Cargo-Oriented Development

Photo: JAXPORT, Meredith Fordham Hughes via Flickr Creative Commons

Cargo-oriented development (COD) helps railroads, freight yards, and nearby industrial sites become greener, more efficient, and better neighbors. COD uses freight movement to re-energize the economies of American cities that lead to connecting people to good jobs with career potential.

COD promotes the most efficient and sustainable ways to move freight. It helps communities capture the jobs and economic vitality that can be generated by a more efficient freight system that maximizes the use of greener vehicles and technologies.

Rising fuel costs and increased competition in the global economy demand that America’s freight system become more efficient, reliable, and flexible. With 72% of all US petroleum consumption linked to transportation, an environmentally conscious public demands a greener supply chain. These demands are spurring a resurgence for rail.

The shortage of trained workers for the freight industry offers clear opportunities for sustainable growth and workforce development. Additionally, the U.S. has over 200 intermodal terminals that connect long-haul cargo trains with trucks that carry goods to their final destinations. Each one is a magnet for logistics, manufacturing, and other industries that rely on rail transportation.

How does this affect you? Our work has shown that:

  • COD creates jobs. Freight rail, related logistics industries, and the manufacturing businesses served by freight rail offer good jobs that can become lifelong careers.
  • COD reduces environmental impact. Freight is often associated with pollution and congestion, but COD strategies offer cleaner, more efficient ways to move cargo than heavy trucks. COD can reduce noise pollution, improve safety, and lead to more stable property values
  • COD anchors industrial business sectors. COD can attract and retain logistics and manufacturing operations and catalyze the cleanup and reuse of vacant land, restoring jobs to communities eroded by decades of industrial contraction.
  • COD improves regional competitiveness. A strong freight transportation system that connects trucks and rail can be the foundation for vibrant industrial hubs and energy-efficient transportation.

“There are more than 200 intermodal terminals in cities across the United States. Investment in freight system efficiencies – including better land use, smarter technology, and cleaner equipment – generate opportunities for sustainable economic growth.”

Scott Bernstein
President and Co-Founder

Research + Further Reading

Chicago’s Central Manufacturing District: The Past and Future of Urban Manufacturing

May 7, 2016

Anchored by its landmark 12-story clock tower on Pershing Road, Chicago’s Central Manufacturing District (CMD) was the first planned manufacturing district in the United States. Today, it stands largely empty. The site has myriad advantages – like its central location, solid construction, nearby rail connections, proximity to expressways, and robust fiber optic capacity – that gives it the potential to help bring a manufacturing renaissance to Chicago. 


Freight Train to Community Prosperity: Metrics for the Integration of Community Economic Development and Efficient Freight Movement

October 18, 2015

In this report, CNT proposes metrics to assess the feasibility and performance of cargo-oriented development (COD), a form of development that integrates freight system efficiencies with the development of manufacturing and logistics businesses in ways that drive local economic growth, reduce poverty, improve the environment, and promote public safety.


New Orleans-Baton Rouge: Capturing the Value of the Economic Boom and the Freight that Supports It

by CNT
January 23, 2015

Since Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans-Baton Rouge super region has been working to secure lasting economic recovery. This report offers recommendations for using cargo- and transit-oriented development to help Southeast Louisiana capture community value from its largely underutilized rail system.


Cargo-Oriented Development: Analysis and Implementation

by CNT
September 20, 2013

In a growing number of cases around the country, highlighted by the examples in this report, civic and economic development organizations and local governments are collaborating with private freight companies to realize the potential of COD for sustainable development. These collaborations will improve economies and the quality of life in regions and in established communities.


Economic Effects of Public Investment in Transportation and Directions for the Future

May 31, 2012

This report, written by CNT for the State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI), examines current economic analysis practices in state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) through examples in nine state transportation agencies and an extensive literature review. For additional understanding of the methods in practice, we also incorporated information obtained at selected metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). The increased interest and demand for better economic results from transportation encouraged SSTI to look for ways to help states improve their ability to predict and measure the economic impacts of transportation policies and investments. Accompanying the report itself is a web-based scorecard, which shows users the most appropriate economic data and tools to measure different types of economic impact.  Additional information here.