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The Future of Delivery: Urban Freight in 2030

Publication: Goods Movement 2030: An Urban Freight Blog
Publication Date: 2023

We have digitization to thank for today’s urban freight landscape. Digitization has long been the backbone of things we now take for granted — from TNCs (Transportation Network Companies) Uber and Lyft to online shopping and the complex supply chain needed to make that ecommerce happen. Digitization is what gives ecommerce’s biggest player — Amazon — visibility into its packages and enables it to deliver faster and more reliably than ever. So digitalization isn’t new. But it continues to spur new developments.

But what does digitization even mean in urban freight?

In this blog, we think about three buckets under the broad umbrella. Though all three can — and do — interconnect, the first two center on the public sector and the third on the private sector.

Recommended Citation:
"The Future of Delivery: Urban Freight in 2030" Goods Movement 2030 (blog). Urban Freight Lab, January 27, 2023.

How Can Digitization in the Private Sector Benefit Everyone?

Publication: Goods Movement 2030: An Urban Freight Blog
Publication Date: 2023

We’ve dug into how digitization continues to spark new developments in the urban freight landscape across the private and public sectors alike — with cities lagging behind digitization veterans like Amazon.

As Urban Freight Lab members noted at the fall meeting, it’s understandable why the private sector is ahead. Digitization helps companies improve operations toward lowering costs, saving time and money, and keeping customers satisfied. In other words, digitization helps companies with their fundamental concern: The bottom line.

And yet, companies’ choices and behavior in using digital tools can have the effect of helping more than their bottom lines. Private sector digitization can have spillover benefits, winding up helping communities and society at large, too. (To be clear, when we talk here about societal benefits, that includes mitigating and/or reducing the negative impacts of delivering goods to our homes and businesses.) But too often we treat the private and public sectors as wholly separate and siloed systems — though clearly they’re not.

The efficiencies digitization supports in urban freight might well wind up contributing to quality of life in city neighborhoods and communities. Those efficiencies can impact everything from congestion and traffic flow to pollution and Co2 emissions that contribute to climate change.

In this blog, we map three digitization moves in the private sector that could generate benefits for the public.

Recommended Citation:
"How Can Digitization in the Private Sector Benefit Everyone?" Goods Movement 2030 (blog). Urban Freight Lab, February 14, 2023.

How Could a More Integrated Private-Public World Advance Goods Movement?

Publication: Goods Movement 2030: An Urban Freight Blog
Publication Date: 2023

Consider it the left-hand, right-hand challenge of the urban freight landscape. But a gentler riff on the whole “the left-hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.” Each hand does know something about what the other hand is doing, but probably not enough.

On the left, there are Urban Freight Lab (UFL) member companies like Amazon and UPS that use the public right of way to move goods. On the right, various levels of government manage and regulate that public right of way for all users. The hands are connected. Yet each is independently engaged in digitization. If we’re serious about driving progress on the UFL’s six collective priorities by 2030, the left and the right hands need to be more synced.

This blog examines three digital ideas that could foster the private-public integration that we believe is needed to advance these priorities. Here’s a 2030 vision for that more integrated world — and how we might tap digitization to get there.

Recommended Citation:
"How Could a More Integrated Private-Public World Advance Our Goods Movement 2030 Priorities?" Goods Movement 2030 (blog) Urban Freight Lab, March 8, 2023.

Last-Mile Freight Curb Access: Digitizing the Last Mile of Urban Goods to Improve Curb Access and Use

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) awarded a $2 million grant under its SMART (Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation) grant program to support the development of the Last-Mile Freight Curb Access Program: Digitizing the Last Mile of Urban Goods to Improve Curb Access and Utilization, a collaboration between the Urban Freight Lab, Seattle Department of Transportation, and Open Mobility Foundation. This project will develop sensor-based technology solutions that address to transportation problems, enabling commercial vehicles to make faster, safer, and more efficient deliveries with reduced vehicle emissions.

The Last Mile Freight Curb Access Program focuses on providing commercial vehicle drivers with real-time information to park legally and expedite deliveries. Research from a 2019 Urban Freight Lab study showed that more than 40% of commercial vehicles in downtown Seattle park in unauthorized locations. Another study showed that equipping commercial vehicles with real-time parking availability and load zone information could reduce their “cruising” time by nearly 30%. The project aims to make information about curbside regulations digitized and more accessible to commercial drivers, and leverage this data to improve regulations.

Other cities including Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Miami-Dade County have also received SMART grants to implement similar technology-based solutions for improving curb access.


Since 2010, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has been a national leader in data-driven curbside management by using parking occupancy data to set on-street parking rates. We proposed to extend our data-driven pricing and curb literacy to a new use: designated commercial vehicle load zones (CVLZ) and the commercial vehicle permit (CVP). Our plan is to establish new CVP policies in close collaboration with urban freight companies, adjacent businesses, and other critical stakeholders; implement a digital CVP built on the Curb Data Specification (CDS) that enables capture of curb utilization measurements and communicates demand management policies; and transform our legacy digital curb inventory to the national CDS standard.


