Freight load and unload facilities located off the public right-of-way are typically not documented in publicly available databases. Without detailed knowledge of these facilities, i.e. private freight load and unload infrastructure, cities are limited in their ability to complete system-wide freight planning and to comprehensively evaluate the total supply of load and unload spaces in the city. To address this challenge, this research describes the development and application of a data collection methodology and a typology of private freight load/unload facilities for their inventory and documentation in dense urban centers.
The tools developed in this research are practice-ready and can be implemented in other cities to support research, policy and planning approaches that aim to improve the urban freight system. Assessment of the degree of harmonization between the current delivery vehicle dimensions and infrastructure they service is a crucial step of any policy that addresses private freight load/unload infrastructures. This includes providing: the adequate access dimensions, capacity to accommodate the volume and vehicle type, and an effective connecting design between the facilities and the public right-of-way.
A case study in Downtown Seattle found more than 337 private freight facilities for loading/unloading of goods but that translates into only 5% of the buildings in the densest areas of the city had these facilities. Alleys were found to play a critical role since 36% of this freight infrastructure was accessed through alleys.
This research results in the first urban inventory of private freight load/unload infrastructure, which has been shown to be a valuable resource for the City of Seattle that can be used to better understand and plan for the urban freight system.
Machado León, J., Girón-Valderrama, G., Goodchild, A., & McCormack, E. Supporting Comprehensive Urban Freight Planning by Mapping Private Load and Unload Facilities (2023).