In an effort to reduce emissions from last-mile deliveries and incentivize green vehicle adoption, The New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) is seeking to implement a Green Loading Zone (GLZ) pilot program. A Green Loading Zone is curb space designated for the sole use of “green” vehicles, which could include electric and alternative fuel vehicles as well as other zero-emission delivery modes like electric-assist cargo bikes. To inform decisions about the program’s siting and regulations, this study was conducted by the University of Washington’s Urban Freight Lab (UFL) in collaboration with NYC DOT under the UFL’s Technical Assistance Program.
The study consists of three sources of information, focusing primarily on input from potential GLZ users, i.e., delivery companies. An online survey of these stakeholders was conducted, garnering 13 responses from 8 types of companies. Interviews were conducted with a parcel carrier and an electric vehicle manufacturer. Additionally, similar programs from around the world were researched to help identify current practices. The major findings are summarized below, followed by recommendations for siting, usage restriction and pricing of GLZs. It is important to note that these recommendations are based on the survey and interview findings and thus on benefits to delivery companies. However, other important factors such as environmental justice, land use patterns, and budgetary constraints should be considered when implementing GLZs.
Literature Review Findings
Green Loading Zones are a relatively novel approach to incentivizing electric vehicle (EV) adoption. Two relevant pilot programs exist in the United States, one in Santa Monica, CA and the other one in Los Angeles, CA. Both are “zero-emission” delivery programs, meaning alternative fuel vehicles that reduce emissions (compared to fossil fuel vehicles) are not included in the pilot’s parking benefits (dedicated spaces and free parking). Other cities including Washington, DC and Vancouver, Canada are also creating truck-only zones and dedicating parking to EVs in their efforts to reduce emissions. Bremen, Germany also has a similar program called an Environmental Loading Point.
Many cities in Europe are implementing low- or zero-emission zones. These are different than GLZs in that entire cities or sections of cities are restricted to vehicles that meet certain emissions criteria. London, Paris, and 13 Dutch municipalities are all implementing low-emission zones. These zones have achieved some success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions: in London, CO2 from vehicles has been reduced by 13 percent. Companies operating in those cities have opted to purchase cleaner vehicles or to replace trucks with alternative modes like cargo bikes. In addition to demonstrating similar goals as NYC DOT, these programs provide insights to the siting and structure of GLZs. Loading zones have been selected based on equity concerns, delivery demand, and commercial density. Every city in the literature review has installed specific signage for the programs to clearly convey the regulations involved.
Survey and interview Findings
A range of company types replied to the survey: parcel carriers (large shippers), small shippers, e-commerce and retail companies, freight distributors, a truck dealer, a liquid fuel delivery company, and a logistics NYC association (answering on behalf of members). The majority of these companies will be increasing their fleet sizes over the next ten years, and most plan to increase the share of EVs in their fleets while doing so. A smaller share (4 of 13) also plans to increase their share of alternative fuel vehicles. The most cited reasons for increasing fleet size and green vehicle share are: 1) internal sustainability goals, 2) social responsibility, and 3) new vehicles/models coming to the market.
Green vehicle adoption is not without its challenges. For EV adoption specifically, companies identified three major barriers: 1) competition in the EV market, 2) electric grid requirements upstream of company-owned facilities, and 3) lack of adequate government-supported purchasing subsidies. To overcome these barriers, respondents would like larger or more government purchasing incentives and reduced toll or parking rates for EVs. However, the majority of companies also expressed a willingness to pay for GLZs at similar rates to other commercial loading zones.
As for area coverage, all respondents deliver to Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. 11 of 13 deliver to Staten Island and the Bronx as well. All EV and cargo bike operators deliver to Manhattan, whereas only one EV operator and one cargo bike operator deliver to all five boroughs of NYC. Respondents deliver at all times of day, but the busiest times are between 9:00AM and 4:00PM (stated by 8 of 13 respondents). Peak periods are busiest for four companies in the morning (6:00AM-9:00AM) and six companies in the evening (4:00PM-9:00PM).
The interviews supported findings from the survey. Both interviewed companies have a vested interest in reducing their environmental footprint and plan to use or produce exclusively zero-emission vehicles by 2050 (carrier) or 2035 (manufacturer). However, they noted challenges to electrifying entire fleets for cities. Charging infrastructure needs to be expanded, but incentives are also needed (parking benefits, subsidies, expedited permitting) to make the market viable for many delivery companies.
The preceding findings informed four key recommendations:
- GLZs should be made available to multiple modes: green vehicles and cargo bikes. Adequate curb space might be needed to accommodate multiple step-side vans plus a small vehicle and cargo bikes, but this should be balanced against curb utilization rates and anticipated dwell times to maximize curb use.
- Explore piloting GLZs in Lower Manhattan and commercial areas of Midtown Manhattan; they could be the most beneficial locations for the pilot according to survey respondents.
- The preferred layout for GLZs is several spaces distributed across multiple blocks.
- DOT can charge for the GLZ use. It is recommended that rates not exceed current parking prices in the selected neighborhood, but some companies are willing to pay a modest increase over that rate to avoid parking tickets.
Urban Freight Lab (2022). NYC Zero-Emissions Urban Freight and Green Loading Zones Market Research.