Passenger Rail and Freight Rail Partnerships: Annotated Bibliography

Directly Relevant Studies (in reverse chronogical order)

Bing, Alan J., Eric W. Beshers, Megan Chavez, David P. Simpson, Emmanual S. Horowitz, Walter E. Zullig, Jr. 2010. Guidebook for Implementing Passenger Rail Service on Shared Passenger and Freight Corridors. Washington, DC: Transportation Research Board. (accessed 8 December 2015).

Caughron, Brennan M., M. Rapik Saat, and Christopher PL Barkan. 2012. Identifying and Prioritizing Shared Rail Corridor Technical Challenge. Proceedings of the 2012 Annual AREMA Conference, Chicago, IL. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Conference paper and presentation based on survey of industry professionals on issues with mixed corridor usage:

Paper focused on technical issues presented in the safety, infrastructure and rolling stock, planning and operational challenge categories:

Booz Allen Hamilton, Jacobs Edwards and Kelcey, ICF Consulting, and New Jersey Institute of Technology. 2009. TCRP Report 130: Shared Use of Railroad Infrastructure with Noncompliant Public Transit Vehicles: A Practitioners Guide. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Analysis of and suggested business models for shared use of non-FRA-compliant public transit rail vehicles (e.g., light rail vehicles) with freight operations.

Checklist for project implementation success (pp 76)

  1. The main reason to consider noncompliant equipment is the improved flexibility it offers. Constraints in curvature radius, grades, clearance envelopes, limits of acceleration, and deceleration make a lighter rail vehicle a superior choice for a regional service that traverses both urban and suburban environments.
  2. A willing freight partner is essential.
  3. Pursue near compliance wherever possible. The system has to look, feel and sound like a rail- road to the FRA, while applying transit technology and most important, assume that an FRA waiver will be necessary.
  4. Control of movement authority is the key to safety and regulatory compliance. Consider that the choice of a train control system can contribute to a positive review of the Waiver Petition, improve the freight operation, and provide a faster, safer passenger operation.
  5. A fail-safe train separation system with the capacity to override the train operator is neces- sary to prevent a potentially catastrophic collision and essential for concurrent operations. Cab signals can provide speed enforcement and reduce risk.
  6. Where possible, incorporate Crash Energy Management (CEM) features on rail cars to reduce risk of potential injuries and fatalities.
  7. Temporal separation, while adequate, limits both parties and can be unacceptable for freight customers and restrict special services for transit. It also is more difficult to schedule MOW windows on a temporally-separated system.
  8. A strong oversight function and negotiation skill is essential.
  9. Analyze nature of freight traffic and the physical configuration of track, modify track sep- aration and/or elevations to protect against derailment accidents where possible.
  10. Local governments should deal with the railroads as peers in negotiations and in busi- ness transactions. However, state or local authorities may have the right of first refusal if abandonment is proposed by the freight owner.
  11. As the project evolves, a transit agency should contemplate and pursue incremental progress and take small steps that maintain a successful track record, building FRA confidence in the operation. All planned improvements should benefit both the freight and passenger operator.

Potential Barriers:

