Publication Detail

Review of Regional Locomotive Emission Modeling and the Constraints Posed by Activity Data


Journal Article

Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (STEPS)

Suggested Citation:
Rowangould, Gregory and Debbie A. Niemeier (2009) Review of Regional Locomotive Emission Modeling and the Constraints Posed by Activity Data. Transportation Research Record 2009 (2117), 24 - 32

Diesel-electric locomotives used by U.S. freight railroads are relatively low emitters of criteria air pollutants and greenhouse gases when compared to competing modes; however, the continuous growth in goods movement is cause for concern as locomotive emissions may grow. Railroads only account for a small fraction of all mobile source emissions, but the concentration of emissions along rail facilities raises questions about equity, in particular environmental justice, and the relative benefits of competing modes of goods movement. This paper provides a synthesis and review of current data and methods used to account for regional locomotive activity. Understanding data limitations and methodological issues at the regional scale provides a starting point for development of more spatially detailed locomotive emission models. Methods developed by EPA and the California Air Resources Board are considered. It is found that each method produces very different results and is inadequate for use at the regional (or smaller) spatial scale. Problems arise from activity measures that ignore differences in geography and freight rail services between regions or depend on detailed operational data that are no longer available. While detailed activity data do exist, they are not always available because they are owned by private railroads. New methods should minimize the use of detailed or confidential railroad data yet still be sensitive to local factors. Fuel based methods provide the most hope, but greater cooperation between regulatory agencies and railroads is required.