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Freight’s Role in Delivering Equitable Cities (Part II)

Publication: Goods Movement 2030: An Urban Freight Blog
Publication Date: 2022

Moving freight is vital to our ability to live in cities and access goods — but who bears the costs of moving goods, and who benefits from the access that goods movement provides? These costs and benefits have not been borne equally.

The last blog post revealed how urban freight is largely missing in discussions around transportation equity and accessibility. Freight delivers immense benefits to cities and residents. These benefits go beyond economic development, which is often how policymakers see freight. Not to say these economic benefits are small potatoes. Roughly 40 percent of Washington jobs connect to freight, generating $92 billion in economic impact annually.

So while the benefits of the urban freight system are foundational to cities, they go largely overlooked. The value of a freight system comes when you enjoy a good meal, receive essential medicines, or get lost in a favorite book. Put simply: Moving freight is vital to our ability to live in cities and access goods.

But who bears the costs of moving goods, and who benefits from the access that goods movement provides? These costs and benefits have not been borne equally.

Authors: Travis Fried
Recommended Citation:
"Freight’s Role in Delivering Equitable Cities (Part II)" Goods Movement 2030 (blog). Urban Freight Lab, December 13, 2022.

More Online Shopping Means More Delivery Trucks. Are Cities Ready?

Download PDF  (2.46 MB)
Publication: The Conversation
Publication Date: 2016

Two converging trends — the rise of e-commerce and urban population growth — are creating big challenges for cities. Online shoppers are learning to expect the urban freight delivery system to bring them whatever they want, wherever they want it, within one to two hours. That’s especially true during the holidays, as shipping companies hustle to deliver gift orders on time.

City managers and policymakers were already grappling with high demand and competing uses for scarce road, curb, and sidewalk space. If cities do not act quickly to revamp the way they manage increasing numbers of commercial vehicles unloading goods in streets and alleys and into buildings, they will drown in a sea of double-parked trucks.

The University of Washington has formed a new Urban Freight Lab to solve delivery system problems that cities and the business sector cannot handle on their own. Funders of this long-term strategic research partnership include the City of Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and five founding corporate members: Costco, FedEx, Nordstrom, UPS, and the U.S. Postal Service.

The core problem facing cities is that they are trying to manage their part of a sophisticated data-powered 21st-century delivery system with tools designed for the 1800s — and they are often trying to do it alone. Consumers can order groceries, clothes, and electronics with a click, but most cities only have a stripe of colored paint to manage truck parking at the curb. The Urban Freight Lab brings building managers, retailers, logistics and tech firms, and city government together to do applied research and develop advanced solutions.

Moving more goods, more quickly

We have reached the point where millions of people who live and work in cities purchase more than half of their goods online. This trend is putting tremendous pressure on local governments to rethink how they manage street curb parking and alley operations for trucks and other delivery vehicles. It also forces building operators to plan for the influx of online goods. A few years ago, building concierges may have received a few flower bouquets. Now many are sorting and storing groceries and other goods for hundreds of residents every week.

In the first quarter of 2016, almost 8 percent of total U.S. retail sales took place online. Surging growth in U.S. online sales has averaged more than 15 percent year-over-year since 2010. Black Friday web sales soared by 22 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Online shoppers’ expectations for service are also rising. Two out of three shoppers expect to be able to place an order as late as 5:00 p.m. for next-day delivery. Three out of five believe orders placed by noon should be delivered the same day, and one out of four believe orders placed by 4:00 p.m. or later should still be delivered on the same day.

City living and shopping is still all about location, location, location. People are attracted to urban neighborhoods because they prefer to walk more and drive less. Respondents in the 2015 National Multifamily Housing Council-Kingsley Apartment Resident Preferences Survey preferred walking to grocery stores and restaurants rather than driving by seven points. But this lifestyle requires merchants to deliver goods to customers’ homes, office buildings or stores close to where they live.

Smarter delivery systems

SDOT recently published Seattle’s first draft Freight Master Plan, which includes high-level strategies to improve the urban goods delivery system. But before city managers act, they need evidence to prove which concepts will deliver results.

