Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration
Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

Project Level Analyses

Chapter 1. Introduction


In December 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a final version of its Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES) model. This new model will be required to be used in the future State Implementation Plans (SIPs) and transportation conformity analyses and will play a critical role in estimating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. MOVES represents a significant departure from the MOBILE software, giving air agencies, state Departments of Transportation (DOTs), and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) the ability to transform mobile source emissions modeling and travel demand forecasting by taking advantage of the significant detail in vehicle speed and acceleration data that can be used by the MOVES model. While in the short term, some of the MOBILE inputs can be converted to comparable MOVES inputs, in the longer term, EPA expects that transportation agencies will begin to collect or make use of existing data that can better take advantage of the full capabilities of the MOVES model.

MOVES can be run at three different scales:  national, county, or project. At the national scale, EPA's default national database is used along with default state and local allocation factors. This scale does not require the input of any local information. At the county scale, the user must input county-specific information such as vehicle miles traveled (VMT), vehicle age distributions, and average speed distributions (among other inputs). At the project scale, some of this same information is required. However, in addition, the project scale requires that information at the link level be input, such as link-level driving schedules or operating mode distributions.1  While running MOVES at this scale does require more detailed information, if this type of information is available, the resulting MOVES emissions or emission rates should be much more appropriate for the specific situation than applying county-level emission rates. Use of the inputs of the project level scale allow the user to fully define how travel is occurring on a specific roadway link at a specific time leading to more representative and accurate emission calculations. This is important in areas where emissions from a specific project are being evaluated and the travel on the roadway links of the project do not follow typical driving patterns.

In many cases, transportation modelers have already developed the data needed for input at the project scale of MOVES. However, when using the MOBILE models, these data needed to be aggregated to determine an average speed or average speed distribution. With MOVES, these detailed travel data can be used explicitly. The challenge for researchers and analysts in the transportation and air quality communities is to develop standard methods to process these available sources of data in an efficient manner to optimize the capabilities of MOVES and to improve the emissions and air quality modeling required for SIP and transportation conformity analyses, including project-level analyses.

Project Overview

The project objective was to perform research and develop usable tools that can assist transportation and air quality modelers in preparing project-level emission analyses that take advantage of the capabilities of the MOVES model. In this project, the consulting team developed several sets of MOVES files detailing operating mode profiles (which are sometimes referred to here as vehicle-specific power [VSP] profiles) that simulate different types of driving conditions such as those on ramps, interchanges, freeway incidents, and signalized arterials under different levels of congestion as well as the effects of ramp metering and signal control.  In addition, this project report also describes another set of MOVES files that can be used to model the unique conditions that occur at intermodal facilities and ports, capturing important activities such as idling, for the specific types of vehicles (trucks) used at these types of facilities. Finally, this report provides a demonstration of how these files can be used in MOVES. The example for which this demonstration is provided is an evaluation of emission reduction strategies that can be used to reduce truck emissions in and around port terminals.

The information in this report and the associated MOVES files may provide alternatives to using default MOVES data for many project-level evaluations. Plus, the methods used in this project to generate MOVES files can be observed by others seeking to link microsimulation models and MOVES directly in order to develop data sets that are representative of travel conditions specific to their projects.

Chapter II of this report summarizes the microsimulation modeling that was performed to develop VSP profiles under this project. This includes the modeling of a variety of congestion conditions as well as the modeling of VSP profiles specific to conditions at ports or intermodal facilities. This chapter also documents the MOVES VSP files that have been provided to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as part of this project.

Chapter III provides information on how the VSP profiles developed for use in project-level modeling of various congestion conditions could be applied to a user's project level MOVES modeling.

Chapters IV, V, and VI are all related to ports and intermodal facilities. In these chapters, ports are used as a surrogate, but many of the conditions that apply to ports, such as the in-port operating mode including low speed driving and idling, as well as the types of trucks used and trips that occur at ports, also apply to intermodal facilities. Chapter IV presents an analysis of the activity at three sample ports. Chapter V explains how the VSP profiles developed for ports, as documented in Chapter II, can be applied to a MOVES analysis of emissions at a port. Chapter VI documents an evaluation of the potential control strategies that might be used at ports or intermodal facilities and the resulting emission reductions.

Finally, Chapter VII presents project conclusions. References used in this study are listed at the end of the report.

Updated: 7/22/2011
HEP Home Planning Environment Real Estate
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000
Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center | 6300 Georgetown Pike | McLean, VA | 22101