The Alameda Corridor and Containers Handled by the San Pedro Bay Ports, 2002-2018

The Alameda Corridor and Containers Handled by the San Pedro Bay Ports, 2002-2018

Source: Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority and American Association of Port Authorities.

The Alameda corridor represents an unusual intermodal system for freight distribution. Its long term success leans mainly on efficient rail transshipments both at the San Pedro Bay port cluster (ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach) and at the rail yards near downtown Los Angeles. If transshipment costs and delays can be reduced, the corridor could gather additional traffic and fulfill the role it was designed for. The Alameda corridor has a maximum capacity of more than 150 train trips per day while in 2018 there were about 38 trains per day using the corridor. This is about 50% less than what was anticipated even if about half of the 20,000 containers that transit through the port each day are handled by the corridor. A plateau appears to be emerging in the growth of traffic, underlining operational limits that are not related to its capacity. The dynamism of the corridor was initially linked with the dynamism of the San Pedro Bay ports which did not recover from its 2006 plateau until 2016.

Over the first 4 full years of operation (2003 – 2006), the number of trains has grown relatively on par with the containerized traffic at the port cluster. Thus, growth follows port traffic growth without much of a growth in the share accounted by the corridor, an indication that the expected modal shift is slow to occur. Since empty container exports have accounted for a substantial share of the recent growth of port traffic, empty containers being transited at a discount (empties are $6.11 per TEU as opposed to $25.51 per TEU for full containers) account for a significant share of the traffic growth. Since 2007 the Alameda corridor experienced a decline in its traffic on par with the decline of the traffic handled by the San Pedro Bay port cluster. A part of the decline in the number of trains was initially attributable to larger number of units per train, but since 2009 very limited growth has taken place. The Alameda freight corridor appears to be in an inertia phase in its expected modal shift as users are reluctant to abandon existing modal and freight distribution practices, particularly the function of transloading (moving the contents of 40 foot maritime containers into 53 foot domestic containers).