To lay the groundwork for our research, an SCTL team led by Dr. Ed McCormack and graduate students Jose Machado Leon and Gabriela Giron surveyed 523 blocks of Seattle’s downtown (including Belltown, the commercial core, Pioneer Square and International District), South Lake Union and Uptown urban centers in the fall of 2016. They compiled GIS coordinates and infrastructure characteristics for all observable freight loading bays within buildings. Our next step is to combine this information with existing GIS layers of the city’s curbside commercial vehicle load zones and alleys to produce a complete map of Seattle’s urban delivery infrastructure.

In our first research project, the Urban Freight Lab is using data-based process improvement tools to purposefully manage both public and private operations of the Final-50-Feet space. The final 50 feet of the urban delivery system begins when a truck stops at a city-owned curb, commercial vehicle load zone or alley. It extends along sidewalks and through privately owned building freight bays, and may end in common areas within a building, such as the lobby.

One key issue is failed deliveries: Some city residents don’t receive their parcels due to theft or because they weren’t home to accept them. Could there be secure, common drop-off points for multiple carriers to use, attached to bus stops or on the sidewalk?

The most pressing issue is the lack of space for trucks to park and deliver goods downtown. It may be possible to use technology to get more use out of existing commercial vehicle load zones. For example, trucks might be able to use spaces now reserved exclusively for other uses during off-peak hours or seasons.

To analyze the fundamental problems in the urban logistics system, our research team will create process flow maps of each step in the goods delivery process for five buildings in Seattle. We will collect data and build a model to analyze “what if” scenarios for one location. Then we will pilot test several promising low-cost, high-value actions on Seattle streets in the fall of 2017. The pilots may involve actively managing city load zones and alleys to maximize truck use, or changing the way people use freight elevators.

By using information technologies and creative planning, we can make receiving online goods as efficient as ordering them — without clogging our streets or losing our packages.

Recommended Citation:
Goodchild, A., & Ivanov, B. (2016, December 20). More online shopping means more delivery trucks. Are cities ready? The Conversation.

How Many Amazon Packages Get Delivered Each Year?

Publication: The Conversation
Publication Date: 2022

How many Amazon packages get delivered each year? – Aya K., age 9, Illinois

It’s incredibly convenient to buy something online, right from your computer or phone. Whether it’s a high-end telescope or a resupply of toothpaste, the goods appear right at your doorstep. This kind of shopping is called “e-commerce” and it’s becoming more popular each year. In the U.S., it has grown from a mere 7% of retail purchases in 2012 to 19.6% of retail and $791.7 billion in sales in 2020.

Amazon’s growing reach
For Amazon, the biggest player in e-commerce, this means delivering lots of packages.

In 2021 Amazon shipped an estimated 7.7 billion packages globally, based on its nearly $470 billion in sales.

In 2021 Amazon shipped an estimated 7.7 billion packages globally.

If each of these packages were a 1-foot square box and they were stacked on top of one another, the pile would be six times higher than the distance from the Earth to the Moon. Laid end to end, they would wrap around the Earth 62 times.

Back in the early 2010s, most things bought from were shipped using a third-party carrier like FedEx or UPS. In 2014, however, Amazon began delivering packages itself with a service called “Fulfilled by Amazon.” That’s when those signature blue delivery vans started appearing on local streets.

Since then, Amazon’s logistics arm has grown from relying entirely on other carriers to shipping 22% of all packages in the U.S. in 2021. This is greater than FedEx’s 19% market share and within striking distance of UPS’s 24%. Amazon’s multichannel fulfillment service allows other websites to use its warehousing and shipping services. So your order from Etsy or eBay could also be packed and shipped by Amazon.

The supply chain
To handle that many packages, shipping companies need an extensive network of manufacturers, vehicles and warehouses that can coordinate together. This is called the supply chain. If you’ve ever used a tracking number to follow a package, you’ve seen it in action.

People who make decisions about where to send vehicles and how to route packages are constantly trying to keep costs down while still getting packages to customers on time. The supply chain can do this very effectively, but it also has downsides.

More delivery vehicles on the road produce more greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, along with pollutants like nitrogen oxides and particulate matter that are hazardous to breathe. Traffic congestion is also a major concern in cities as delivery drivers try to find parking on busy streets.

Urban freight solutions
Are there ways to balance the increasing number of deliveries while making freight safe, sustainable and fast? At the University of Washington’s Urban Freight Lab, we work with companies like Amazon and UPS and others in the shipping, transportation and real estate sectors to answer questions like this. Here are some solutions for what we and our colleagues call the “last mile” – the last leg of a package’s long journey to your doorstep.

