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

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

What does an equitable and just freight system actually look like?

We asked UFL members this question at the summer 2022 quarterly meeting. Their responses, shown in the graphic below, cover a wide range of ideas and topics. Some define equity in terms of equal access to the numerous benefits a freight system brings; others call for a reduction in freight costs — like pollution, noise, and traffic — to historically marginalized people.

Members differ on who the appropriate stakeholders are when it comes to addressing equity in urban freight. Is it the public agencies and big companies currently driving zero-carbon transitions? The warehouse workers, owner-operators and migrant truck drivers? The customers who shop online? Or the families who live near warehouses and truck routes?

Addressing these challenges is no simple task. Such questions challenge the urban freight community to grapple with the implications of histories of injustices that remain visible in today’s freight networks. And it also challenges us to look beyond the purview of planners and policymakers and assess the active role logistics companies play in delivering equity. In fact, evidence suggests the C-suite does think seriously about justice both within and beyond the context of the company. These understandings can be a foundation for a more equitable freight system and creating a truly equitable city.

Authors: Travis Fried
Recommended Citation:
"Freight’s Role in Delivering Equitable Cities (Part I)" Goods Movement 2030 (blog). Urban Freight Lab, November 16, 2022.

Dr. Ed McCormack

Dr. Ed McCormack
Dr. Ed McCormack
  • Research Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Washington State Transportation Center (TRAC)
  • Director, Sustainable Transportation Master's degree program  |  206-543-3348  |  Wilson Ceramics Lab 108
  • Freight Mobility in Urban Areas
  • Transportation Technology Evaluation
  • Freight Systems Performance Measurement

Dr. Ed McCormack’s research program is broadly around the theme of the use of technology to improve mobility for people and goods. Improved data storage, wireless communications, and faster computers have created new streams of high quality transportation information. This information allows operators and the public to be more strategic and efficient about using our transportation system but also requires new thinking and innovative approaches. Given the belief in our society that technology can solve many problems, one challenge that he frequently addresses in his research is elemental: what works? For example, his research has evaluated the application and usability of different in-vehicle tracking technologies and of freight-oriented traveler information systems.

A second topic of importance is his recent research—derived from his interest in technology—that explores the development of quantitative tools that can use streaming data. Many of his projects have used these data to create performance measures that allow the monitoring of vehicle travel activity and the calculation of metrics that support engineering and planning decisions.

He has increasingly focused on freight mobility. Despite freight’s obvious importance to our society, this area of transportation has traditionally been understudied by academics, particularly in comparison to people transportation. As a researcher, he has found that there are opportunities to provide innovative insights in this area.

  • Faculty Appreciation for Career Education & Training (FACET) Award for mentoring of students (2020)
  • Ph.D., Geography, University of Washington (1997)
    Dissertation: A Chained-Based Exploration of Work Travel by Residents of Mixed Land-Use Neighborhoods
  • M.S., Civil Engineering, University of Washington (1985)
    Thesis: An Examination of Transit’s Work-Share Using Census Journey–to-Work and Transit On-Board Survey Data
  • B.S.E., Geography, University of Washington (1979)

Dr. Ed McCormack is an international leader in truck GPS data applications for freight performance measurement, and technology that facilitates truck flows along roadways and through border crossings and marine ports. He developed methods for the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Norwegian government to measure truck speed and reliability performance on highways and roads through the analysis of truck GPS data. He recently served as the Chief Engineer in the ITS section of the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.

He holds a PhD in Geography, MS in Civil Engineering, and a BA in Geography—all from the University of Washington. Before working at UW, he was an engineering consultant with David Evans and Associates and a transportation planner with both King County and the Puget Sound Regional Councils.

Dr. McCormack has worked on National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board (TRB) projects to identify and improve truck bottlenecks, incorporate smart growth principles into freight forecasting tools, and help public agencies obtain freight data and turn it into valuable information.

He is an independent evaluator for U.S. Department of Transportation freight technology projects, including those addressing truck queuing and congestion. He is directs and teaches in the Sustainable Transportation Master’s degree program and Livable Communities certificate program.

  • Professor (II), Department of Civil and Transport Engineering, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • Adjunct Research Associate Professor, Urban Design and Planning, University of Washington

Exploring Transportation Applications of Small Unmanned Aircraft

Publication: Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Journal
Volume: 79 (12)
Pages: 32-36
Publication Date: 2009

This article describes the promise of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in transportation-related applications. Small UAVs are increasingly affordable, easy to transport and launch, and can be equipped with cameras that provide information usable for transportation agencies. Potential uses of UAVs include accident scene photography, surveying, security inspections, construction data collection, and monitoring the condition and congestion of roadways. However, there are currently limitations that hinder the use of UAVs by state departments of transportation. The limitations are linked to the need to obtain authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration, which has expressed concern about the ability of UAVs to see and avoid manned aircraft. Recent tests were conducted by the Washington State Department of Transportation to evaluate the technical capabilities and institutional concerns related to the use of UAVs. Results from these tests indicate that the UAVs can perform effective and autonomous aerial surveillance, but concerns linger about the reliability of UAVs and the consequences of a crash.

