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Ecommerce and Environmental Justice in Metro Seattle

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Publication: Research in Transportation Economics
Volume: 103
Publication Date: 2023

Urban distribution centers (UDCs) are opening at unprecedented rates to meet rising home delivery demand. The trend has raised concerns over the equity and environmental justice implications of ecommerce’s negative externalities. However, little research exists connecting UDC location to the concentration of urban freight-derived air pollution among marginalized populations.

Using spatial data of Amazon UDCs in metropolitan Seattle, this study quantifies the socio-spatial distribution of home delivery-related commercial vehicle kilometers traveled (VKT), corresponding air pollution, and explanatory factors. Results reveal that racial and income factors are relevant to criteria air pollutant exposure caused by home deliveries, due to tracts with majority people of color being closer in proximity to UDCs and highways. Tracts with majority people of color face the highest median concentration of delivery vehicle activity and emissions despite ordering less packages than white populations. While both cargo van and heavy-duty truck emissions disproportionately affect people of color, the socio-spatial distribution of truck emissions shows higher sensitivity to fluctuations in utilization.

Prioritizing environmental mitigation of freight activity further up the urban distribution chain in proximity to UDCs, therefore, would have an outsized impact in minimizing disparities in ecommerce’s negative externalities.

Recommended Citation:
Fried, T., Verma, R., & Goodchild, A. (2024). Ecommerce and Environmental Justice in Metro Seattle. Research in Transportation Economics, 103, 101382.
Student Thesis and Dissertations

Moving Goods to Consumers: Land Use Patterns, Logistics, and Emissions

Publication Date: 2014

Worldwide, awareness has been raised about the dangers of growing greenhouse gas emissions. In the United States, transportation is a key contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. American and European researchers have identified a potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by replacing passenger vehicle travel with delivery service. These reductions are possible because, while delivery vehicles have higher rates of greenhouse gas emissions than private light-duty vehicles, the routing of delivery vehicles to customers is far more efficient than those customers traveling independently. In addition to lowering travel-associated greenhouse gas emissions, because of their more efficient routing and tendency to occur during off-peak hours, delivery services have the potential to reduce congestion. Thus, replacing passenger vehicle travel with delivery service provides opportunity to address global concerns – greenhouse gas emissions and congestion. While addressing the impact of transportation on greenhouse gas emissions is critical, transportation also produces significant levels of criteria pollutants, which impact the health of those in the immediate area. These impacts are of particular concern in urban areas, which due to their constrained land availability increase proximity of residents to the roadway network. In the United States, heavy vehicles (those typically used for deliveries) produce a disproportionate amount of NOx and particulate matter – heavy vehicles represent roughly 9% of vehicle miles travelled but produce nearly 50% of the NOx and PM10 from transportation. Researchers have noted that urban policies designed to address local concerns including air quality impacts and noise pollution – like time and size restrictions – have a tendency to increase global impacts, by increasing the number of vehicles on the road, by increasing the total VMT required, or by increasing the amount of CO2 generated. The work presented here is designed to determine whether replacing passenger vehicle travel with delivery service can address both concerns simultaneously. In other words, can replacing passenger travel with delivery service reduce congestion and CO2 emissions as well as selected criteria pollutants? Further, does the design of the delivery service impacts the results? Lastly, how do these impacts differ in rural versus urban land use patterns? This work models the amount of VMT, CO2, NOx, and PM10 generated by personal travel and delivery vehicles in a number of different development patterns and in a number of different scenarios, including various warehouse locations. In all scenarios, VMT is reduced through the use of delivery service, and in all scenarios, NOx and PM10 are lowest when passenger vehicles are used for the last mile of travel. The goods movement scheme that results in the lowest generation of CO2, however, varies by municipality. Regression models for each goods movement scheme and models that compare sets of goods movement schemes were developed. The most influential variables in all models were measures of roadway density and proximity of a service area to the regional warehouse. These results allow for a comparison of the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions in the form of CO2 to local criteria pollutants (NOx and PM10) for each scenario. These efforts will contribute to increased integration of goods movement in urban planning, inform policies designed to mitigate the impacts of goods movement vehicles, and provide insights into achieving sustainability targets, especially as online shopping and goods delivery becomes more prevalent.

Authors: Erica Wygonik
Recommended Citation:
Wygonic, Erica. 2014, Moving Goods to Consumers: Land Use Patterns, Logistics, and Emissions, University of Washington, Doctoral Dissertation.
Thesis: Array

Comparison of Vehicle Miles Traveled and Pollution from Three Goods Movement Strategies

Publication: Sustainable Logistics: Transport and Sustainability (Emerald Group Publishing Limited)
Volume: Volume 6
Pages: 63-82
Publication Date: 2014

This chapter provides additional insight into the role of warehouse location in achieving sustainability targets and provides a novel comparison between delivery and personal travel for criteria pollutants.

