Rail Vehicles (Intercity and Transit)
Congestion and delays at major airports, as well as environmental and
energy/petroleum consumption issues have stimulated interest in providing an
alternative to the airplane and the motor vehicle for intercity travel in
high-travel-density corridors. High-speed rail, and possibly magnetic
levitation systems, are perceived to have an important future role to play in
relieving congestion in short-haul intercity corridors. However, questions
remain regarding the cost, environmental and other social benefits, breadth of
potential applications, and commercial feasibility of high-speed ground
transportation systems in the US. These technologies are a focus of research
abroad. Attention has recently turned to the potential value of a high-speed,
light weight, high power passenger-service locomotive for incremental
introduction of improved rail service in corridors that initially are not
likely to generate sufficient traffic to warrant the expense of
- APPLICATION OF RAIL VEHICLE RESEARCH
- For heavily-traveled corridors in the Northeast, Midwest, Texas, and
California, concerns about congestion and pollution have renewed interest in
rail transportation as an alternative to air and highway. The Intermodal
Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 authorized a program to
determine the efficiency, safety, and economic benefits of high-speed rail for
intercity travel. It has the goal of improvements in intercity mobility, with
energy, environmental, and economic benefits.
DOT and DOE are participants in this technology program. Goals include:
(1) development of a high-speed non-electric locomotive capable of a
sustained speed of 150 mph, to minimize the need for electrification of rail
corridors; and (2) the development of a fuel cell powerplant for rail
To achieve the non-electric locomotive goal, DOT has sponsored a program
in New York to demonstrate an upgraded turbo-electric train for the New York
City to Albany link. The train will be powered by two 1500 hp turbines for
sustained speeds of 125 mph. The fuel cell program is to demonstrate that
applying these propulsion systems to locomotives can meet railroad
requirements for locomotive performance comparable or superior to conventional
diesel technology_with dramatically reduced emissions and increased
Improved rail vehicle technology will enhance the competitive position of
the US in the global market place in which many countries rely heavily on
their rail networks and are improving existing railroads or constructing new
lines to serve growing economies. Advances in the propulsion and emission
performance of passenger train locomotives will substantially increase the
range of alternatives available to meet future transportation needs.
- Facilitate innovation in rail vehicle design and construction by
introducing advanced materials, communications and control technologies so
that performance is improved and costs are reduced.
- Improve the propulsion and emission performances of intercity and commuter
locomotives, and expand the range of alternatives available to meet future
transportation needs. A specific goal is to develop a fossil-fueled high-
speed locomotive or trainset capable of revenue service operations at 150 mph
and which meets or exceeds the Federal emission standards of year 2010.
- Position the US as a world technology leader and primary exporter of rail-
related equipment and services.
Challenges and New Opportunities
The potential contribution of R&D activities to improvements in safety,
cost, sustainability and personal health associated with intercity rail
freight and passenger and rail transit services indicate the value of Federal
research directed toward achieving the following:
- Improve Safety and Performance: Development and introduction of advanced
materials and structural concepts for high-performance, light-weight vehicles,
particularly for commuter rail vehicles, and to improve crashworthiness joint
service in high-speed corridors, is needed R&D to accelerate the private
development of advanced train control systems will improve the performance
and safety of all rail services.
- Enhance Intercity and Commuter Services: Research to accelerate
improvement in the efficiency and performance of non-electric locomotives used
in intercity and commuter rail services is a national need. R&D needs to be
conducted to develop alternative prime power sources such as fuel cells, gas
turbines and other hybrid systems for expanded rail services, particularly in
high-speed intercity service.
- Increase Reliability and Reduce Expenses: R&D focused on critical
components of rail equipment will lead to safer, more reliable, and more
efficient service, which will in turn attract more riders and reduce operating
expenses per rider. The development of advanced engines with improved
emission control devices and alternative fuels will make it possible to
satisfy new Federal and state emissions standards.
Ships and Shipbuilding
The National Defense Authorization Act of 1993 required the President to
develop "a comprehensive plan to enable and ensure that domestic shipyards can
compete effectively in the international shipbuilding market." On October 1,
1993, President Clinton submitted a plan to Congress, a blueprint aimed at
revitalizing the US shipbuilding industry.
The report states that two steps will have to be taken for US shipyards
to compete successfully in the international market. First, subsidies
provided by foreign governments to their shipbuilding industries must be ended
to ensure a level playing field. Second, US yards must adapt to the demands
of he international commercial market. US yards will have to "develop and
market competitive designs; fully employ modern technology and manufacturing
processes; and remain competitive in wages."
The US shipbuilding industry is unsurpassed in building the finest and
most complex naval vessels in the world. With the Cold War ended, these
shipyards, like many other defense firms have been facing a new challenge--
translating their skills from the military to the commercial market.
Individual shipyards are preparing to meet this challenge.