  • Electrification: Transitioning from gasoline and diesel vehicles to fleets of electric or other zero-emission vehicles reduces pollution from delivery trucks. Tax credits and local policies, such as creating so-called green loading zones and zero-emission zones for clean vehicles, create incentives for companies to make the switch.
  • Common carrier lockers: Buildings can install lockers at central locations, such as busy transit stops, so that drivers can drop off packages without going all the way to your doorstep. When you’re ready to pick up your items, you just stop by at a time that’s convenient for you. This reduces both delivery truck mileage and the risk of packages being stolen off of porches.
  • Cargo bicycles: Companies can take the delivery truck out of the equation and use electric cargo bicycles to drop off smaller packages. In addition to being zero-emission, cargo bicycles are relatively inexpensive and easy to park, and they provide a healthier alternative for delivery workers.

To learn more about supply chains and delivery logistics, check with your town or city’s transportation department to see if they are testing or already have goods delivery programs or policies, like those in New York and Seattle. And the next time you order something for delivery, consider your options for receiving it, such as walking or biking to a package locker or pickup point, or consolidating your items into a single delivery.

Package delivery can be both convenient and sustainable if companies keep evolving their supply chains, and everyone thinks about how they want delivery to work in their neighborhoods.

Recommended Citation:
Goodchild, A. How many Amazon packages get delivered each year? The Conversation.

Biking for Goods: A Case Study on the Seattle Pedaling Relief Project

1. Introduction
One of the disruptions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic was the reduction of in-store shopping, and the consequent increase in online shopping and home deliveries. However, not everyone had equal access to online shopping and home-delivery services. Customers relying on food banks were forced to shop in-store even during the pandemic. In 2020, the Cascade Bicycle Club started the Pedaling Relief Project (PRP) – a not-for-profit home delivery service run by volunteers using bikes to pick up food at food banks and deliver to food bank customers, among other services.

The Urban Freight Lab collaborates with the Cascade Bicycle Club (CBC) to study and improve PRP operations. For this work, students in Prof. Anne Goodchild’s Transportation Engineering course on Transportation Logistics (CET 587) are undertaking a case study: to analyze the transport and logistics system of the Pedaling Relief Project and provide recommendations for how to improve operations.

2. Background
2.1. Food rescue at a glance
An estimated 94,500 tons of food from Seattle business establishments end up in compost and landfills each year, while many members of our community remain food insecure. The process of food rescuing consists of the gleaning of edible food from business establishments – called donor businesses such as grocery stores, restaurants, and commissary kitchens – that otherwise would enter the waste stream and be re-distributed to local food programs. Hunger relief agencies, also referred to as food banks, are non-profit organizations that collect rescued food, either directly from businesses or through food rescue distributors (such as Food Lifeline or Northeast Harvest) and re-distribute it to the community through meal programs, walk-ins, and pop-up food pantries, student backpack programs, among others.

Read more about the Seattle food rescue system in SCTL’s report (2020) on “Improving Food Rescue in Seattle: What Can Be Learned from a Supply Chain View?

2.2. Pedaling Relief Project
In 2020 the Cascade Bicycle Club started the Pedaling Relief Project (PRP), a volunteer-based program that collaborates with local food banks to offer three main types of services — (1) grocery delivery, (2) food rescue, (3) little free pantry restocking — coordinating a network of volunteers on bikes.

  1. Grocery delivery (GD) service consists of picking up grocery bags from food banks and performing delivery routes, distributing food to food bank customers that asked for home delivery services.
  2. Food rescue (FR) services support the existing distributors by picking up food at business establishments and carrying rescued food to local food banks.
  3. Little free pantries restocking (LFPR) services consist of picking up food at local food banks and carrying it to neighborhood micro pantries –containers placed on local streets and open to everyone to store food from donors to whoever needs it. Learn more about the Little free pantries project on

Volunteers use their own bikes, with some cargo carry capacity, or can request a bike trailer or cargo bike from the Cascade Bicycle Club.