Purpose: To provide insight into the role and design of delivery services to address CO2, NO x , and PM10 emissions from passenger travel.Methodology/approach: A simulated North American data sample is served with three transportation structures: last-mile personal vehicles, local-depot-based truck delivery, and regional warehouse-based truck delivery. CO2, NO x , and PM10 emissions are modeled using values from the US EPA’s MOVES model and are added to an ArcGIS optimization scheme.Findings: Local-depot-based truck delivery requires the lowest amount of vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and last-mile passenger travel generates the lowest levels of CO2, NO x , and PM10. While last-mile passenger travel requires the highest amount of VMT, the efficiency gains of the delivery services are not large enough to offset the higher pollution rate of the delivery vehicle as compared to personal vehicles.

Practical implications: This research illustrates the clear role delivery structure and logistics have in impacting the CO2, NO x , and PM10 emissions of goods transportation in North America.

Social implications: This research illustrates the tension between goals to reduce congestion (via VMT reduction) and CO2, NO x , and PM10 emissions.

Originality/value: This chapter provides additional insight into the role of warehouse location in achieving sustainability targets and provides a novel comparison between delivery and personal travel for criteria pollutants.

Authors: Dr. Anne Goodchild, Erica Wygonik
Recommended Citation:
Wygonik, Erica, and Anne Goodchild. "Comparison of vehicle miles traveled and pollution from three goods movement strategies." Sustainable Logistics, pp. 63-82. Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2014. 

Crane Double-Cycling in Container Ports: Planning Methods and Evaluation

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Publication: Transportation Research Part B: Methodological
Volume: 41(8)
Pages: 875-891
Publication Date: 2007

The Clean Trucks Program is a Clean Air Action Plan initiative currently being adopted by the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. This paper examines the Clean Trucks Program’s current requirements and estimates the impact on terminal operations. Using terminal operations data supplied by three terminal operating companies, we conduct a simple queuing analysis and present a regression model that allows us to consider the potential impact of the policy changes.

While this paper does not estimate the impact at a specific terminal, we consider order of magnitude effects. While the program itself does not require terminal operations changes, the program will modestly increase incentives to improve operational efficiency outside the terminal and reduce terminal gate processing time. It will also require technology that could be used for further operational changes.

We show, however, that unless gate time improvements are matched with these operational improvements in the terminal, they will only move the delay inside the terminal and not reduce total terminal time.

Our research considers the impact of the Clean Trucks Program on the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, but similar concerns are driving changes at ports around the globe.

Authors: Dr. Anne Goodchild, C.F. Daganzo
Recommended Citation:
Goodchild, A.V., and C.F. Daganzo. “Crane Double Cycling in Container Ports: Planning Methods and Evaluation.” Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, vol. 41, no. 8, 2007, pp. 875–891., doi:10.1016/j.trb.2007.02.006.

A Container Terminal at the Port of Prince Rupert: Considerations from a Transportation Perspective

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Publication: Canadian Political Science Review
Volume: 2(4)
Pages: 60-75
Publication Date: 2008

This paper discusses the transport of containers between the Port of Prince Rupert and the hinterland. The result of several data collection and analysis efforts, we present a set of findings regarding the role Prince Rupert might play in North American transportation, and the particular strengths or weaknesses of this facility. In the short term, there will be no facilities for container rehandling in Prince Rupert. This activity may take place in Prince George, or more likely these importers may continue to use the facilities surrounding Vancouver. Given the current rail network, Prince George will be required to handle as much cargo as Prince Rupert. This will have negative impacts on air quality in Prince George, yet potentially positive impacts on employment and economic activity through rehandling and transloading opportunities. Due to sizeable resources in Western Canada, this Port may offer a better ratio of exports to imports than other West Coast terminals which will attract steamship lines looking for west-bound fares. Unfortunately, on multi-stop routes, this may also mean Prince Rupert is visited after other West Coast destinations, thereby reducing the benefit of being closer to Asia. Despite these uncertainties, we conclude that, because of its unique features, this Port has strong potential to impact logistics practices in a continental transportation system.

Authors: Dr. Anne Goodchild, Susan Albrecht, Tsit Lam, Kasey Faust
Recommended Citation:
Anne Goodchild, Susan Albrecht, Tsit Lam, Kasey Faust. "A Container Terminal at the Port of Prince Rupert: Considerations from a Transportation Perspective." Canadian Political Science Review 2, no. 4 (December 2008): 60-75.