Since our launch in October 2016, the Urban Freight Lab has been instrumental in defining and framing urban freight challenges and leading innovative research to understand and problem solve. Our work provides foundational data and insight that has changed the way cities think about urban freight. We host discussions with our members and partners that balance multiple perspectives and seek mutually beneficial solutions. This approach has enabled us to develop truly innovative solutions and pilot tests. We are committed to empirical research, comprehensive understanding, data-driven insights and decision-making, and novel solutions to complex problems in urban freight management.
Highlights of our past research include:
- Established the Final 50 Feet Concept: The Urban Freight Lab was the first to define and establish the concept of the “Final 50 Feet”, signifying an intersection where urban planning, goods delivery logistics, and sustainability converge. The Final 50 Feet is defined as the final segment of the supply chain, spanning from the moment a truck parks to when the customer takes receipt of their goods. This segment of the supply chain was previously overlooked.
- Completed Foundational Research on the Final 50 Feet: We completed comprehensive research into the under-researched Final 50 Feet of the goods delivery system, a pivotal area in improving urban delivery efficiency. We measured time-loss and identified obstacles to efficiency (for example a lack of standard security systems). Our research quantified the relative cost of the final fifty feet and identified ways to reduce these cost and drive improvements in urban logistics.
- Piloted a Zero-Emissions Last-Mile Microhub: As one of the nation’s first zero-emissions last-mile delivery pilots, the Seattle Neighborhood Delivery Hub served as a testbed for innovative sustainable urban logistics strategies on the ground in Seattle’s dense Uptown neighborhood. The testbed provided Urban Freight Lab members with a unique opportunity to test and evaluate new products and services in situ. Key findings of the pilot show that neighborhood delivery hubs can enable more efficient and more environmentally sustainable urban last-mile delivery when compared to traditional delivery trucks, particularly cargo vans.
- Quantified Urban Freight Infrastructure and Freight Traffic Patterns: One of the challenges to improving the urban freight systems is that essential elements of the infrastructure and operations on that infrastructure, are unmeasured. UFL has filled this gap by developing, documenting, and sharing methodologies for measuring urban freight infrastructure and activity on that infrastructure; providing important insights that have corrected and informed existing understanding and policy.. Our research encompasses a comprehensive review of urban freight infrastructure, including public and private loading bays, loading areas for commercial vehicles, and alleys. It provided detailed data regarding design, capacity, features, and use. In addition, this research has yielded new insights into traffic patterns by measuring freight vehicle volumes entering and exiting Greater Downtown Seattle and introduced new approaches, and measured vehicle volume entering and exiting Seattle’s Greater Downtown. These findings are needed to inform freight-efficient urban planning strategies.
- Real-World Efficiency of New Urban Freight Technologies: Our research initiatives have focused on evaluating new technologies in practice. This includes locker systems across a diverse array of scenarios — ranging from office towers to residential apartment buildings and microhubs to cargo bikes. Our objective is to understanding how these solutions perform in real-world settings and start to quantify through discrete measurements and metrics the impacts of these technologies on the urban freight landscape. Real world tests are expensive and time consuming, but simulations or hypothetical analyses are insufficient.
- Measured the Cost of Insufficient Freight Parking: Using a novel and creative approach, we measured the time spent by commercial vehicle drivers “cruising for parking”. This is how much more time drivers spend in their route that would be necessary if ideal parking were available. This amounts to about an hour a day in the Seattle area of study.
- Bring Fleet Data to Inform Policy-Makers: Through a number of data collection and analysis projects the UFL has brought data to inform policy-making and counter anecdotes and limited understanding. For example, in Seattle, the vast majority of commercial vehicles are relatively small:
- 54% are commercial pick-ups and work-vans
- Additional 30% are single-unit 2-axle vehicles
- Services account for 30% of all commercial vehicle traffic