We investigate the terrestrial transport by pointing out the amount, the quality and the distribution of resources use among nine transport modalities at the national scale in China, under monetary, energy and emergy perspectives. The private car mode accounts for the largest share of the total monetary, energy and environmental resource investment of the terrestrial transportation, which means the lowest input-output and environmental efficiency. Consequently, improvement of energy and environmental efficiency in individual transport modes and the inevitable need to encourage the population to shift to public transport modes whit better performances remain crucial priorities. The most efficient transport modality depends on the evaluation method applied that assigns different priorities to specific aspects. From a monetary perspective, the most efficient passenger transport modality is the regular train followed by the high-speed train. In terms of cumulative energy demand, regular train and subway have the lowest unit cost among all passenger transport modes. Concerning the emergy accounting considering the environmental support, the urban bus for passengers and the regular train for commodity transport show the best performance per unit service. Even with needs for improved technical efficiency, the promotion of above less resource-intensive modalities in accordance with the different purposes would improve the global efficiency of the transportation system and offer better and larger transport options with the same resource investment.
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