2.3. Cargo Bikes
Cargo bikes are two/three/four-wheel bikes with some cargo-carrying capacity. They are increasingly used as an alternative mode to trucks and vans to transport goods in urban areas. Cargo bikes are often supported by an electric motor that assists the driver when pedaling. Compared to internal combustion engine vehicles, cargo bikes do not produce tailpipe emissions and they consume less energy than electric vans (Verlinghieri et al., 2021). They also offer several operational advantages: they are more agile in navigating urban road traffic, they can use alternative road infrastructure such as bike lanes and sidewalks to drive and park, they can park closer to their delivery destination, reducing walking distances and parking dwell times (Dalla Chiara et al., 2020).

3. Project instructions

The CBC provided access to anonymous data on the PRP operations for the exclusive use of the 2022 CET 587 course student cohort final projects. Students are asked to individually perform empirical research using the provided data and/or self-collected data on the PRP operations with the following objectives:

  • Empirically analyze and describe PRP operations.
  • Provide recommendations on what actions can be taken to improve PRP operations.

Projects will meet the following two requirements:

  • Use the provided data and/or self-collected and/or publicly sourced data to perform empirical analysis
  • Provide justified and concrete recommendations on how to improve the PRP.
  • Complete deliverables 1 and 2 (see below), which consist of 2 presentations, a project proposal, and a final project report.

Project progress timeline and deliverables:

Weeks Progress & Deliverables
1-2 Become familiar with R language programming; PRP background and data
3 CBC gives a guest lecture about PRP
4-5 Project proposal; 2-minute lightning talk about the project proposal
Deliverable 1: 1-page project proposal
6-10 Implement proposed methodology and perform research
11 Each student will give a 15-minute presentation of the main results of the project
Deliverable 2: Final report
The following are potential project directions:
  • Analyze current routes performed by volunteers. How can they be improved? Get the work done more quickly, or with fewer bikes?
  • Analyze data from little free pantries restocking. Collect additional data on the use of Little Free Pantries by manual observations or by installing sensors in a few of them. Can we model demand and supply for food donations?
  • Collect and analyze GPS data by signing up and performing some of the PRP routes yourself. What type of infrastructure do cargo bikes need and how does street and curb use behavior differ between cargo bikes and vans? What can the city do to better support this type of activity?
  • Analyze volunteers’ behaviors data. Is it possible to model the supply of volunteers? Can you simulate different scenarios of volunteer supply?
  • Develop your own direction with approval.

Students will be provided with a base dataset on PRP operations. Students are encouraged to use other datasets self-collected or from public data sources (e.g. check out the SDOT Open Data Portal), to share ideas in class and among each other, to use as much as possible class time, guest lectures and office hours to ask questions and share ideas.

1: 1-page project proposal and 2-minute lightning talk describing motivation, project objective(s) and research question(s), proposed methodology (data to use/collect, methods to implement), and expected results.

2: Final report and 10-minute presentation describing data used, including sample size and sample statistics, how data collection was performed, empirical analysis performed using data and results from the analysis, and conclusions, key findings, and key recommendations.

Roadblocks to Sustainable Urban Freight

While freight transportation is a necessary activity to sustain cities’ social and economic life, enabling the movement and deployment of goods and services in and between urbanized areas, it also accounts for a significant portion of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and therefore it is a major contributor to climate change. Guaranteeing an efficient and sustainable urban freight transport ecosystem is necessary for cities to survive and tackle the climate emergency.
Several stakeholders in the private and public sectors are currently taking action and drafting roadmaps to achieve such goals. However, as the urban freight ecosystem is a complex network of stakeholders, achieving such sustainability goals requires collaboration and coordination between multiple agents.
The project will collect and synthesize expert views from both the private and public sectors on what is needed to sustainably deliver the last mile and aims at identifying the roadblocks towards this goal. All types of goods and services will be considered, with the end goal of raising the entire industry’s understanding of the barriers to achieving sustainable urban freight.


Task 1: Research Scan (September-November 2020) Subtasks:

  1. identify an accepted and shared definition of sustainable urban freight;
  2. identify and classify the main agents of the urban freight system from both the private and public sectors and their main role in the last-mile ecosystem;
  3. identify and classify the main accepted strategies currently adopted towards sustainability.
The research team will also define the boundaries of the study, including the geographical region of concentration.

