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

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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.

Simulation-Based Analysis of Different Curb Space Type Allocations on Curb Performance

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Publication: Transportmetrica B: Transport Dynamics
Volume: 11 (1)
Pages: 1384-1405
Publication Date: 2023

Curbspace is a limited resource in urban areas. Delivery, ridehailing and passenger vehicles must compete for spaces at the curb. Cities are increasingly adjusting curb rules and allocating curb spaces for uses other than short-term paid parking, yet they lack the tools or data needed to make informed decisions. In this research, we analyze and quantify the impacts of different curb use allocations on curb performance through simulation. Three metrics are developed to evaluate the performance of the curb, covering productivity and accessibility of passengers and goods, and CO2 emissions. The metrics are calculated for each scenario across a range of input parameters (traffic volume, parking rate, vehicle dwell time, and street design speed) and compared to a baseline scenario. This work can inform policy decisions by providing municipalities tools to analyze various curb management strategies and choose the ones that produce results more in line with their policy goals.

Authors: Thomas MaxnerDr. Andisheh RanjbariŞeyma Güneş, Chase Dowling (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)
Recommended Citation:
Thomas Maxner, Andisheh Ranjbari, Chase P. Dowling & Şeyma Güneş (2023) Simulation-based analysis of different curb space type allocations on curb performance, Transportmetrica B: Transport Dynamics, 11:1, 1384-1405, DOI: 10.1080/21680566.2023.2212324

An Empirical Analysis of Passenger Vehicle Dwell Time and Curb Management Strategies for Ride-Hailing Pick-Up/Drop-Off Operations

Publication: Transportation
Publication Date: 2023

With the dramatic and recent growth in demand for curbside pick-up and drop-off by ride-hailing services, as well as online shopping and associated deliveries, balancing the needs of roadway users is increasingly critical. Local governments lack tools to evaluate the impacts of curb management strategies that prioritize different users’ needs. The dwell time of passenger vehicles picking up/dropping off (PUDO) passengers, including ride-hailing vehicles, taxis, and other cars, is a vital metric for curb management, but little is understood about the key factors that affect it. This research used a hazard-based duration modeling approach to describe the PUDO dwell times of over 6,000 passenger vehicles conducted in Seattle, Wash. Additionally, a before-after study approach was used to assess the effects of two curb management strategies: adding PUDO zones and geofencing. Results showed that the number of passenger maneuvers, location and time of day, and traffic and operation management factors significantly affected PUDO dwell times. PUDO operations took longer with more passengers, pick-ups (as opposed to drop-offs), vehicle´s trunk access, curbside stops, and in the afternoon. More vehicles at the curb and in adjacent travel lanes were found to be related to shorter PUDO dwell times but with a less practical significance. Ride-hailing vehicles tended to spend less time conducting PUDOs than other passenger vehicles and taxis. Adding PUDO zones, together with geofencing, was found to be related to faster PUDO operations at the curb. Suggestions are made for the future design of curb management strategies to accommodate ride-hailing operations.

Authors: José Luis Machado LeónDr. Anne Goodchild, Don MacKenzie (University of Washington College of Engineering)
Recommended Citation:
Machado-León, J.L., MacKenzie, D. & Goodchild, A. An Empirical Analysis of Passenger Vehicle Dwell Time and Curb Management Strategies for Ride-Hailing Pick-Up/Drop-Off Operations. Transportation (2023).
Student Thesis and Dissertations

Modeling of Urban Freight Deliveries: Operational Performance at the Final 50 Feet

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Publication Date: 2021

The demand for goods and services is rapidly increasing in cities, in part due to the rise in online shopping and more varied delivery options. Cities around the world are experiencing an influx of goods pickup and delivery activities. The movement of goods within urban areas can be very constraining with high levels of congestion and insufficient curb spaces. Pick-up and delivery activities, specifically those that are out of vehicle activities, encompass a significant portion of urban goods movement and inefficient operations can negatively impact the already highly congested areas and truck dwell times. This dissertation aims to provide insights and data-driven approaches to support freight plans in various cities around the globe with a focus on urban freight deliveries. To accomplish this goal, this dissertation first proposes to discover the current delivery process at the final 50 feet by creating value stream maps that summarize the flow of delivery activities and times, and time variations between activities. The map will be based on the data collected from five freight-attracting buildings in downtown Seattle. Secondly, this research explores contributing factors associated with dwell time for commercial vehicles by building regression models. Dwell time, in this study, is defined as the time that delivery workers spend performing out-of-vehicle activities while their vehicle is parked. Finally, this dissertation predicts the total time spent at the final 50 feet of delivery, including dwell times and parking-related times through discrete event simulations for various “what if” delivery scenarios. Multi-objective simulation-based optimization algorithms were further used to discover the optimal numbers of parking and building resources (e.g. number of on and off-street parking capacity, number of security guards or receptionists). This aims to better understand how increased deliveries in urban cities can impact the cost distributions between city planners, building managers, and delivery workers. This will also identify the areas for improvement in terms of infrastructure and resources to better prepare for the future delivery demands based on various scenarios.

