RailBite #7: Electrified Rail & Mode Shift Means Better Health for Trackside Communities

Health Benefits of Electrification & Mode Shift to Communities near Train, Truck, and Shipyards

The current freight transport system has caused an environmental justice crisis for the many communities and workers exposed directly to transportation air pollution.

Solutionary Rail is a plan to electrify America’s railroads using renewable energy – for both freight and passenger trains – that provides solutions to this crisis. Shifting the business model for freight from trucks to trains – especially electrified trains – will improve the health of people living near and working at freight transportation hubs.

People and health:

  • 13 million people live near major marine ports and rail yards, in low-income communities of color.
  • These communities are highly vulnerable to climate change impacts and to toxic air pollution – CO2 and Black Carbon – produced by the diesel-powered vehicles and equipment currently used by the freight industry. 
  • Black Carbon is a fine particulate matter and short-lived climate pollutant that has a very high global warming potential – some estimate over 600 times higher than CO2
  • Epidemiologic studies consistently show that children and adults living close to freight transportation hubs and corridors have elevated health problems, including asthma, poor lung development, lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, pre-term births and infants with low birth weight, and premature death. 
  • How long will we continue to sacrifice the health of these communities?

Health advantages of electrifying our transportation infrastructure: 

  • An electrified railroad relying on overhead power lines will allow more freight to be transported by train – with zero CO2 or black carbon emissions.
  • Ships that plug into shore-electricity while in port will reduce their carbon footprint and avoid harming the health of nearby communities and workers.
  • Battery-powered trucks that transport goods for the “first” and “last miles” – connecting farms, towns, and cities not on rail lines – will also be important for better community health and a smaller carbon footprint. But we should not rely on battery-powered trucks for long distances, given the environmental and health impacts of battery production and recycling.

Valuable resources on emissions from freight can found at the Moving Forward Network. Download their Zero Emissions Now policy brief: "What the EPA Must Do Now to Reduce Deadly Diesel Emissions in Port Communities and Freight Corridors" HERE

To download this RailBite as a pdf document to share with policymakers, click HERE.

More on these issues is at www.solutionaryrail.org/factsnfalsesolutions and www.solutionaryrail.org/video

Legislators and policymakers have a lot of information to sort through – we hope our “Railbites” will help you gather essential information about modernizing and electrifying our transportation infrastructure. Please use us as a resource! Contact [email protected] or 206-408-8058.