Task 2: Private sector expert interviews (December 2020-April 2021)

The main private sector agents identified in Task 1 will include vehicle manufacturers, retailers, carriers and more. The research team will identify and reach out to representatives of at least 15 companies. Participants will be interviewed using an open question format and will have an optional follow-up online survey. The objectives of the interviews and surveys are:
  1. listing the current strategies adopted to reach sustainable urban freight;
  2. understanding what the impacts are of other private and public sectors agents’ decisions on their sustainability strategies;
  3. identifying agents’ needs and obstacles to achieve their stated sustainable goals.

Task 3: Public sector expert interviews (December 2020-April 2021)

The research team will identify different urban typologies, classifying cities into homogeneous groups according to economic, demographic, urban form, mobility and sustainability indicators. The typologies will be used to sample cities from each identified urban typology.
The team will then reach out to representatives from the public sector agents from the sampled cities, including regulators, planners and public utility representatives, and perform a combination of online survey and online/phone interviews. At least 15 representatives from public sector agents will be contacted. The objectives of the interviews are:
  1. listing the current policies adopted by cities towards sustainable urban freight, including infrastructure investments and transport demand management;
  2. understanding what the obstacles are to achieve sustainability goals.

Task 4: Synthesizing research and identifying roadblocks (May-June 2021)

Synthesizing the work of the previous 3 tasks, and applying the research team’s own expertise, this task will identify the key obstacles to sustainable urban freight. Through a review of existing writings, discussions with experts, and their own domain expertise, the research team will identify the obstacles in the areas of transportation technology, infrastructure, and policy. This review will consider the obstacles in public sector, barriers to private business decision making, and where the two sectors need to take a collaborative approach. The results obtained in the study will be made available publicly as a white paper or submitted for scientific journal publication.

UPS E-Bike Delivery Pilot Test in Seattle: Analysis of Public Benefits and Costs (Task Order 6)

The City of Seattle granted a permit to United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS) in fall 2018 to pilot test a new e-bike parcel delivery system in the Pioneer Square/Belltown area for one year. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) commissioned the Urban Freight Lab (UFL) to quantify and document the public impacts of this multimodal delivery system change in the final 50 feet of supply chains, to provide data and evidence for development of future urban freight policies.

The UFL will conduct analyses into the following research questions:

  1. What are the total changes in VMT and emissions (PM and GHG) to all three affected cargo van routes due to the e-bike pilot test in the Pike Place Market and neighboring areas?
  2. What is the change in the delivery van’s dwell time, e.g. the amount of time the van is parked, before and after introducing the e-bike?
  3. How does the e-bike system affect UPS’ failed first delivery (FFD) attempt rate along the route?
  4. If UPS begins to stage drop boxes along the route for the e-bike (instead of having to replenish from the parked trailer) what are the impacts to total VMT and emissions?
  5. How do e-bike delivery operations impact pedestrian, other bike, and motor traffic?

Common Microhub (Seattle Neighborhood Delivery Hub)


The importance of efficient urban logistics has never been greater. The response to COVID-19 has put new constraints and demands on the urban freight system but also highlighted the essential and critical nature of delivery and distribution. New requirements for reducing human contact only add weight to many of the strategies such as neighborhood kitchens, locker deliveries, and autonomous driverless delivery vehicles, already envisioned before the coronavirus pandemic. Social distancing and virus vector management also add new requirements and metrics for evaluating and managing logistics that are catalyzing innovation and motivating change in the urban logistics space.

What is a Common Microhub?

Also known as an urban consolidation center or a delivery transfer point, a microhub is a central drop-off/pick-up location for goods and services, which can be used by multiple delivery providers, retailers, and consumers. Microhubs can reduce energy consumption, noise pollution, congestion, and cost, and increase access, sustainability, and livability in cities, by allowing the final mile of delivery to be shifted to low-emission vehicles or soft transportation modes (cargo bike or walking), In addition to allowing for consolidation or deconsolidation of shipments, the design also enables neighbors to engage with additional services.

Microhubs provide:

  • access points for shared mobility
  • touchless pick-up and drop-off points
  • a home base for zero-emissions last-mile delivery, autonomous, and modalities
  • a shared public space
  • charging infrastructure
  • increased delivery density, reducing traffic and delivery vehicle dwell time
  • trip chaining capability

Urban Freight Lab’s Common Microhub Pilot: The Seattle Neighborhood Delivery Hub

The Urban Freight Lab’s Common Microhub project—the Seattle Neighborhood Delivery Hub—provides an opportunity for members to test and evaluate urban logistics strategies on the ground in Seattle’s Uptown neighborhood. As third-party logistics companies entering the last-mile space and more cities committing to environmental focus and zero-emissions vision, the interest in creating logistics places in urban proximity is growing. The outcomes of this research can guide the development of future microhub implementations in other cities. Participating stakeholders, while collaborative, operate with relative independence within the hub space. Data collection and analysis are ongoing; key indicators being measured include both operator performance and expected local impacts. In addition, lessons learned are encountered continuously and shared with UFL members as the project progresses.

