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The Final 50 Feet: Common Carrier Locker Pilot Test at Seattle Municipal Tower (Part of Task Order 2)

As part of the Final 50 Feet Research Program, the Urban Freight Lab engaged multiple partners and funding sources to successfully pilot test a common carrier locker system (open to all retail and multiple delivery firms) that created delivery density in the Seattle Municipal Tower.

The pilot tested the ability of new mini-distribution centers such as smart lockers to create delivery density and reduce the time delivery people have to spend in urban towers to complete the work. The Lab collected “before” and “after” data to evaluate the pilot’s premise: that when delivery trucks can pull into a load/unload space that’s close to a mini-distribution node with delivery density (lots of deliveries in one place), everyone benefits. Lab members UPS and the U.S. Postal Service participated in this pilot, so any package they delivered to the building went into the locker system. The pilot was open to the first 100 Municipal Tower tenants who signed up to use the lockers from March to April 2018.

This pilot reduced the average amount of time parcel delivery personnel spent doing their work in the 62-floor office tower by 78%, when compared with going floor-to-floor, door-to-door in the tower. It demonstrates the UFL’s unique capability to develop cross-functional business and city working partnerships, gain senior executives’ participation in research, and effectively manage innovative and complex projects that have a high level of uncertainty. This pilot provides evidence that the common carrier locker system strategy can achieve a significant reduction in delivery time.


The Final 50 Feet of the Urban Goods Delivery System: Common Carrier Locker Pilot Test at the Seattle Municipal Tower

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Publication Date: 2018

This report provides compelling evidence of the effectiveness of a new urban goods delivery system strategy: Common Carrier Locker Systems that create parcel delivery density and provide secure delivery locations in public spaces.

Common carrier locker systems are an innovative strategy because they may be used by any retailer, carrier, and goods purchaser, and placed on public property.  This contrasts with branded lockers such as those operated by Amazon, UPS, and FedEx that are limited to one retailer’s or one carrier’s use. Common carrier lockers use existing smart locker technology to provide security and convenience to users.

The Common Carrier Locker System Pilot Test in the Seattle Municipal Tower was uniquely designed for multiple retailers’ and delivery firms’ use in a public space. In spring 2018, a common carrier locker system was placed in the 62-floor Seattle Municipal Tower for ten days as part of a joint research project of the Urban Freight Lab (UFL) at the University of Washington’s Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), with additional funding from the Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium (PacTrans).

This report demonstrates common carrier lockers’ potential to reach both public and private goals by reducing dwell time (the time a truck is parked in a load/unload space in the city) and the number of failed first delivery attempts to dense urban areas. This research provides evidence that delivering multiple packages to a single location such as a locker, rather than delivering packages one-by-one to individual tenants in an urban tower increases the productivity of public and private truck load/unload spaces.

The concept for this empirical pilot test draws on prior UFL-conducted research on the Final 50 Feet of the urban goods delivery system. The Final 50 Feet is the term for the last segment of the supply chain. It begins when a truck parks in a load/unload space, continues as drivers maneuver goods along sidewalks and into urban towers to make the final delivery, and ends where the customer takes receipt of the goods.

The UFL’s 2017 research documented that of the 20 total minutes delivery drivers spent on average in the Seattle Municipal Tower, 12.2 of those minutes were spent going floor-to-floor in freight elevators and door-to-door to tenants on multiple floors.  The UFL recognized that cutting those two steps from the delivery process could slash delivery time in the Tower by more than half—which translates into a substantial reduction in truck dwell time.

Recommended Citation:
Urban Freight Lab (2018). The Final 50 Feet of the Urban Goods Delivery System: Common Carrier Locker Pilot Test at the Seattle Municipal Tower.