Assessing Benefits from Shifting Passenger Travel from Air to High-Speed Rail in California

Research Team: Mark Hansen (lead) and Kaijing Ding

UC Campus(es): UC Berkeley

Problem Statement: California policy aims to shift passenger and cargo movements from aircraft to rail transport. According to the 2015 Interregional Transportation Strategic Plan, the California High-Speed Rail (HSR) is the highest transportation priority for the corridor between the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles. Many advocates view HSR as transformational but its major potential benefits — reducing traffic demands on California’s roads and airports — have been difficult to quantify. Moreover, the approaches taken to date to monetize these benefits have been too simplistic and the estimates generated have been lacking in statistical rigor.

Project Description: This research project will provide a more comprehensive analysis that will assess the economic benefits and impacts of shifting air passenger traffic to rail, taking account of recent technological, economic, political, social, and public health developments. It will incorporate the latest thinking on the importance of resilience and adaptability in assessing and planning infrastructure. In addition, the project will quantify the uncertainty associated with these benefits, and identify the key sources of this uncertainty that can in turn help prioritize future research. The methods developed should be readily extendable to assessing other benefits, including environmental benefits related to reducing air pollution and noise. Finally, the project will also inventory HSR deployment experiences from around the world to assess the claimed and realized benefits from shifting air traffic to rail, as well as the role of complementary policies to HSR deployment itself in promoting this shift.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $24,999