Recommended Citation:
McCormack, Edward. "Exploring transportation applications of small unmanned aircraft." Institute of Transportation Engineers. ITE Journal 79, no. 12 (2009): 32.

Shipping Resilience: Strategic Planning for Coastal Community Resilience to Marine Transportation Risk

A catastrophic earthquake could disrupt marine transportation across coastal British Columbia, severely affecting supply chains to coastal communities and emergency response capabilities. This project seeks to better understand such risks and develop effective resilience strategies for different types of coastal communities. It inquires into how disaster events would likely affect ports, marine transportation routes, and the associated movement of people and resources in the emergency response phase, and what strategies would be effective to alleviate potential consequences.

Co-principal investigators on this project are David Bristow at the University of Victoria (infrastructure systems modeling), Ron Pelot and Floris Goerlandt at Dalhousie University (shipping risk), C. Lin and L. Zhou at the University of Victoria (port geotech and structural modeling), and Anne Goodchild at the University of Washington (shipping logistics).

This project aims to improve understanding of how coastal marine transportation systems would be disrupted in natural hazard events, how such disruption would impact coastal communities, and what strategies could effectively address this risk. Focusing on the movement of people and goods in the emergency response phase of a disaster, the study develops new tools, information, and risk assessments to support preparedness planning by local and provincial governments and the transportation sector. The research delivers: (1) workshops for engaging government and transport sector stakeholders; (2) a framework for assessing coastal community resilience to shipping disruption; (3) a simulation tool based on this framework; and (4) specific findings and recommendations for two case studies – a detailed analysis of catastrophic earthquake risk in British Columbia and exploratory analysis of hurricane risk in Atlantic Canada.


Data-Driven Innovations in Policy-Oriented Freight Transport Models and Planning Methods

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Publication: European Journal of Transport and Infrastructure Research
Volume: 16(1)
Pages: 3-Jan
Publication Date: 2016

Freight transport is a challenging economic sector, as it is essential for the functioning of production and distribution systems but and the same time is at the origin of many nuisances such as congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and noise. When responding to these issues, planners dispose nowadays of a growing body of freight data that can be used for the implementation of policies towards achieving smart mobility. Because contrary to current practice and dominant discourse, smart mobility is not just a matter of passengers: it also largely relies on more sustainable freight plays an transport. Policy makers see in those new sources of data an opportunity to increase their knowledge on freight transport as well as to have suitable decision support tools to the choices they need to make. In developed countries this trend is illustrated by the increasing requirement of data by recent legislation on freight transport. But these data are not always easily available, and when they are, they are not necessarily adapted to the needs of practitioners. This mismatch partly results in a lack of dialogue between researchers and practitioners, that this special issue intends to promote.

Authors: Dr. Anne Goodchild, Jesus Gonzalez-Feliu, David Guerrero
Recommended Citation:
Gonzalez-Feliu, Jesus, Anne Goodchild, and David Guerrero. "Data-driven innovations in policy-oriented freight transport models and planning methods." European Journal of Transport and Infrastructure Research 16, no. 1 (2016).

Behavior-Based National Freight Demand Modeling

Current models for forecasting freight movement in the United States have been developed primarily at the statewide level, along with a few regional freight forecasting models. This project is developing a national freight forecasting model for the FHWA. The model, the first of its kind at the national level, will support national freight policy making and planning. As a subcontractor to RSG, UW researchers are helping to identify the most useful and promising structures for a national model and are leading the evaluation of model components and their integration. They are also developing an approach to test the potential specifications for each model component and are contributing to the development of national sources of data for use in the model. The project will demonstrate the model in a software application.

Learn More:

Development of a Behavioral-Based National Freight Demand Model Fact Sheet


Structuring a Definition of Resilience for the Freight Transportation System

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Publication: Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board
Volume: 2097
Pages: 19-25
Publication Date: 2009

This paper summarizes a broad literature review on system resilience. After these interpretations of resilience are considered, a definition of resilience in the context of freight transportation systems is provided. The definition of resilience offered here captures the interactions between managing organizations—namely, state departments of transportation, the infrastructure, and users—which is critical considering that the freight transportation system exists to support economic activity and production. A list of properties of freight transportation system resilience is outlined. These properties of resilience can contribute to the overall ability of the freight transportation system to recover from disruptions, whether exhibited at the infrastructure, managing organization, or user dimension. This contribution provides a framework that can serve as a starting point for future research, offering a shared language that promotes a more structured conversation about freight transportation resilience.

