Freight Impacts on Metropolitan Regions: US and European Findings and Responses

Freight Impacts on Metropolitan Regions: US and European Findings and Responses


E Petersen, Cambridge Systematics, US


This paper examines the impacts of freight in metropolitan regions in both the US and Europe. The impacts are quite different in the two contexts, leading to different views of the problem and different solutions.


This paper examines the impacts of freight in US metropolitan regions, beginning with a statistical overview of freight movements and their impact on congestion and safety as well as economic growth. The impacts by individual freight mode are examined in more detail. As expected, regions with a robust rail freight delivery system have slightly lesser congestion-related impacts due to freight movements. Curiously, regions with a high share of water-based freight movements (for internal freight movements) also have higher levels of economic and social inequality, though these are most likely due to specific geographic properties of the US and are unlikely to be directly related to water-borne freight systems.

The paper will repeat the analysis for major European metropolitan regions, examining where the impacts are similar and where different from the US context. Of particular interest is if the water-borne freight shares any of the same correlations on urban inequality as its US counterpart.

The paper will end with a discussion of how different impacts have lead to different formulations of the problem in Europe and the US. For instance, city logistics is only gradually coming to the attention of US policy makers. Similarly, detailed accounting for the emissions-impacts of freight is prevalent in Europe but not in the US. In fact, the debate over freight in the US almost always assumes that increasing freight movements (or at least the value of freight shipments) to and from a region will be beneficial to all residents, whereas the issue is far from settled. The costs and impacts of freight, particularly on urban areas, are weighted more heavily in Europe in setting freight policy.


Association for European Transport