail Corridors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22520.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Two - Spatial Incompatibility ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2013. Environmental Assessment of Air and High-Speed Rail Corridors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22520.
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6 chapter two SPATIAL INCOMPATIBILITY The scale and structure of the air and HSR systems and how they relate to the two systems’ environmental assessment is of critical importance. The structure of the aviation system is fundamentally one of a system of nodes, or airports, con- nected with aircraft operated by independent operators. The spatial scale of the nodes is vast, such that vehicles and pas- sengers can travel between nodes in a region or in two sepa- rate countries. In contrast, the structure of the HSR system is a system of links, with the spatial scale being limited to fixed regional and limited interregional market. This spa- tial incompatibility, where air and HSR networks may have some overlapping portions yet are serving a different scale of network, leads to complexity in defining the system struc- ture for an environmental assessment. It leads to multiple scopes of environmental studies, with some studies consid- ering air and HSR travel to be “competitive corridors” and others considering the broader aviation system network and that HSR can provide complementary service by linking nearby regions with an airport. In the following section the spatial attributes of air and HSR systems, spatial incompat- ibilities between the two, and the implications for assess- ments are explored. CORRIDOR-BASED HIGH-SPEED RAIL SYSTEM HSR systems are deployed around the globe. Japan’s Shink- ansen was the first HSR operating service; it went online in 1964, in time for the Summer Olympics held in Tokyo that year. The line now achieves speeds of 185 mph and connects 1,500 miles across the country. In Europe, Italy began service in 1978, connecting Rome and Florence; Spain, Germany, Belgium, Great Britain, and France now have lines with speeds as great as 150 mph. Although HSR in other countries is a mature mode of travel, there is limited HSR experience in the United States: specifically, the Acela. Federal statutes and policies have incentivized corridor-scale HSR planning in the United States. U.S. HSR national corridor planning began with the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), which called for the Office of the Sec- retary of Transportation to designate as many as five HSR corridors, with lines achieving speeds of at least 90 mph. Since then, six additional corridors have been designated; the most recent is the Northeast Corridor, added in March 2011 by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (FRA 2012a). The corridors are shown in Figure 1. Federal designation sta- tus is not an indication that the infrastructure for these cor- ridors is funded or that the corridors are in a specific phase of project delivery; instead the designation status indicates that the corridors are national transportation priorities. Although ISTEA set the federal precedent for designating HSR corri- dors, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA) established the first comprehensive legislative framework for planning, developing, and funding high-speed rail. PRIIA authorized several new federal grant programs for implementing new rail services or substantially improv- ing existing services, which were consolidated by FRA into the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 jump-started the HSIPR program with the largest-ever U.S. investment in HSR, appropriating $8 billion for “projects that support the development of intercity high speed rail ser- vice” (FRA 2009a). An additional $2.1 billion was provided in the fiscal year 2010 appropriations. The HSIPR program is a discretionary, competitive funding program, in which states apply for federal funding and FRA selects projects based on the evaluation and selection criteria defined in PRIIA. The term “high-speed rail” has been used to describe many different types of rail systems; however, the FRA has adopted formal definitions based on speed (FRA 2010). The FRA’s National Rail Plan identifies three tiers of rail travel. Core express corridors (Tier 1) connect large urban areas as much as 500 miles apart with lines at speeds between 125 and 250 mph on dedicated electrified passenger track. Regional corridors (Tier 2) connect midsize urban areas and have lines with 90- to 125-mph service on a mix of dedicated and shared track. Emerging or feeder routes (Tier 3) connect to the core or regional corridors and have lines with speeds as high as 90 mph; Tier 3 routes give remote areas access to the national rail system. NODE-BASED AVIATION SYSTEM In contrast to the rail corridor framework, aviation system infrastructure is node-based. The physical infrastructure is located at airports and not along the links; although air traf- fic management technologies facilitate trajectories between airports, the physicality of rail links is not present in the aviation system, so aviation system planning is rooted in airport development. The movement toward NextGen and performance-based management procedures will affect aviation’s environmental footprint; however, systemwide envi-

7 region that rail travel affects generally is a more straight- forward process than is doing so for aviation travel. When considering intercity passenger flows, they are either: • PTP, such that air and HSR are competitors, or • From an origin city to a transfer city, or hub city (point- to-hub or PTH), and then on to a distant destination city. Although both air and HSR systems serve an overlapping market, the scope of the air system is spatially different from that of the HSR. There is an overlapping portion: the PTP and PTH travel. However, PTH passengers traverse the common corridor and then must take the air mode to travel to a distant city. HSR systems can play two roles from the perspective of air systems: they can be competitors, fighting for passenger traffic over a corridor (PTP), or they can be complementary modes, with HSR feeding passengers from the surrounding region to the airport for long-haul flights (PTH). The impact of system change on the operational profile of HSR and air travel will depend on how the air and HSR systems interact: as competitors and as complementary modes. Consider the example of the California Corridor and HSR service connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles. Airlines focused on the origin-destination market of Northern to ronmental outcomes are governed somewhat by airport infra- structure. Figure 1 shows the U.S. airports eligible for federal Airport Improvement Program funding (FAA 2010). Although airport funding is different globally, the concept of airports as nodes and HSR as a system of links persists globally. SPATIAL INCOMPATIBILITY, COMPETITION, AND COMPLEMENTARITY Consider Figure 1, which shows the designated HSR cor- ridors in the United States overlaid on the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) commercial service air- ports map. HSR designations are termed “corridors” because that is the way they are planned: rail track between major cit- ies and the regions between. Corridor planning has occurred for areas such as California, connecting the Bay Area with Los Angeles (and beyond), and the Northeast, linking Bos- ton, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Aviation, in contrast, is not planned in corridors. Airports are planned to serve a region, and airlines connect this region (depending on many factors, including demand) to their hub airports and possibly some additional airports for point-to-point (PTP) service. The result is spatial incompatibility between modes; rail service is planned in corridors, whereas air service is planned over a national and global network. Assessing the FIGURE 1 NPIAS commercial service airports with HSR corridors (adapted from FRA 2012a and FAA 2010). Q : primary airports; ▲ : commercial service airports.

