March 2013

Intermodal Marine Container Terminals (IMCTs) are facing rising volumes of shipping containers. Efficiency, especially in locations that prevent expansion of capacity, is necessary to handle growing levels of trade. Inefficient gate systems not only impair IMCT capacity, but contribute to greenhouse gas emissions due to trucks idling while waiting for entrance.

Changes in management strategies will be cheaper than expanding port capacity, but their impacts are not fully understood and are usually tested on-site. The Evaluation of the Effect of Gate Strategies in Drayage Related Emissions (CFIRE 04-19) project, conducted by CFIRE affiliate researcher Mei Cao, aimed to evaluate new truck entry and exit plans for IMCTs using simulation software. Although other evaluations around the globe have been used, this was the first attempt to use traffic simulation software to record delays and emissions.


Modeling was carried out using Quadstone Paramics traffic simulation software. In this project, the Port of Newark/Elizabeth was simulated under regular conditions and while implementing new strategies for different levels of rising demand. The results included the hourly delays felt by truckers under the simulation, as well as the increase or decrease in emissions. The simulated strategies included extending the hours of operation to redistribute peak demand, and the increased use of scheduled appointments, which use separate lanes at the port entrances and exits. Researchers also simulated constant, regular demand as a best-possible scenario.

The effectiveness of an increased use of appointment times depended on the number of lanes dedicated for it. Under-utilized appointment lanes would be associated with backup on over-utilized non-appointment lanes. This backup had the potential to create congestion in the road network leading to the IMCT. The research showed that increased appointments can actually increase total emissions in some situations.

The effectiveness of extending the hours of operation for trucks was found to be positive for all scenarios where demand rose by more than 20 percent. In addition, the increased hours of operation showed larger percent reductions in total emissions as the demand level rose.

The model already shows promise in identifying effective strategies for confronting terminal congestion, but future research will include information on vehicle activities within the terminal itself. Identifying vehicle paths within IMCTs will support accurate modeling and help test new strategies for improving efficiency.

For more information about this project and to read the final report, visit the CFIRE 04-19 project page.


Ben Zietlow

CFIRE Geoeconomist Ben Zietlow was recently selected to serve on task panel for NCHRP 08-36 Project. The panel focuses on Task 119, a “Transportation Users Guide to the Economic Census.”

The NCHRP 08-36 Project was established in 1999 at the request of the AASHTO Standing Committee on Planning in order to provide a flexible, ongoing program of quick-response research designed to develop improvements to the analytical methods, decision-support tools, procedures, and techniques employed by practitioners in statewide and metropolitan transportation planning, programming, and development.  This task is one of the latest set of projects in this series.

For more information, visit the NCHRP 08-36 Project and the Task 119 page.