Participants and Products

Product: Common Carrier Parcel Lockers
Host: Urban Freight LabDescription: The Urban Freight Lab is operating a common carrier parcel locker — a secure, automated, self-service storage system designed to accommodate deliveries from multiple transportation providers delivering a range of parcel sizes and open to all neighbors and commuters. Such lockers create delivery density, enabling vehicles to transport many packages to a single stop, rather than making multiple trips to accomplish the same task. This new approach reduces dwell time and failed first deliveries, both of which produce congestion and emissions, and increase costs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the lockers also provide a no-contact solution for customers.

REEF neighborhood kitchen

Product: Neighborhood Kitchen and Infrastructure
Host: REEF

Description: Neighborhood kitchens are non-customer-facing modular vessels where food is prepared for mobile app or delivery orders. Removing front-of-house operations reduces a restaurant’s footprint, increases sustainability, and gives food entrepreneurs a platform by reducing overhead costs.

REEF is also the infrastructure partner, leveraging their parking lot holdings for the Seattle Neighborhood Delivery Hub location.

Coaster Cycles bike

Product: Electric-Assist Cargo Bike Fleet
Host: ​​Coaster Cycles

Description: Montana-based Coaster Cycles is providing an electric-assist cargo trikes fleet. These trikes are customized to carry BrightDrop EP1s, providing an agile, sustainable last-mile delivery solution in dense urban areas, reducing the emissions, congestion, and noise produced by traditional truck delivery.
(Watch the Coaster Cycle / EP1 deployment:

Screenshot of Axlehire app

Product: Last-Mile Delivery Routing Software

Description: Berkeley-based logistics startup Axlehire provides last-mile delivery routing software that creates the fastest, most efficient routes possible. AxleHire is using the Seattle Neighborhood Delivery Hub site as a transshipment point, where trucks will transfer packages transported from a suburban depot to smaller, more nimble Coaster Cycle electrically-assisted bicycles, which are driven by Axlehire operators to a final customer.

Brightdrop's EP1 electric pallet

Product: Electric Pallet (EP1)
Host: ​BrightDrop (General Motors)

Description: BrightDrop (a subsidiary of General Motors) focuses on electrifying and improving the delivery of goods and services. BrightDrop’s first product to market is the EP1, a propulsion-assisted electric pallet designed to easily move goods over short distances. Because the pallet is electric-powered, it supports sustainability efforts, improves driver safety and freight security, lowers labor costs, and reduces errors and package touches.

Product: MUST Devices and Data Collection
Host: University of Washington Smart Transportation Application & Research (STAR) Lab

Description: To assess performance, researchers have deployed a multitude of sensors, including STAR Lab’s Mobile Unit for Sensing Traffic (MUST) sensors, cameras with vehicle recognition technology, GPS tracking sensors, and parking occupancy sensors. Researchers can gain a comprehensive understanding of delivery operations (such as miles traveled, infrastructure usage, speed, battery usage, interaction with other vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians) and activities at the site itself (such as parking occupancy, duration and, mode distribution of vehicle types at the site).


The Seattle Neighborhood Delivery Hub is located at 130 5th Ave. N. in Seattle’s Uptown neighborhood.


The goals of the Common Microhub Research Project are to:

    1. Conduct a research scan of published reports that provide data-based evidence of the results of projects that have elements that are similar to Common Microhubs.
    2. Identify and characterize informal microhub activities observed in cities worldwide.
    3. Solicit input from UFL members as to the perceived benefits of microhubs and  the desired physical characteristics of a microhub
    4. Compare and contrast the priorities of UFL members with established metrics in the literature.
    5. Seek agreement from UFL members as to the microhub characteristics and location that would be feasible and desirable to operate in the Seattle region. Priority will be given to current UFL members, but should a third party external to UFL be necessary to run the microhub, proposals to host the microhub would be sought.
    6. Collect and analyze field data to measure both operator performance (including VMT, parking demand, fuel, and energy consumption) and expected local impacts (including travel and parking activity) before and after implementation. Data collection will rely on VMT, GPS, and travel time sources where available, but we expect to develop and implement customized methods to collect additional traffic and travel time data as needed. We may also interview the microhub operator and users to obtain qualitative data on the operations. The following tasks will be completed by the Urban Freight Lab in the two-year project.

