The Metro Freight research series assesses goods trade at the metropolitan scale. It uses a unique and comprehensive database to capture all the goods moving in and out of U.S. metropolitan areas, both domestically and beyond. The reports in the series will describe which goods move between metropolitan areas, how they move via different modes of transportation, and uncover the specific trading relationships between U.S. metropolitan areas as well as their global counterparts.
This primer establishes the economic rationale for metropolitan goods trade, describing why, how, and what these areas exchange with each other. One of the lessons from the Great Recession is the need to grow and support the tradable sectors, typically manufacturing and high-end services, of our metropolitan economies. But to drive these tradable sectors, metropolitan areas need physical access to markets. Metropolitan freight connectivity enables this access and the ensuing modern global value chains. Without it, trade cannot occur.
The trading of physical goods is a major component of the U.S. economy. In 2010, the United States moved more than $3 trillion in goods internationally or nearly $8.8 billion, on average, each day. However, an exclusive focus on national trade fails to recognize the extreme regional variety in production, consumption, and goods exchange. This discussion paper marks the first time metropolitan areas can begin to explore their place in domestic and global goods trade networks by tracking which regions generate the most international trade and the level of trade within the much larger domestic marketplace.
In today’s global economy, metro areas forge the key physical connections that bind different markets together. Yet, little is known about where individual metro areas trade their goods, including our enormous domestic marketplace. This report explores the major trade corridors connecting different regions of the country, revealing the importance of particular places in the nation’s freight network. Since the most valuable corridors are often concentrated among the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, policymakers must fundamentally reorient freight policy to best support trade across the country.
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