Authors: Haena Kim
Recommended Citation:
Kim, Haena (2021). Modeling of Urban Freight Deliveries: Operational Performance at the Final 50 Feet. University of Washington Ph.D. Dissertation.

Exploring Benefits of Cargo-Cycles Versus Trucks for Urban Parcel Delivery Under Different Demand Scenarios

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Publication: Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board
Publication Date: 2020

Urban deliveries are traditionally carried out with vans or trucks. These vehicles tend to face parking difficulties in dense urban areas, leading to traffic congestion. Smaller and nimbler vehicles by design, such as cargo-cycles, struggle to compete in distance range and carrying capacity. However, a system of cargo-cycles complemented with strategically located cargo-storing hubs can overcome some limitations of the cargo-cycles. Past research provides a limited perspective on how demand characteristics and parking conditions in urban areas are related to potential benefits of this system. To fill this gap, we propose a model to simulate the performance of different operational scenarios—a truck-only scenario and a cargo-cycle with mobile hubs scenario—under different delivery demand and parking conditions. We apply the model to a case study using data synthesized from observed freight-carrier demand in Singapore. The exploration of alternative demand scenarios informs how demand characteristics influence the viability of the solution. Furthermore, a sensitivity analysis clarifies the contributing factors to the demonstrated results. The combination of cargo-cycles and hubs can achieve progressive reductions in kilometers-traveled and hours-traveled up to around densities of 150 deliveries/km ² , beyond which savings taper off. Whereas the reduction in kilometers-traveled is influenced by the the carrying capacity of the cargo-cycle, the reduction in hours-traveled is related to to the cargo-cycle ability to effectively decrease the parking dwell time by reducing, for instance, the time spent searching for parking and the time spent walking to a delivery destination.

Authors: Dr. Giacomo Dalla Chiara, André Romano Alho, Cheng Cheng, Moshe Ben-Akiva, Lynette Cheah
Recommended Citation:
Dalla Chiara, Giacomo and Alho, André Romano and Cheng Cheng, Moshe Ben-Akiva and Cheah, Lynette. “Exploring Benefits of Cargo-Cycles versus Trucks for Urban Parcel Delivery under Different Demand Scenarios.” Transportation Research Record, (May 2020). doi:10.1177/0361198120917162.

A Policy-Sensitive Model of Parking Choice for Commercial Vehicles in Urban Areas

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Publication: Transportation Science
Publication Date: 2020

Understanding factors that drive the parking choice of commercial vehicles at delivery stops in cities can enhance logistics operations and the management of freight parking infrastructure, mitigate illegal parking, and ultimately reduce traffic congestion. In this paper, we focus on this decision-making process at large urban freight traffic generators, such as retail malls and transit terminals, that attract a large share of urban commercial vehicle traffic. Existing literature on parking behavior modeling has focused on passenger vehicles. This paper presents a discrete choice model for commercial vehicle parking choice in urban areas. The model parameters were estimated by using detailed, real-world data on commercial vehicle parking choices collected in two commercial urban areas in Singapore. The model analyzes the effect of several variables on the parking behavior of commercial vehicle drivers, including the presence of congestion and queuing, attitudes toward illegal parking, and pricing (parking fees). The model was validated against real data and applied within a discrete-event simulation to test the economic and environmental impacts of several parking measures, including pricing strategies and parking enforcement.

Authors: Dr. Giacomo Dalla Chiara, Lynette Cheah, Carlos Lima Azevedo, Moshe E. Ben-Akiya
Recommended Citation:
Dalla Chiara, Giacomo and Cheah, Lynette and Azevedo, Carlos Lima and Ben-Akiva, Moshe E. (2020). A Policy-Sensitive Model of Parking Choice for Commercial Vehicles in Urban Areas. Transportation Science, 54(3), 606–630.