Many cities are taking actions today to make their streets more livable and to give space back to pedestrians. Such actions aim to create a more comprehensive transportation network for everyone, requiring the urban streetscape – roads, curbs and sidewalks –to serve automobiles, pedestrians, cyclists, surface transit and parked vehicles. Many of the interventions to make cities more livable are warranted and should be welcomed after decades of auto-centric policies.
The urban street network, including the curb, is critical to goods movement. However, the current emphasis on “livability” and its components – such as bike lanes, bus stops and bike docking stations – ignores this, creating many challenges for trucks as they attempt to deliver goods. Trucks must navigate through congested streets where they are generally given lower priority; they struggle to find access to the curb to unload their goods, encouraging them to continue to drive and cause even more congestion or forcing them to double-park.
Since more street space is allocated to pedestrians, cyclists and transit, city streets are often far narrower than the wider highways that connect them to and serve the surrounding metropolitan area. As a result, urban freight distribution in cities primarily relies on small trucks, consequently increasing the number of vehicles on urban streets and exacerbating the inefficiencies in deliveries. Making matters worse, many of these trucks, both large and small, are only partially loaded or, even worse, empty.
In London, 3.8 million parking and loading fines were issued in 2015 totaling to millions of pounds in fines each year.9,10
The movement of goods extends beyond the curb. Buildings are the origin and destination of almost every freight trip. The capacity of buildings to effectively accommodate freight has ripple effects on other aspects of urban goods movement. Much of what happens at the building line is physical – the size and number of loading docks, off-hour delivery space and vertical freight (elevator) capacity. Many cities are empowered to mandate specific physical requirements through zoning and building codes or provide other incentives for voluntary action.
The configuration of a building to handle freight – having sufficiently sized loading docks, freight elevators, secure off-hour holding areas and on-site storage – can significantly influence the number of trips, when trips occur, the durations of deliveries and their impact on the street network. Many older cities are saddled with buildings that are inadequate to serve the demands placed on them today. In the cases where a building has a loading dock, its facilities are often outmoded, not built to accommodate higher volumes and larger vehicles.
The impact of infill construction and reduction in square footage per employee are also challenging goods movement in older cities as they grow taller and even denser. Multi-tenanted buildings generate far more deliveries than single tenanted ones. In addition, multi-tenanted buildings such as offices and shopping centers often do not have shared internal logistics staff, increasing vehicle dwell time while the delivery takes place. This results in in on-street vehicle queueing for the loading bay, and related noise, pollution and safety impacts for local residents.
A large office development can have over 200 deliveries per day.
Moving goods, similar to transporting passengers, can produce noxious emissions and noise. These environmental impacts are felt more acutely in cities with dense populations because residents directly experience the high volumes of goods that must be moved.
The freight industry produces approximately 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the production of most of which is concentrated in urban areas. This figure is expected to increase fourfold by 2050.11 The relatively recent trend of e-commerce has exacerbated the problem by increasing the frequency of truck trips. While cities have made major strides in improving their environmental impacts over the past fifty years, operators and policy makers must consider innovative policies to reduce the number of freight trips and how to reduce emissions caused by outdated vehicles, inefficient sizes, slow speeds or congestion, and idling.
Modern cities are also embracing a more diverse mix of land uses, comingling manufacturing, commercial and residential districts/neighborhoods. These changes are making neighborhoods more sensitive to noise. Activities associated with moving goods – idling of diesel truck engines and the act of loading and off-loading goods – are typically major sources of noise. Because excessive noise can deteriorate the overall quality of life for city dwellers, noise impacts also limit goods movement strategies that attempt to shift deliveries to overnight periods.
Trucks are responsible for 47% of NOx emitted in Europe, and in Paris they emit 40 to 50% of the fine particulates -- a leading cause of upper-respiratory conditions like asthma.
The consumer’s growing expectation for on-demand deliveries as further exacerbated the constraints that our goods movement system has been experiencing for decades. Through e-commerce – the ability to purchase goods online via laptop, tablet or smartphone – consumers have radically changed how they interact with retailers. Consumers want their goods to arrive frequently and quickly and expect the ability to check for a nearby product’s availability. Consequently, cities are grappling with conflicting priorities: residents don’t want more trucks on the streets; don’t want to hear them; and don’t want to sit behind them in traffic. However, technology has enabled us to demand more goods and, at the same time, request increasingly more frequent deliveries.
Just-in-time deliveries are also the norm for many commercial establishments. Retailers, restaurants and hotels in urban centers typically are pressured by high rents and the desire to maximize the revenue generating square footage. This results in less space to store goods, which requires a need for more frequent deliveries.
Today, there are few incentives for residents or commercial establishments to reduce the number of deliveries they receive. And although technology has enabled more orders to be placed, it has not yet effectively streamlined the delivery system. Furthermore, residential deliveries are often not successfully delivered on the first attempt resulting in added congestion and costs for shippers. If e-commerce continues to rise and consumer expectations do not change, both congestion and unnecessary costs will continue to increase.
E-commerce accounted for 7.3% of global retail sales in 2015 and is expected to grow to 12.4% by 2019.12