  1. Liability: common to any passenger/freight operation (not unique to shared-track), but there is a lack of precedent and actuarial data for shared-track, so at the very least the unknown financial impacts may drive up the cost.
  2. Safety issues: disparate speeds and operating weight, structural incompatibility in multiple dimensions, frontal configuration, service characteristics.
  3. Waiver process: long, complex process; each is unique; may require external legal and techni- cal support at extra cost; invites external parties to evaluate project.
  4. FRA Part 238 and 236 compliance (see waiver process): cost and legal implications.
  5. Regulatory unfamiliarity: officials are unfamiliar with light passenger rail equipment, its per- formance capabilities and operations. More exposure to this technology and standardized vehicle design would aid understanding.
  6. Risk analysis: application of risk analysis methodology and interpretation of results is some- what esoteric; validated data to quantify risk is lacking; modeling risk events is a complex affair; some have a natural inclination to dismiss risk concerns while others display a tendency to overstate them; one school of thought places excessive faith in risk management while another has insufficient faith. The probabilistic aspect does not satisfactorily address a “night- mare scenario” event. There is simply less comfort in calculating a one-in-a-billion chance of an accident event every 10 years. Regulators can more easily understand that if an accident occurs, then passengers are protected.
  7. Lack of sufficient accident data: a perverse and ironic insufficiency of hard data compounded by lack of collision modeling via computer or field test results.
  8. Rigid temporal separation: is a “zero-sum” game. If the one mode gains the other loses.
  9. Potential for unknown outcomes: for planners, policy makers and all stakeholders, the planned or desired outcome of the effort is not assured. Costs, schedules, and technology choices are all subject to review and approval by the FRA, and may be amended at any stage in the process.
  10. Lack of strong voice: the novel and niche role of shared-track needs strong local or state advo- cacy to support and encourage it. The participation of project champions and likely benefici- aries (e.g., shortline operators) should be solicited.
  11. No corridor philosophy (similar to highway or air traffic): railroads are seen as exclusive cor- ridors for conforming equipment, not as corridors or highways available to different vehicles sharing the same route.
  12. Local issues: particularly local speed restrictions for railroads enacted while plans are evolving can complicate or restrict the service plan; grade crossing impacts, associated horn-blowing noises, and ambient noise and operational impacts are also a concern.

United States Government Accountability Office. 2006. Active Commuter Rail Agency Service Contracts. Letter to Honorable Richard C. Shelby, Chairman, Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, United States Senate. Document GAO-06-820R, July. (accessed 15 December 2015).

2006 list of freight / commuter rail agreements

Prozzi, Jolanda. 2006. Passenger Rail Sharing Freight Infrastructure: Creating Win-Win Agreements (0-5022-S). Austin, TX: Center for Transportation Research, The University of Texas at Austin. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Summary of Dolata et al 2005

Dolata, Mat, Jolanda Prozzi, Randy Resor, Chandra Bhat. 2005. Passenger Rail Sharing Freight Infrastructure (0-5022-P2). (accessed 15 December 2015).

There is no single "best" shared use agreement structure that suits all situations

Research from 2004 at the Center for Transportation Research (CTR) at The University of Texas at Austin under contract with TxDOT to outline and explain the environments in which public agencies and private railroads operate and to highlight the negotiation issues and concerns regarding passenger rail sharing freight infrastructure from both parties' perspectives.

The key is to develop win-win situations for both freight railroads and public agencies, requiring the negotiation of a unique shared use agreement that suits the specific situation.

Liu, Rongfang (Rachel), Fei Yang, and Mei Chen. 2005. Understanding the Shared Operation of Commuter Rail Transit and Freight Railroads Journal of the Transportation Research Forum 44 (1), 157-171. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Industry issue paper summary of Liu 2004.

The main objective of this research is to reveal the key factors that make the shared operation between commuter rail transit and freight railroads successful. Key factors for success:

Critical issues:

Liu, Ronfang (Rachel). 2004. Survey of Transit/Rail Freight Interaction. Final Report submitted to the New Jersey Department of Transportation. (accessed 15 December 2015).


This study surveyed 59 transit entities in North America to identify the best practices and key factors that contribute to the successful interaction between transit agencies and freight railroads. A total of 47 agencies including commuter rail, heavy rail, and light rail transits responded, which derives a response rate of 80 percent. This study produced a best practice catalog, based on the survey responses and subsequent data analysis, which may be referenced by transit agencies when dealing with passenger and freight rail interaction issues. Besides the catalog, we also examined critical issues and concerns of both transit and rail freight industries when they share track, right of way, facility, or a corridor with each other.

Factors for success:

United States Government Accountability Office. 2004. Commuter Rail: Information and Guidance Could Help Facilitate Commuter and Freight Rail Access Negotiations. GAO Report GAO-04-240. (accessed 15 December 2015).

There is not a defined formula for developing mutually beneficial arrangements between commuter rail agencies and freight railroads. A "cookie cutter" approach is not possible because every situation is unique--from the parties involved to the needs and expectations for the commuter rail system--requiring the agreements to be tailored to the circumstances of the situation.

