Case Study Selection Methodology

After thorough internet research, a review of the literature, and interviews with subject-matter experts, the research team compiled a list of potential freight mode shift case studies and developed a methodology for choosing the projects that best fit the scope of this research effort. The following section presents: a discussion of the selection methodology; a compilation of candidate case study projects; and a list of recommended projects for further exploration and full case study development.

Selection criteria

To pare down the extensive list of potential case study projects, and to ensure that a representative sample of mode shift policies, modes and success factors is included, the research staff developed the following selection criteria.

Policy Type

For each potential mode shift example, the research staff identified the type of policy or investment involved. The study team classified projects among twelve major types:

  • Projects involving investments to major cross-country rail corridors.
  • Projects involving investments in urban intra-city corridors.
  • Investments in short-line railroads or individual rail segments.
  • Those encompassing rail shifts involving more localized rail projects, such as upgrades to rail bridges or rail crossings.
  • Projects involving investments to rail lines serving ports.
  • Projects involving investments in waterways or marine highway projects.
  • Investments in port facilities generally centered at an individual port.
  • Various intermodal facilities designed to allow freight to move from one mode to another.
  • Projects that involved policies incorporating time of day, or land use fees or restrictions.
  • Those including regulatory policies undertaken at the local, state or federal levels (including internationally-based policies or projects such as the Panama Canal expansion).
  • Those involving U.S. Trade policy, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The assignment of projects by type is often subjective. Some projects or policies have elements of multiple types of investments or modes, and the overall purpose was less classification, and more to ensure that a variety of policies, investments, projects and type of modes and industries was represented.

Location & Region

The geographic location of each project was considered to ensure that research reflected efforts throughout the country, in both urban and rural settings. The team assigned projects in North and East, South, Central, and West regions. Within each region, the team assigned projects as urban or rural.  The assignment of projects to regions can also be subjective, given that some projects cross boundaries between rural and urban locations, or include both.

Timeliness and Data Availability

A key criterion for project selection is the availability of data.. To ensure the likelihood of data being available to document the impact of each project, the research staff examined whether the projects were timely or not. The research staff defined “timely” as completed and operational, with adequate time passed to examine their effect. The goal is to study recent projects, but not projects that are so new that they lack the data and information needed to fully evaluate their success, and to document all of the contributing factors. Similar to the “timely” criterion, study staff also conducted a cursory evaluation of each candidate to assess whether the data needed to complete a meaningful analysis would be available.

Degree of Success

The NCFRP panel members expressed interest in including an unsuccessful modal shift case study. One panel member suggested including the PANYNJ barge service to Albany, New York, identified as a Marine Highway project. In general, the study team was not able to identify the degree of success for each of the policies or projects prior to conducting the case studies selection. However, the case studies will examine the degree of success of the individual project or policies.

Original Policy Intent

The NCFRP panel members expressed interest in arranging or correlating case studies that represented either intended or unintended modal shifts. For example, one panel member stated that “we are not only interested in looking at the impacts on freight modal shift of policies designed or initially proposed to induce such a mode shift (e.g., grade separation or corridor improvement projects) but also other policies that may have led to such mode shifts anyway.” In the real world, projects and policies often have many purposes. For example, a project may aim to improve air quality or auto congestion but may have the side effect of causing modal shift.  In general, the study team was not able to identify the original intent of each of the policies or projects prior to actually conducting the case studies. However, the case studies will examine the possible original intents of the individual project or policies. The case studies will also compare and contrast these intents with the ultimate results.

Compilation of potential case study candidates

Tables 52 and 53 summarize the case study candidates culled from the various methodologies. To develop this matrix, the study team first compiled a list of all the potential case studies, eliminating any duplicates identified by multiple sources. Research staff members then assigned each case study to a policy type, a geographic region of the country, and a rural or urban location. The table arrays policy type on the vertical axis, and region (both area of the country and urban/rural) on the horizontal axis. It also displays in bold projects expected to fit the timeliness and data availability. Projects identified by the NCFRP panel are italicized.

Table 52 Table 53

List of recommended case study projects

After compiling the table of case study candidates, and conducting an analysis using the selection criteria, the research team developed a list of recommended projects for additional research and full case study development. These projects, shown in Table 54, represent a range of policy types, geographic regions, and urban and rural projects.  The study team also considered the likelihood of available data on the projects’ mode shift impacts, including information regarding specific policies involved in their planning. The study team also included an example of an unsuccessful project. Note that the list includes ten case studies, more than the required number of projects. The extra four projects were included as backup, in the event further research reveals insufficient data are available to meet the needs of the study.

Table 54

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