- APPLICATIONS OF SHIP AND SHIPBUILDING RESEARCH
- A few short years ago the American shipbuilding industry was suffering
greatly because of declining Naval orders and from subsidized international
competition. Thousands of jobs were lost, ruining the economic health of many
communities throughout the nation. Additionally, the US lost technological
capability in the field crucial to National security. With the advent of
President Clinton's policy to build partnerships with the private sector, this
situation is being reversed. As a result, the American shipbuilding industry
will be able to re-enter the international market place and enhance
As part of the DOD/DOT MARITECH program, several cooperative agreements
have been awarded. One cost-sharing (50%-50%) agreement, with a total cost of
$6.5 M, is to Shipyard, Inc., of Mobile, Alabama, is to design a double-hulled
tank ship. The shipyard plans to use its current facilities which will permit
the construction of vessels of 40,000 deadweight-ton double-hulled product
carriers by adapting a proven international commercial design. This type of
tank ship will be less likely to damage the environment in the event of an
accident preventing disasters such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The new
designs, production and processing techniques will permit orders for
construction of quality, state-of-the-art ships at competitive prices in the
Research and development to improve technology transfer and process changes dealing with manufacturing changes in ship design and production is
critical to the Nation in terms of competitiveness, security, the environment, and the economy.
Major program objectives in the ships and shipbuilding technology program include:
- Develop strong and competitive "world class" international ocean shipping and domestic water transportation industries.
- Develop a strong and competitive "world class" commercial ship design and production capability.
- Develop defense-relevant waterborne transportation capabilities to meet peacetime and national emergency needs.
- Develop a safe and environmentally prudent US waterborne transportation system.
- Create new jobs in the ship design, ship construction and ship operating sectors of the maritime industry.
Challenges and New Opportunities
- Increase US Competitiveness in Ship Construction: Ship inspection and construction is a strategically and economically important area in which the
Nation faces very serious challenges. Technologies involved in inspection, maintenance, repair, disposal and recycling of ships and other transportation
vehicles is a priority.
- Create Jobs in Shipbuilding: There is an urgent need to lay the technology foundation for the next generation ships and other vehicles that will minimize
the use of non-renewable resources, and will be safe, secure, economically viable, suitable for use by an increasingly diverse population, and, at the
same time, be producible and create manufacturing jobs in the US based on both domestic and export markets.
PRIORITY AREA: TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM
Transportation touches and is touched by virtually all aspects of modern
life, with connections that range from direct to nearly invisible. Our
transportation system plays a critical role in meeting key national goals
including individual quality of life, economic vigor and sustainable
development. Transportation is also central to some of the most challenging
and contentious public issues we face, such as urban congestion, global
warming, public safety, and mandated standards for air quality. It is
critical that public and private decisions relating to transportation be based
on a solid understanding of the system and its elements, operations, and
societal impacts. Two areas are particularly critical in terms of achieving
effective transportation investments and safe and efficient system operation:
System Assessment, and Human Performance.
DESIGN, PLANNING, MANAGEMENT AND OPERATIONS
Transportation System Assessment Tools and Knowledge Base
A powerful tension exists between our growing technical knowledge and
capabilities and our ability to apply those capabilities to meet the
legitimate demands of individuals, businesses and local and national
economies. On the one hand, national needs can be satisfied only by
energetically pursuing growth and implementation of technology. On the other
hand, exploitation of innovative concepts--even the upgrade of conventional
systems sufficiently to meet current needs--can fall victim to increasingly
rigorous constraints of societal acceptability, inadequate availability of
resources, a focus on immediate rather than distant goals, and difficulties in
articulating and developing cohesive and collaborative approaches to large-
Transportation decisions, whether made in the public or private sector,
must address a steadily widening range of considerations, viewed from very
long-term perspectives as well as in terms of immediate concerns:
environmental and safety impacts; economic effects for various segments of the
population and the economy, national energy and petroleum consumption, land
use and living patterns, international agreements, global competitiveness and
balance of payments, and appropriate role of each involved party. Each year
more and more stakeholders are involved, and the technical realities and
uncertainties in each issue become more complex. National goals, embodied in
Federal legislation, place heavy burdens on state and local agencies for
planning and decision making in technically complicated areas. Information
and tools for use in meeting these challenges are difficult to obtain or
simply do not exist.
An important barrier to achieving this understanding is that the nation's
transportation system is a large, highly decentralized and continually
evolving complex of vehicles, physical infrastructure, information technology
and support services created and used by individual travelers and shippers,
private providers of services and equipment, public agencies, and governments
at levels. Technological forces (such as the information and communications
revolution) and economic shifts (exemplified by globalization), and rising
public sensitivity to environmental concerns and long-term sustainability, are
steadily increasing the rate at which change must be accommodated. While
making use of extensive public infrastructure elements, transportation is
largely a private-sector undertaking, particularly after the extensive
deregulation that occurred during the 1980's--a change still being digested.
New technologies, often little understood by decision-makers or not fully
proven, compete for markets in the transportation sector.
