Life-cycle assessment of high-speed rail: the case of California

Author(s): Chester, M.V.
All authors:
Chester, M.V. and Horvath, A.
Host organisation: CoE Berkeley, USA
Country: United States of America
Publication year: 2010
Published in:
Environmental Research Letters 5, 014003, 2010. (8pp)
Research theme: Environment and Climate Change, Public Transport
Keywords:
passenger transportation, life-cycle assessment, California, high-speed rail, trains, cars, autos, aircraft, planes, energy, fuel, emissions, greenhouse gas, criteria air pollutants
Type:
Research article
Summary:
The state of California is expected to have significant population growth in the next half-century resulting in additional passenger transportation demand. Planning for a high-speed rail system connecting San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento as well as many population centers between is now underway. The considerable investment in California high-speed rail has been debated for some time and now includes the energy and environmental tradeoffs. The per-trip energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and other emissions are often compared against the alternatives (automobiles, heavy rail, and aircraft), but typically only considering vehicle operation. An environmental life-cycle assessment of the four modes was created to compare both direct effects of vehicle operation and indirect effects from vehicle, infrastructure, and fuel components. Energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and SO2, CO, NOX, VOC, and PM10 emissions were evaluated. The energy and emission intensities of each mode were normalized per passenger kilometer traveled by using high and low occupancies to illustrate the range in modal environmental performance at potential ridership levels. While high-speed rail has the potential to be the lowest energy consumer and greenhouse gas emitter, appropriate planning and continued investment would be needed to ensure sustained high occupancy. The time to environmental payback is discussed highlighting the ridership conditions where high-speed rail will or will not produce fewer environmental burdens than existing modes. Furthermore, environmental tradeoffs may occur. High-speed rail may lower energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions per trip but can create more SO2 emissions (given the current electricity mix) leading to environmental acidification and human health issues. The significance of life-cycle inventorying is discussed as well as the potential of increasing occupancy on mass transit modes.
October 2018
Upcoming Events
Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
v40  1 2 3 4 5 6 7
v41  8 9 10 11 12 13 14
v42  15 16 17 18 19 20 21
v43  22 23 24 25 26 27 28
v44  29 30 31        

The VREF invites PhD students and early stage researchers to apply for a Study Visit Grant to be supported with up to SEK 30 000.

The invitation is open until 181031.

Blog! Blog! Blog!

Global Mobility Research

This Meeting of the Minds' blog monthly releases interviews of global transportation researchers from the VREF's Future Urban Transport Program Network.

TheCityFix

This CityFix series, produced by the WRI (World Ressources Institute) Ross Center for Sustainable Cities and supported by the VREF, discusses walking and cycling in cities with a special focus on low- and middle-income countries.

Each year the Håkan Frisinger Foundation for Transportation Research awards a scholarship to a prominent researcher.

Read more...

About VREF

The Volvo Research and Educational Foundations (VREF) inspires, initiates and supports research and educational activities through the Future Urban Transport Programme - How to deal with the complexity of urban transport (FUT). 

Our Vision: Sustainable transport for equitable access in urban areas

Read more

© Copyright VREF
2018