8 generally are on relatively inefficient aircraft [see Ryerson and Hansen (2010) and Ryerson (2010) for a full discussion]. Neglecting to consider the larger logistics problem of trip chaining discounts the potential benefits to the aviation sys- tem and regional mobility through the development of HSR. The issue of spatial incompatibility is present for the majority, if not all, of HSR corridors. Hub connections com- prise a large proportion of traffic at many airports that are also important nodes in the proposed HSR network in the United States. For example, for six cities that are located along des- ignated HSR corridors, connecting traffic is 50% or greater: George Bush Intercontinental in Houston (IAH), Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW), Chicago O’Hare International (ORD), Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International (ATL), Char- lotte Douglas International (CLT), and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International (CVG) airports (FAA 2010). The result of this discussion is that the geographic scope of environmen- tal assessments is generally limited to the geographic scope of HSR. However, air cannot be limited by such geography: an aircraft that is serving a redundant market may have 50% or more passengers who are using the aviation system for its net- work and not origin-destination travel. SPATIAL INCOMPATIBILITY IMPLICATIONS The fundamental difference in air and HSR environmental assessments is that because aviation is a system of nodes with the planning focused on airports and rail is a series of nodes connected by links with the planning focused on specific cor- ridors, the drawing of the analytical system boundary for envi- ronmental assessments is impeded. In the following chapters this incompatibility is explored, including how it complicates environmental assessments through the determination of fac- tors such as ridership, metrics, and others. In addition, the syn- thesis of government-driven and academic literature leads to a clear dichotomy of the literature. Government-driven work notes the role HSR can play as a feeder and as a competitor; however, owing to other complications to be explored, few detailed assessments have been performed. Although there is a growing body of academic literature that seeks to reconcile this spatial incompatibility [see Janic (2003); van Wee et al. (2003); Chester and Horvath (2012)], the academic literature is not bound by the same legal and institutional protocols of the environmental review process and thus does not have to draw a constrained system boundary. No overarching frame- work exists for joining the complementary results. Southern California may find HSR to be a competitor, whereas airlines operating a hub network out of San Francisco Inter- national Airport or Los Angeles International Airport might use HSR as a feeder mode. This feeder mode could compete with existing short-haul connecting service, yet also expand the catchment area of the airport, and possibly effectively serve small markets that are less desirable to serve by air. (A complete discussion of global experiences in competition and comple- mentarity is forthcoming in Airport Cooperative Research Pro- gram 3-23: Integrating Aviation and Passenger Rail Planning.) This spatial incompatibility across modes creates a dif- ficulty in defining the scope for comparative environmental assessments. For purposes of environmental assessments, it is necessary to scope the system down to a comparative com- mon corridor. The literature has largely focused on air and rail as competitors over PTP service; Charles River Associates (2000) found the potential for complementarity to be insig- nificant. However, transportation has evolved greatly since this finding, and Coogan et al. (Airport Cooperative Research Program 2009), among others, propose that environmental assessments be based on an under lying operational profile that is estimated with the consideration that HSR systems provide feeder service to airports, as well as competitive PTP service. Methodologies to evaluate the environmental benefits of HSR as a feeder mode to air travel have challenges. National Airspace System (NAS) capacity could be improved if some of these destinations reduced flight frequency, and one must account for the emissions from reduced flights and also from reduced congestion. However, the amount of conges- tion imposed by a short-haul feeder flight must be carefully estimated because it has been found that in certain cases short-haul flights have a high probability of being cancelled if there is capacity shortfall at the airport (Xiong and Hansen 2009). In addition, defining when HSR is a competitor and when it is a complementary mode is not clear-cut. If HSR is defined as a competitor when air does not reduce frequency and a complementary mode when air does reduce short-haul frequency because of redundancy, then under a competition approach, HSR would not significantly alleviate national- level congestion or emissions. The reduction of frequency, and how much, is a critical question. Airline seat capacity is lumpy, such that a few passengers switching to HSR may have no impact on airline seat capacity. The reduction of service could lead to improved airspace capacity, regional mobility, and emissions reductions because short-haul flights

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TRB’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Synthesis 43: Environmental Assessment of Air and High-Speed Rail Corridors explores where additional research can improve the ability to assess the environmental outcomes of these two systems.

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