Web Tool Will Minimize Environmental Effects and Cost of Freight Transport

Application maps transportation routes and calculates emissions

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A. Sue Weisler

Scott Hawker

Transportation planners looking to reduce the environmental and cost impact of freight transport will soon be able to use new Web-based tools to study environmental, economic and cost trade-offs of different freight transportation options, thanks to research being undertaken by Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Delaware.

Researchers are developing a Web-based version of the Geospatial Intermodal Freight Transportation Model or GIFT, a mapping program that plots multi-modal transportation routes, using truck, rail and ship modes, taking into account cost, time and environmental factors. The software also calculates emissions produced by each route, providing transportation managers and government planners with better data on the impact of individual routes, and freight transport in general, on the environment.

“The Web version of GIFT will allow planners, through an Internet interface, to analyze how traditional supply routes can be made greener through the addition of alternative transportation modes whether they be truck, rail or ship, while still taking into account cost and time factors that are essential in the freight transportation industry,” notes Scott Hawker, assistant professor of software engineering at RIT and one of the leaders of the research group.

“By taking our previous desktop-based version of GIFT and moving it to the Web, we make the tools readily and easily available to a much broader audience of decision makers,” adds James Winebrake, professor and chair of the Department of Public Policy at RIT, who is co-directing the project with Hawker and James Corbett, professor of marine policy at the University of Delaware.

The team is using funding from the U.S. Maritime Administration and the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute to develop and test the Web tools as well as run several user workshops to prototype the system. This initial Web-based work will concentrate on the Great Lakes Transportation Corridor.

“GIFT was created to assist government managers and transportation planners in better assessing how multi-modal transportation can reduce the cost, time and emissions of freight transport,” says Corbett. “Through the creation of a user friendly, online version of the system, we hope to provide better information and support to transportation planners and assist in reducing the environmental footprint of the U.S. transportation sector.”