Air, high-speed rail, or highway: A cost comparison in the California corridor

David M Levinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


This study evaluates the full cost of three modes of intercity transportation: air, highway, and high-speed rail for the California corridor, connecting the Los Angeles basin and the San Francisco Bay Area in order to compare the economic implications of investment in, or expansion of, any of these three modes. This study presents estimates of four types of external, social costs: accidents, congestion, noise, and air pollution. Based on the results, it is concluded that the full cost of air transportation for the California corridor [$0.1315 per passenger-kilometer traveled (pkt)] is significantly less costly than the other two modes. High-speed rail and highway transportation have approximately the same full cost; rail costs $0.2350/pkt and highway costs $0.2302/pkt. However, the modes have a different distribution of internal and external costs; automobiles have the highest external costs, while high-speed rail has the highest internal costs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-130
Number of pages8
JournalTransportation Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 1999


Dive into the research topics of 'Air, high-speed rail, or highway: A cost comparison in the California corridor'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this