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UPS Pilot Kicks off with a Public/Private Partnership Creating a New Urban Delivery System

UPS Pilot Kicks off with a Public/Private Partnership Creating a New Urban Delivery System
UPS Pilot Kicks off with a Public/Private Partnership Creating a New Urban Delivery System
October 26, 2018   //   

Let’s try it!

Seattle is entering a new era of tough traffic. In the next five years, Seattle’s downtown will be in a state of transition to meet the needs of our growing city. More than 1,000 projects will be underway and people (this includes people delivering goods) traveling in and around downtown Seattle will be impacted by increased construction, which will lead to more congestion and additional street closures and delays. The City of Seattle is preparing:


A creative delivery solution, especially during the Period of Maximum Constraint. #Winning

Special United Parcel Service (UPS) delivery “vehicles” will soon operate in the historic Pike Place Market and downtown Seattle area, on sidewalks and in designated bike lanes. At an October 25 unveiling, City Councilmember and Sustainability and Transportation Committee Chair, Mike O’Brien, demonstrated one of the new pedal-assist cargo e-bikes, complete with customized, modular trailer.


This “first-of-its-kind” cargo e-bike is specifically designed to meet a variety of urban challenges.

“The modular boxes and trailer allow us to expand our delivery capabilities and meet the unique needs of our Seattle customers,” said Scott Phillippi, UPS senior director of maintenance and engineering, international operations.  

Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan underscored the importance of such innovation with growing traffic congestion and concerns over air quality.

“Seattle has always been the city that invents the future, and now we are partnering with one of our hometown companies to help drive innovations in transportation. As Seattle grows and public and private megaprojects limit capacity on our downtown streets, this pilot will help us better understand how we can ensure the delivery of goods while making space on our streets for transit, bikes, and pedestrians,” said Mayor Durkan. “We are eager to learn how pilots like these can help build a city of the future with fewer cars, more transit, and less carbon pollution.”

The right kind of CO² (Collaboration + Coordination).

The cargo e-bike pilot is the result of open collaboration between UPS; the University of Washington Urban Freight Lab; the Seattle Freight Advisory Board (SFAB); Silver Eagle Manufacturing; City of Seattle leadership; and the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Final 50 Feet Program.

At the October 25, 2018, cargo e-bike launch, Councilmember O’Brien talked about the City’s desire to engage in more cooperative efforts, to help Seattle get through the period of maximum constraint. He highlighted the benefits of coordinating across different mobility modes, as with cargo e-bikes cross-pollinating freight and bicycle travel.

Delivery flexibility downtown.

The unique, UPS “plug and play” design of the cargo e-bike allows more flexibility in making deliveries where conventional delivery trucks have no direct access or must remain parked nearby for long periods of time. The goal is to reduce congestion by reducing:

  • Delivery truck dwell time.

  • Instances of double parking.

  • Unintended consequences associated with downtown deliveries.

–  All important issues as downtown Seattle experiences increased congestion, starting early 2019.


Creative congestion solutions.

Image courtesy of United Parcel Service.

UPS partnered with us to develop plans for the new pilot program, expected to last approximately one year. If successful, the next step could be more delivery routes and additional cargo e-bike deliveries in other areas of the city.

Each cargo e-bike has a battery-powered electric motor able to travel longer distances than traditional bikes, as well as carry substantial loads over hills and other terrains. The modular, detachable boxes on the trailer can hold up to 400 lbs. and have a 95 cubic foot capacity.


Preparing together.

Dr. Anne Goodchild, with SFAB members Jeanne Acutanza; Geri Poor; Frank Rose; and Kristal Fiser, and SDOT freight program team members Jude Willcher and Chris Eaves.

Supporting the UPS cargo e-bike pilot and efficiently moving people and goods is a City priority in preparing for the January closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Among the supporters are staff from our own SDOT Freight Program; members of the Seattle Freight Advisory Board (SFAB); and the UW Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics (SCTL) Center team.

“We are excited to play a role in this innovative approach in an effort to reduce traffic congestion in Seattle,” said Dr. Anne Goodchild, SCTL director and a UW professor of civil and environmental engineering.

UW’s Urban Freight Lab will work with UPS to evaluate the cargo e-bike’s reliability, design and integration into Seattle’s infrastructure, reviewing findings with SDOT to determine future urban delivery solution deployment.