Examining High-Speed Rail and Aviation Systems Under Environmental Constraints

EPA Grant Number: FP917320
Title: Examining High-Speed Rail and Aviation Systems Under Environmental Constraints
Investigators: Clewlow, Regina RL
Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: September 1, 2011 through August 31, 2014
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Science & Technology for Sustainability: Environmental Entrepreneurship


The continuous growth of global air transportation has significant implications for strategies to reduce CO2 emissions of the transportation sector. High-speed rail (HSR) is often promoted as a lower carbon alternative to air transportation, and is being considered in some nations as one component of a broader climate policy agenda. This research will examine the interaction of demand for high-speed rail and air transportation, and the long-range impacts of climate policies on these transportation systems. In doing so, the goal of this study is to develop an increased understanding of high-speed transportation options to aid transitions to a low-carbon economy.


This research will be carried out in three phases. First, an empirical analysis of intercity and airport-level demand for high-speed and air transportation in Europe, China and the United States will be conducted, utilizing general data analysis and econometric methods. Second, case studies of high-speed rail connections at airports in Europe and other regions will be conducted to examine the factors that enable cooperation, as well as to examine how transportation demand has been affected. Finally, climate policy analysis will be conducted to examine how different combinations of transportation investment and climate policies may impact future demand and CO2 emissions of high-speed rail and air transportation.

Expected Results:

This research will contribute to two key areas of inquiry: intercity passenger transportation demand analysis, and climate policy analysis in the transportation sector. This study will result in an improved understanding of intercity passenger transportation demand for high-speed transportation. By conducting a broad, international analysis of diverse markets on an origin-destination level, this research will contribute to bottom-up, origin-destination passenger demand analysis, in the context of air transportation and highspeed rail. Secondly, this research will result in an improved understanding of how climate policies might impact the transportation sector by developing an integrated approach to examine transportation investment and climate policies.

Potential to Further Environmental / Human Health Protection

Understanding the interaction of air transportation and high-speed rail demand is critical for developing policies to reduce emissions in the transportation sector. This study will highlight complex factors that have impacted intercity demand in Europe and China, as well as examine how CO2 emissions from aviation and high-speed rail have evolved over the past two decades. The results of this study will inform transportation and climate policies that will lead to more sustainable intercity transportation systems.

Supplemental Keywords:

high-speed rail, aviation, transportation, climate policy, demand modeling

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2012
  • 2013
  • Final