...officials from commuter rail agencies and freight railroads identified actions that can help facilitate mutually beneficial arrangements:

Nash, Andrew. 2003. Best Practices in Shared-Use High-Speed Rail Systems, MTI Report 02-02. Mineta Transportation Institute Publications. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Analysis of infrastructure and operating strategies used by European railroads to improve operation of shared-use high-speed rail systems.

The research consisted of a literature review and interviews of experts.


System and Statistical References

American Public Transportation Association (APTA). 2015. Public Transportation Fact Book. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Commuter Rail Agencies

Hybrid (Light Rail Commuter) Agencies

Brock, Timothy J. and Reginald R. Souleyrette. 2013. An Overview of U.S. Commuter Rail. Kentucky Transportation Center Research Report. Paper 316. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Detailed typology and listing of 26 US commuter rail systems

Bureau of Transportation Statistics. 2015. National Transportation Statistics, October. Washington, DC: United States Department of Transportation. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Perl, Anthony D. and Andrew R. Goetz. 2013 High-Speed Passenger Rail: Considering Where the US Has Come From and Where the World Is Going. Denver, CO: Intermodal Transportation Institute and the National Center for Intermodal Transportation, University of Denver. (accessed 15 December 2015)

Reconneting America. 2011. Jumpstarting the Transit Space Race: 2011, A Catalog and Analysis of Planned and Proposed Transit Projects in the US. Washington, DC: Reconnecting America.

Collection of transit plans available in 2010 from the 100 largest regions around the country, as well as some known projects from smaller regions.

643 transit projects in 106 regions. Of these, cost estimates were available for 413 projects, 99 projects had detailed ridership and 121 had mileage information.

Resor, Randolph S. 2003. Catalog of Common Use Rail Corridors. Report DOT/FRA/ORD-03/16. Washington, DC: Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Catalog of corridors where non-FRA-compliant light rail or rail rapid transit vehicles operate adjacent to, or on track shared with, rail freight or passenger operations coming under FRA safety regulations.

Three types of common corridors are defined:

All common use corridors in the U.S. now in operation (2003) or under construction are described, with maps and photographs. Information includes length of corridor, operating speed, traffic density and safety notification procedures.

Vigrass, J. 1995. Joint Use of Track by Electric Railways and Railroads: Historic View. In Seventh National Conference on Light Rail Transit Conference Proceedings 8 (1), 154-163. Washington, DC: Transportation Research Board, National Research Council. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Historic case studies illustrate how joint operation was handled from 1900 to the 1950s: San Diego Trolley, Baltimore Central Light Rail Line, South Shore Line, and others.

Wilcock, David C. and James R. Stoetzel. 2009. Contracting Commuter Rail Services: An Industry Overview. (accessed 15 December 2015).

History and overview of contracted commuter rail services.

The most important lesson learned by the commuter rail industry through three decades of experience in contracting for services may well be that you can tailor an approach that best fits your needs, your resources and your goals and objectives. There is no one-size-fits-all limitation in these types of process.

Engineering and Liability References

Ames, L. and J. Walsh. 2006. Short-line Railroads and Rail Transit Joint Development Planning Issues. The 9th Joint APTA-TRB Light Rail Conference, St. Louis, MO, pp 188 - 205. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Spatial survey of 30 possible scenarios for increased rail transit new starts that share infrastructure and track with lightly used railroads.

Battelle. 2007. Analysis of Future Issues and Changing Demands on the System, Part B. Changes in the Nature of the Economy: Impacts on Passenger/ Freight Transportation, Commission Briefing Paper 4B-11, Issues and Options Related to Passenger and Freight Traffic Sharing the Same Facilities.

Projections for the future of passenger and freight transportation across all modes.