Authors: Dr. Anne Goodchild, Chilan Ta, Kelly Pitera
Recommended Citation:
Ta, Chilan. Anne V. Goodchild, and Kelly Pitera. "Structuring a definition of resilience for the freight transportation system." Transportation Research Record 2097, no. 1 (2009): 19-25.
Technical Report

Impacts of COVID-19 on Supply Chains

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Publication Date: 2020

As of June 2020, the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has infected more than eight million people worldwide. In response to the global pandemic, cities have been put under lockdown, closing non-essential businesses and banning group gatherings, limiting urban mobility, and issuing stay-at-home orders, while nations closed their borders.

During these times, logistics became more important than ever in guaranteeing the uninterrupted flow of goods to city residents. At the same time, the same supply chain providing the goods experienced profound disruptions. Documenting the impacts the COVID-19 outbreak had on individual organizations and their responses is an important research effort to better understand the resiliency of the supply chain.

The Urban Freight Lab, a structured workgroup of senior executives from major supply chains, supply chain related companies, and academic researchers from the University of Washington, carried out a survey to address two main questions:

  • What are the most common and significant impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak?
  • What short-term actions and long-terms plans are supply chains taking in response to the pandemic?


Recommended Citation:
Urban Freight Lab (2020). Impacts of COVID-19 on Supply Chains. 

Building Resilience into Freight Transportation Systems: Actions for State Departments of Transportation

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Publication: Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board
Volume: 2168
Pages: 129-135
Publication Date: 2010

The management of transportation systems for resilience has received significant attention in recent years. Resilience planning concerns the actions of an organization that reduce the consequences of a disruption to the system the organization manages. Little exploration has been made into the connections between resilience planning and the actions of a state department of transportation (DOT) that contribute to resilience of a freight transportation system. Conclusions are presented from collaborative research between the Washington State DOT Freight Systems Division (WSDOT FSD) and researchers at the University of Washington. Activities of the WSDOT FSD that contribute to resilience are identified, and one such activity undertaken by WSDOT to improve communication with system users is described. This and other activities can be undertaken by other DOTs that want to improve the resilience of their freight transportation systems at relatively low cost.

Authors: Dr. Anne GoodchildBarbara Ivanov, Chilan Ta
Recommended Citation:
Ta, Chilan, Anne V. Goodchild, and Barbara Ivanov. "Building Resilience into Freight Transportation Systems: Actions for State Departments of Transportation." Transportation Research Record 2168, no. 1 (2010): 129-135.
Technical Report

Freight Data from Intelligent Transportation System Devices

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Publication: Washington State Transportation Center (TRAC)
Publication Date: 2006
As congestion increases, transportation agencies are seeking regional travel time data to determine exactly when, how, and where congestion affects freight mobility. Concurrently, a number of regional intelligent transportation systems (ITS) are incorporating various technologies to improve transportation system efficiency. This research explored the ability of these ITS devices to be used as tools for developing useful historical, and perhaps real-time, traffic flow information.
Regional transponder systems have required the installation of a series of readers at weigh stations in ports, along freeways, and at the Washington/British Columbia border. By linking data from these readers, it was possible to anonymously track individual, transponder-equipped trucks and to develop corridor-level travel time information. However, the research found that it is important to have an adequate number of data points between readers to identify non-congestion related stops. Another portion of this research tested five GPS devices in trucks. The research found that the GPS data transmitted by cellular technology from these vehicles can provide much of the facility performance information desired by roadway agencies. However, obtaining sufficient amounts of these data in a cost effective manner will be difficult. A third source of ITS data that was explored was WSDOT’s extensive loop-based freeway surveillance and control system.
The output from of each of the ITS devices analyzed in this research presented differing pictures (versions) of freight flow performance for the same stretch of roadway. In addition, ITS data often covered different (and non-contiguous) roadway segments and systems or geographic areas. The result of this wide amount of variety was an integration task that was far more complex then initially expected.
Overall, the study found that the integration of data from the entire range of ITS devices potentially offers both a more complete and more accurate overall description of freight and truck flows.



Authors: Dr. Ed McCormack, Mark Hallenbeck, Duane Wright, Jennifer Nee
Recommended Citation:
Hallenbeck, M. E., McCormack, E., Nee, J., & Wright, D. (2003). Freight Data from Intelligent Transportation System Devices (No. WA-RD 566.1,). The Center.