The US transportation enterprise is thus the product of decisions and
actions occurring throughout the society, driven by many forces, and based
largely on near-term economic considerations and balancing of resources, often
addressed on a relatively localized basis. With perceived needs often far
outstripping available funds, it is difficult to assure that investment
decisions will be based on a time perspective appropriate to the lifetime of
transportation infrastructure--typically many decades. In order to improve
the ability of all transportation stakeholders to make wise choices, the
Federal government is moving to providing an enhanced framework of
understanding, vision and guidance to assure that transportation-related
decisions are made, and issues resolved, in a manner fully responsive to the
long-term interests of the nation as a whole. Federal stewardship of the
overall enterprise can encourage investment decisions and actions by all
parties that contribute to seamless, efficient and effective transportation,
while balancing transportation needs against social, economic, environmental
and other goals, both in the present and in a manner that contributes to long-
Some cost and performance measures associated with the Nation's
transportation system are readily obtained, but many are extremely difficult
to capture. Estimation of the consequences of alternative courses of action
are shrouded in uncertainty. Identification and quantification of
environmental impacts are particularly difficult and contentious undertakings.
Examples of the resulting dilemmas include debate over the appropriate role of
high speed passenger rail systems in the US, development of acceptable
strategies for dealing with air quality mandates and urban congestion, and the
clash between environmental concerns and the need for transportation
infrastructure renewal and expansion. The models and data available to
address these issues often provide an inadequate foundation for satisfactory
resolution. Further, they are often so complex or data-intensive that their
use by local authorities, who have primary responsibility for many issues, is
problematic. Gaps in our understanding of the workings of the national
transportation system plague not only governmental agencies and businesses,
but also legislative bodies trying to legislate and appropriate productively.
- APPLICATIONS OF SYSTEM ASSESSMENT RESEARCH
- Almost all of the Nation's metropolitan regions face the possibility of
having to take steps that inhibit personal mobility--rush hour tolls, parking
taxes or limits, alternate driving days, unfamiliar fuels and vehicles.
Mayors, county officials, and employers are well aware of the threats. Boston
and Atlanta, for example are both designated as serious not-attainment areas
for ozone. Air quality problems are also evident to a public that has become
much more sensitive to environment and health issues. However, the best
alternatives for solving these problems are not at all clear. The travel
planning models in widest use today were developed more than 25 years ago to
evaluate major highway corridor alternatives. They were adapted in the 70's
for planning transit services. However, they do not take into account the
major changes in suburban travel patterns that have taken place in recent
years, or the effects of air pollution and congestion.
The job is too big for any one region to address and has become a
critical Federal role. It requires teamwork by MPO's, state planners, EPA,
DOE, and DOT highway and transit modeling experts. Fortunately, significant
advancements have been made in recent years--both in modeling techniques and
in computing capacity. DOT has recently initiated efforts to make significant
improvements in this area, but the challenge is great. The recently-
established Bureau of Transportation Statistics is actively assessing data
needs, performance measures, and effective means of dissemination information.
In addition, MPO's in the larger cities have expanded their capabilities to
make use of sophisticated modeling tools.
There is an acute need for improved data, analyses and assessments of all
aspects of transportation system performance, including environmental and
land-use impacts, to support policy development and implementation,
regulations, legislation and planning by governments at all levels and the
The fundamental program objectives of a Transportation System Assessment
Tools and Knowledge Base program are to:
- Characterize transportation system usage, future requirements, existing
technologies, institutional structure and interactions, relevant
domestic/international economic trends, and overall societal impacts.
- Assess existing and innovative transportation technologies and their
- Assess other technologies of potential importance to transportation
systems and operations.
- Develop and disseminate data concerning transportation system safety,
economics, environmental impacts, and other societal concerns.
- Understand and characterize all types of environmental impacts of
transportation, and assess alternative prevention, mitigation, and remediation
- Develop focused and broad models for analysis of transportation system
operations, functions, and impacts.
- Assess trade and other industrial impacts of alternative transportation
technologies, scenarios, and policies.
Challenges and New Opportunities
Improved understanding of the current transportation system and the needs
and behaviors of its users will contribute to better use of existing
infrastructure, guide the course of incremental and evolutionary improvements,
and support wise decisions concerning initiatives and associated very large
investments directed toward major improvements and innovations. Challenges
and new opportunities in system assessment research include:
- Ensure Smart American Transportation Investment Decisions: Research is
needed for better and more detailed data, analyses and assessments concerning
transportation system operational characteristics, performance, condition and
environmental and other social impacts, as well as enhanced understanding of
transportation-related behavioral sciences and human performance. This
information will shape investment decisions, regulatory actions and
operational strategies making effective use of advanced technologies.
- Improve System Operations and Performance: There is a need to address not
only specific modes and transportation markets, but also the system as a
whole, including interactions and interconnections between modes, and
institutional, regulatory and other legal factors that shape and affect the
operations and performance of the system.
Human Performance in the
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