Bing, Alan J., Tsai, Thomas, Nelson, David, and Mayville, Ronald A. 2007. Safety of Noncompliant Passenger Rail Equipment. Transportation Research Circular E-C112: Joint International Light Rail Conference: A World of Applications and Opportunities, April 9­11, 2006, St. Louis, Missouri. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Christner, P. and P. Mauri. 2005. Sharing of Track by Transit and Freight Railroads Access, Safety, and Insurance Issues. FTA Final Report FTA-TRI-10-2005.1. Prepared for Walter Kulyk and Venkat Pindiprolu, Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, United States Department of Transportation, Cambridge, MA. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Focus on liability

Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Transit Administration. 2000. Statement of Agency Policy Concerning Jurisdiction Over the Safety of Railroad Passenger Operations and Waivers Related to Shared use of the Tracks of the General Railroad System by Light Rail and Conventional Equipment. Federal Register 65 (132), 42525-42528. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. DOT, Office of Passenger Programs. 2001. Railroad Corridor Transportation Plans, A Guidance Manual. Revised 23 April. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Guidelines for preparing long-range (20-year) mixed freight/passenger corridor plans

Primarily engineering focus on route selection, physical characteristics, operations, and project management.

Lopez-Pita, Andres, and Francesc Robuste. 2001. Compatibility and Constraints Between High-Speed Passenger Trains and Traditional Freight Trains. Transportation Research Record Number 1742 ­ Rail. (accessed 15 December 2015).

The effect of operation of mixed traffic, that is, specialized passenger transportation trains and conventional freight trains, on high-speed lines on the cost of maintaining the tracks of these lines is considered.

In parallel, certain recommendations with regard to the characteristics (gradient and length) that the inclines of these lines should have so that the speeds of the freight trains are not significantly reduced are made.

This phenomenon could have a negative effect on the capacity of the line and on its deterioration because of excess superelevation and the geometry of the track.

Phraner, David. 2001. TCRP Research Results Digest 43: Supplementing and Updating TCRP Report 52: Joint Operation of Light Rail Transit or Diesel Multiple Unit Vehicles with Railroads Issue. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Follow-up to Phraner et al 1999

Phraner, S. David, Roberts, Richard T., Stangas, Paul K., Korach, Kenneth A., Shortreed, John H., and Thompson, Gordon J. 1999. TCRP Report 52: Joint Operation of Light Rail Transit or Diesel Multiple Unit Vehicles with Railroads. Washington, DC: Transportation Research Board, National Academy Press. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Three European and six Pacific Rim case studies

Engineering and operations focus

Keys to success:

See chapter nine findings (PDF pp 302)

Puentes, Robert, Adie Tomer, and Joseph Kane. 2013. A new alignment: Strengthening America’s commitment to passenger rail. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Suggestions for improving Amtrak

Resor, Randolph R. and Hickey, Thomas. 2005. Shared-Use Rail Corridors. A Survey of Current Practice and Recommendations for the Future. (accessed 15 December 2015).

This paper describes the extent and characteristics of shared-use corridors in the United States, derived from a recent survey undertaken on behalf of the FRA. The paper provides an overview of current practice in the design and operation of shared-use corridors and suggests a need for research leading to standardizations of practice to address potential safety and regulatory concerns.

Sela, Erez, Resor, Randolph R. and Hickey, Thomas. 2003. Shared-Use Corridors: Survey of Current Practice and Recommendations for the Future Ninth National Light Rail Transit Conference. Portland, OR: 16-18 November. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Review of current design practice in shared use of rail corridors

Includes list of thirty then-existing transit systems with common corridor operations

Travis, Merrill. 2000. "Running High-Speed Passenger Trains on Freight Railroad Track, or `You Want to Do What? AREMA Proceedings.

Engineering case study of incremental HrSR upgrades to UP track in Illinois.

United States Government Accountability Office (GAO). 2009. Commuter Rail: Many Factors Influence Liability and Indemnity Provisions, and Options Exist to Facilitate Negotiations - GAO-09-282. Washington, DC. (accessed 15 December 2015).

Ullman, Kenneth B. and Bing, Alan J. 1995. High Speed Trains in Freight Railroad Corridors: Operations and Safety Considerations. FRA Report DOT/FRA/ORD-95/05.

Engineering discussion of the capacity impact of introducing high-speed passenger trains on freight rail corridors and actions required to ensure that such operations were safe. The report includes simple operations simulations and accident risk analysis.