To address these challenges, SDOT proposes a SMART project that will use a combination of digital technologies coupled with targeted outreach. This approach will be implemented through three key strategies:

  1. Engage with local businesses and urban freight companies to understand challenges and build a foundation of trust SDOT will engage with a variety of stakeholders including local neighborhood businesses, commercial vehicle users from large carriers, and commercial vehicle permit (CVP) holders from small and local businesses. The goal is to build trust and work collaboratively with our users to modernize and improve our existing CVP to create a system that works for urban freight companies, local businesses, and benefits the community at large.
  2. Prototype a digital CVP and use findings to modernize and scale the system SDOT will conduct a vendor procurement to prototype and assess a wireless vehicle-to-curb infrastructure (V2I) communication system, built on top of the Curb Data Specification (CDS) standard as a new way to manage our CVP. Data collected through this prototype will be leveraged by the UFL to conduct research to develop standardized data collection efforts for commercial curb use and create new data-driven policy and permit recommendations.
  3. Collaborate with a national cohort of cities implementing the Curb Data Specification SDOT will partner with the Open Mobility Foundation (OMF) and collaborate with a national cohort of OMF member cities to support the shared objectives in how CDS can help cities and companies pilot and scale dynamic curb use. SDOT will share lessons from Stage 1 prototyping with OMF cohort cities to strengthen all CDS-related SMART grant projects and better position proven technologies to be implemented at scale for a Stage 2 project. SDOT is uniquely positioned to deliver a successful Stage 1 project focusing on commercial vehicle curb access and utilization given our existing CVP and leadership in data driven curbside management. Specifically, this project will directly address the SMART goals of equity and access, partnerships, and integration and build the foundation for dramatic improvements in safety, reliability, and climate in Stage 2. Our goal is that the Stage 1 learnings will allow us to scale a digital CVP for citywide adoption in Stage 2, thus promoting interoperability of technology solutions to improve curb access for commercial curb users citywide. Our approach centers on stakeholder and community partnerships, data-driven assessment, and technical capacity-building. Potential outcomes for testing and implementation in Stage 2 include updated policies or curb allocations that might address inequities through deeper understanding of the variety of commercial users of the curb, reduced carbon emissions by creating or incenting CV zero emission zones, and decreased impacts to vulnerable road users through optimized curb allocation.


The expected benefits of Stage 1 will be threefold:

    1. Rigorously assess the piloted technology system to understand its scaling potential: The project will develop a technology assessment methodology that will look critically at accuracy and data use model development. This assessment will be transparent and developed in collaboration with OMF cohort cities to ensure solutions are scalable while meeting the core needs of Seattle’s digital CVP.
    2. Create a CDS framework for standardizing data collection efforts of commercial curb space: SDOT will share lessons learned from Stage 1 prototyping and policy recommendations with OMF cohort cities to collectively strengthen all CDS-related SMART grant projects and better position proven technologies to be implemented at scale.
    3. Create new data-driven commercial vehicle policy and permit recommendations to be enacted during Stage 2 of this grant

The recommendations will be informed by data models created by the UFL using utilization data from the project overlayed with characteristics of adjacent urban form and land use. These models will help SDOT identify areas for adjustments to existing curb allocation as well as establish a deeper understanding of the variety of commercial vehicle user behavior at the curb to meet climate goals. We anticipate these policies will benefit both curb users and local community members by reducing congestion and creating safer streets.

Special Issue

The Curb Lane

Publication: Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice
Publication Date: 2021

Efforts to regulate the curb also suffer from a lack of publicly accessible data on both the demand and supply of curb space. Cities often do not have the technical expertise to develop a curb data collection and data-sharing strategy. In addition, the private individuals and companies that generate most of the curb-use data often withhold them from public use to protect proprietary information and personal user data.

However, new uses of data sources, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS) and cellular networks, as well as the implementation of wide networks of IoT devices, are enabling the “digitization” of the curb, allowing cities to gain a better understanding of curb use as well as ways to change their approach toward curb space management.

In a way, the revolution in curb space management has already started. Many cities are re-inventing their role from passively regulating on-street parking to dynamically allocating and managing the curb, both physically and digitally, to serve many different users. Geofencing and time-dependent allocation of curb space facilitate efficient passenger pickup and drop off. Parking information systems and pay-for-parking apps enable dynamic parking allocation and pricing. We believe this is the right time for scientific research to “catch up” with current changes and to develop new analytical tools for curb space management. Such efforts are the focus of this special issue on curb lane analysis and policy.

Authors: Dr. Anne GoodchildDr. Giacomo Dalla ChiaraDr. Andisheh Ranjbari, Susan Shaheen (University of California, Berkeley), Donald Shoup (UCLA)
Recommended Citation:
Special Issue: The Curb Lane. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice | by Elsevier.