Project Tasks

The following tasks will be completed by the Urban Freight Lab in the two-year project.

Task 1: Research Scan


  1. Conduct a research scan of published reports that provide data-based evidence of the results of projects that have elements that are similar to Common MicroHubs.
  2. Identify and characterize informal microhub activities observed in cities worldwide.
  3. Write a summary of the results.

Task 2: Develop MicroHub Priorities


  1. Solicit input from UFL members as to:
    • the perceived benefits of microhubs
    • the desired physical characteristics of a microhub
  2. Compare and contrast the priorities of UFL members with priorities demonstrated in the literature.

Task 3: Select Operator and Define Operational Model


  1. With the help of a microhub operator, seek agreement from UFL members as to the microhub characteristics, services, operational goals and location that would be feasible and desirable to operate in the Seattle region.
    • Priority will be given to current UFL members to operate the Hub, but should a third party external to UFL be necessary to run the microhub, proposals to host the microhub would be sought.
  2. Go/No Go decision by researchers, UFL members, and microhub operator as to whether a pilot test will move forward.
    • Sufficient interest amongst participating UFL members and an understanding of the operating model and participants’ business objectives will be necessary to move forward as per the operator’s approval.
    • The operator will work independently with participants and/or the University of Washington to establish operating model(s) under separate agreement(s).

Task 4: Select Operator and Define Operational Model


  1. Define key metrics for evaluation and data collection plan.
  2. With the support of UFL members participating in the pilot, collect “before” data to contrast with data collected during pilot operations.

Task 5: Implementation


  1. Support the implementation of a microhub with UFL partners that have agreed to the terms of the pilot.
  2. Project schedule will allow for 6 months of operations, followed by 3 months for analysis.
  3. Collect and analyze field data to measure both operator performance (including VMT, parking demand, fuel, and energy consumption) and expected local impacts (including travel and parking activity) after implementation. Data collection will rely on VMT, GPS, and travel time sources where available, but we expect to develop and implement customized methods to collect additional traffic and travel time data as needed. We may also interview the operator and users to obtain qualitative data on the operations.

Task 6: Evaluate Operations


  1. Provide progress reports at quarterly UFL meetings.
  2. Final report with key project findings.

Technology Integration to Gain Commercial Efficiency for the Urban Goods Delivery System, Meet Future Demand for City Passenger and Delivery Load/Unload Spaces, and Reduce Energy Consumption

The Urban Freight Lab (UFL) received $1.5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to help goods delivery drivers find a place to park without driving around the block in crowded cities for hours, wasting time and fuel and adding to congestion. The project partners will integrate sensor technologies, develop data platforms to process large data streams, and publish a prototype app to let delivery drivers know when a parking space is open – and when it’s predicted to be open so they can plan to arrive when another truck is leaving.

The UFL will also pilot test common carrier locker systems in public and private load/unload spaces near transit stops. Transit riders, downtown workers, and residents will be able to pick up packages they ordered online from any retailer in a convenient and secure locker in a public plaza or outside their office. The benefits don’t stop there. Common carrier lockers create delivery density that increases the productivity of parking spaces and provides significant commercial efficiencies. They do this by reducing the amount of time it takes delivery people to complete their work. The driver parks next to the locker system, loads packages into it, and returns to the truck. When delivery people spend less time going door-to-door, it decreases the time their truck needs to be parked, increasing turnover and adding parking capacity in crowded cities.

This is a timely project as cities are looking for new strategies to accommodate the rapid growth of e-commerce. Online shopping has grown by 15% annually for the past 11 years, and is now 9% of total retail sales in the U.S., with $453.5 billion in revenue in 2017. Many online shoppers want the goods delivery system to bring them whatever they want, where they want it, in one to two hours. At the same time, many cities are replacing goods delivery load/unload spaces with transit and bike lanes. Cities need new load/unload space concepts supported by technology to make the leap to autonomous cars and trucks in the street, and autonomous freight vehicles in the Final 50 Feet of the goods delivery system. The Final 50 feet segment starts when a truck parks in a load/unload space, and includes delivery persons’ activities as they maneuver goods along sidewalks and into urban towers to make their deliveries.

