Freight Transportation Resilience

How System-Wide Perspective Can Help Metropolitan Planning Organizations and Departments of Transportation

Published in: Adding Resilience to the Freight System in Statewide and Metropolitan Transportation Plans: Developing a Conceptual Approach. NCHRP Project 8-36, Task 73. (Washington, DC: Transportation Research Board, June 2009), 29 p

Posted on RAND.org on June 01, 2009

by David S. Ortiz, Liisa Ecola, Henry H. Willis

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Advances in supply chain management have resulted in significant economic gains to corporations and consumers. These advances depend on a reliable transportation system to facilitate goods movement. The freight transportation system is an integrated network of infrastructure, carriers, and shippers that are engaged in the design, movement, manufacture, sales, and servicing of goods. This is largely a private enterprise, but much of the infrastructure that supports the system is publicly built and operated. Moreover, the infrastructure that supports these movements, especially in urban areas is operating at or above capacity and is aging. There is concern in the business community that the result of increased flows of freight and other traffic, when combined with the limited capacity and age of the system, are making the transportation system brittle in the sense that a small event could have far reaching adverse effects. If the transportation system were instead resilient, it would be able to absorb small-scale events and recover quickly from large disasters. Resilience has been considered in the business and technical literature and has several key properties. These properties include: connectivity supporting multiple alternative paths among origins and destinations, and sufficient capacity and flexibility to use fully the alternative paths, possibly including alternative modes of travel. Resilience may be quantified by considering the change over time of the performance of the system as a result of a disruption. A disruption is an event that causes significant damage to transportation infrastructure, such as a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. Our formulation adds a temporal component: a resilient transportation system is one that minimizes both the initial effect of the disruption and the time required to return the system to normal operations.

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