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Research Directions

Sustainable Last-Mile Solutions

According to the International Transport Forum, road freight is the fastest-growing CO2 emitter consuming about 50% of all diesel produced. Much of the growth in road freight can be assumed to be related to the explosive growth in ecommerce and home delivery. The Urban Freight Lab has been a leader in the study of sustainable last-mile solutions — exploring everything from cargo bikes to common lockers to microhubs to vehicle electrification. We strive to remain on the cutting edge of the decarbonization of freight, which includes exploring its multimodal components like walking and biking and the interplay between consumer behavior and last-mile carbon reduction.

Freight Trip Measurement and Consumer Shopping Behavior

While goods movement has existed since the beginning of human civilization and the development of cities, it is facilitated by a heterogenous and complex network of players that make it difficult to derive data-driven conclusions. The Urban Freight Lab specializes in designing data collection methodologies that allow cities to better understand how freight flows into and throughout their cities. We have conducted a series of foundational studies in the City of Seattle that shed light on the interconnected network of the freight system between private players, land use, and delivery behaviors. More recently, we have turned our exploration to the consumer market as well to better understand how consumers are shopping (ecommerce vs. in-person retail) and how metrics like proximity affect their transportation choices to complete shopping trips.

Curb Management

The rapid rise of autonomous vehicles (AV), on-demand transportation, and e-commerce goods deliveries, increased cycling rates, and transit use, is intensifying demand for curb space. This escalating demand has led to competition between modes, failed goods deliveries, roadway and curbside congestion, and illegal parking. The Urban Freight Lab has a long history of research related to the commercial use of curb space in cities. We have conducted foundational research on the use of the curb by commercial and freight related activities, implemented technology solutions to test the impacts of future curb management policies, and simulated future case scenarios for optimized curb use allocation.

Urban Freight, Warehousing, Environmental Justice

Freight traffic is the most prominent, transport-related emitter of health-adverse air pollution and an accelerating source of fatal road collisions. Freight traffic’s negative costs disproportionately befall historically marginalized communities. For instance, satellite estimates suggest low-income populations of color in major U.S. cities are exposed to 28% more diesel traffic-related NOx emissions than high-income white populations. The unequal bearing of these costs stem partly from the racialized development practices of the early-to-mid 20th Century, which still reverberate through today’s transport systems and decision-making. Some logistics facilities are moving closer to urban population centers to more expediently fulfill home delivery demand, which is raising renewed environmental justice concerns. Our research aims to create new frameworks for evaluating urban freight through an equity and justice lens and better understand the impacts of proposed urban freight solutions across populations.

Freight and New Mobility

The new mobility of freight includes both the way new services are offered in addition to the new technology that is advancing the way that transportation is delivered. Services include primarily the explosion of ecommerce with home delivery and the app-based and on-demand service providers that enable these digital purchases. New technologies in urban freight include everything from the shift to electrification (from cars to trucks to bikes), the introduction of new modes like personal delivery devices (sidewalk robots) and drones, and the progress on automation of all modes. The Urban Freight Lab leans into the exploration of these topics and seeks to bring an unbiased and data-driven perspective on the opportunities and potential negative impacts of these innovations.

Our Research Staff

Our research staff and students bring a range of backgrounds and skills to their work beyond academia. Current and past research staff have worked across the spectrum of public, private and nonprofit including World Resources Institute, Amazon, Seattle Department of Transportation and others.

And with varying backgrounds and skill sets like statistics, behavioral economics, construction, K-12 education, and public policy.

What Sets us Apart

Our research focuses at the nexus of public and private sector needs and objectives related to goods movement. We prioritize practical tests and the voices of our stakeholders while bringing an unbiased and rigorous scientific approach to our work.