The goals of this project are to:

  • Reduce parking seeking behavior by 20% in the pilot test area by returning current and predicted load/unload space occupancy information to users on a web-based and/or mobile platform to inform real-time parking decisions.
  • Reduce parcel truck dwell time in pilot test area locations by 30%, thereby increasing productivity of load/unload spaces near common carrier locker systems.
  • Increase network and commercial firms’ efficiency by increasing curb and alley space occupancy rates, and underutilized private loading bay occupancy in the p.m. peak, in the pilot test area.

Cost-share partnering organizations are:

  • Seattle Department of Transportation
  • Bellevue Department of Transportation
  • CBRE Seattle
  • King County Metro Transit
  • Kroger Company
  • Puget Sound Clean Air Agency
  • Sound Transit

Members of the UFL are also participating in the project. Pacific National National Laboratory (PNNL) is a partner, completing several of the project tasks.


Ecommerce and Environmental Justice in Metro Seattle U.S.

Publication: Laboratoire Ville Mobilite Transport (City Transportation Mobility Laboratory), Paris
Publication Date: 2022

The central research question for this project explores the distributional impacts of ecommerce and its implications for equity and justice.

The research aims to investigate how commercial land use affects people and communities. In 2018, U.S. warehouses surpassed office buildings as the primary form of commercial and industrial land use, now accounting for 18 billion square feet of floor space. Warehouses have experienced significant growth in both number and square footage, becoming the predominant land use in the U.S. Warehouse expansion has strategically sprawled from port areas to suburbs in order to get closer to populations and transportation access.

The research findings reveal a correlation between warehouse locations and lower-income communities, resulting in increased exposure to air pollution and triple the traffic associated with ecommerce. Conversely, higher-income populations experience the least exposure, despite making more than half of their purchases online compared to their lower-income counterparts.

Factors such as race and proximity to highways and warehouse locations emerge as stronger predictors of the volume of freight activity through ecommerce than individuals’ income levels or the number of orders placed. Going forward, there is an opportunity for retailers and distributors to take into account the health implications of warehouse placement, and governments can provide best practices to facilitate municipal coordination, particularly where local authorities may be unaware of the impacts.

Authors: Travis Fried
Technical Report

Year One Progress Report: Technology Integration to Gain Commercial Efficiency for the Urban Goods Delivery System, Meet Future Demand for City Passenger and Delivery Load/Unload Spaces, and Reduce Energy Consumption

Download PDF  (5.08 MB)
Publication: U.S. Department of Energy
Publication Date: 2019

The objectives of this project are to develop and implement a technology solution to support research, development, and demonstration of data processing techniques, models, simulations, a smart phone application, and a visual-confirmation system to:

  1. Reduce delivery vehicle parking seeking behavior by approximately 20% in the pilot test area, by returning current and predicted load/unload space occupancy information to users on a web-based and/or mobile platform, to inform real-time parking decisions
  2. Reduce parcel truck dwell time in pilot test areas in Seattle and Bellevue, Washington, by approximately 30%, thereby increasing productivity of load/unload spaces near common carrier locker systems, and
  3. Improve the transportation network (which includes roads, intersections, warehouses, fulfillment centers, etc.) and commercial firms’ efficiency by increasing curb occupancy rates to roughly 80%, and alley space occupancy rates from 46% to 60% during peak hours, and increasing private loading bay occupancy rates in the afternoon peak times, in the pilot test area.

The project team has designed a 3-year plan, as follows, to achieve the objectives of this project.

In Year 1, the team developed integrated technologies and finalized the pilot test parameters. This involved finalizing the plan for placing sensory devices and common parcel locker systems on public and private property; issuing the request for proposals; selecting vendors; and gaining approvals necessary to execute the plan. The team also developed techniques to preprocess the data streams from the sensor devices, and began to design the prototype smart phone parking app to display real-time load/unload space availability, as well as the truck load/unload space behavior model.

Recommended Citation:
Urban Freight Lab (2020). Year One Progress Report: Technology Integration to Gain Commercial Efficiency for the Urban Goods Delivery System.