Evaluating the Use of Operational Management Techniques for Capacity Improvements on Shared-use Rail Corridors

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 Final Report

Primary Investigators

Pasi Lautala
Michigan Technological University


The majority of intercity passenger and commuter rail services in the United States (U.S.) operate on the shared-use corridors with freight rail services. These types of operations tend to be challenging for efficient capacity utilization and reliability due to the high heterogeneity of trains (diversity of trains operations). In addition, the projected growth in demand for rail transportation is likely to exacerbate the situation, making efficient use of capacity a necessity for freight and passenger traffic alike. There are two main approaches to improve the capacity levels, either by applying new capital investment or by improving operational characteristics and parameters of the rail services (such as improving the trains timetables). To date, U.S. has concentrated more on the first approach while the second approach is commonly used in European practices. It would be beneficial to evaluate the main challenges and advantages of using operational management techniques to improve the capacity utilization along shared use corridors in the U.S.


The objective of this research is to use rail operations simulations to investigate operational management techniques as an alternative to capital infrastructure investments to improve the capacity utilization along shared-use rail corridors. In addition, it compares the dependability of structured versus improvised (or unstructured) train operations on the corridors.


  1. Review of capacity and operational management techniques
  2. Collect data on select corridors
  3. Implement rail db/information of selected corridors
  4. Conduct individual and hybrid simulations
  5. Summarize the results and develop recommendations

Project Information

  • Duration: 12 months
  • Dates: 9/1/2014 – 8/31/2015
  • Budget: $59,106 (UTC funds) and $88,659 (match funds)
  • Student Involvement: One graduate student
  • Modal Orientation: Rail
  • Project ID: CFIRE 09-10
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