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Paper

Ecommerce and Environmental Justice in Metro Seattle

 
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Publication: Research in Transportation Economics
Volume: 103
Publication Date: 2023
Summary:

Urban distribution centers (UDCs) are opening at unprecedented rates to meet rising home delivery demand. The trend has raised concerns over the equity and environmental justice implications of ecommerce’s negative externalities. However, little research exists connecting UDC location to the concentration of urban freight-derived air pollution among marginalized populations.

Using spatial data of Amazon UDCs in metropolitan Seattle, this study quantifies the socio-spatial distribution of home delivery-related commercial vehicle kilometers traveled (VKT), corresponding air pollution, and explanatory factors. Results reveal that racial and income factors are relevant to criteria air pollutant exposure caused by home deliveries, due to tracts with majority people of color being closer in proximity to UDCs and highways. Tracts with majority people of color face the highest median concentration of delivery vehicle activity and emissions despite ordering less packages than white populations. While both cargo van and heavy-duty truck emissions disproportionately affect people of color, the socio-spatial distribution of truck emissions shows higher sensitivity to fluctuations in utilization.

Prioritizing environmental mitigation of freight activity further up the urban distribution chain in proximity to UDCs, therefore, would have an outsized impact in minimizing disparities in ecommerce’s negative externalities.

Recommended Citation:
Fried, T., Verma, R., & Goodchild, A. (2024). Ecommerce and Environmental Justice in Metro Seattle. Research in Transportation Economics, 103, 101382. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.retrec.2023.101382
Blog

Urban Freight in 2030: What Will We Measure?

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

The meteoric rise in urban deliveries and the lingering societal effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are having dramatic implications for the future of business, climate, and cities.

Together with our collaborators and subject matter experts from across the logistics landscape, we are creating a collective vision for the urban freight system in 2030 and we are excited to present it in a new blog.

We have identified four topics surfacing in urban freight and six performance metrics around which we hope to see progress. Our topics for exploration are Electrification, Digital Transformation, Planning Streets for People and Goods, and Microfreight.

Complementing these, we have identified six priorities for progress by 2030: Reducing CO2 emissions, Reducing congestion, Reducing roadway fatalities, Increasing/improving protected spaces for vulnerable users, Making transparent the cost of delivery, and Improving equity.

Though not directly linked to our research topics, these metrics  serve as tangible measures to assess progress, or lack thereof, toward our collective vision of Urban Freight in 2030.

The Urban Freight Lab launched the Goods Movement 2030 Blog in 2022 to create a collective vision for the urban freight system in 2030. In this space, we are exploring emerging trends in last-mile delivery, asking big questions, and analyzing implications.

Recommended Citation:
"Urban Freight in 2030: What Will We Measure?" Goods Movement 2030 (blog). Urban Freight Lab, August 1, 2022. https://www.goodsmovement2030.com/post/what-will-we-measure
Blog

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

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

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. https://www.goodsmovement2030.com/post/delivering-equitable-cities-p2
Blog

How Can Digitization in the Private Sector Benefit Everyone?

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

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. https://www.goodsmovement2030.com/post/3-digitization-moves
Blog

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

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

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. https://www.goodsmovement2030.com/post/a-more-integrated-world
Blog

Lost in Translation? Considering Overseas Freight Planning Designs through a North American Lens

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

At the spring Urban Freight Lab (UFL) meeting, members heard about four innovative approaches to planning streets so both people and goods can move more efficiently, safely, and sustainably. The catch? Europe is the only place most of these ideas have successfully scaled. So, how might these ideas translate or get adapted to a North American context as we look toward 2030?

In our last blog, we talked about an integrated freight and pedestrian approach Gothenburg, Sweden, has had on its streets for two decades. London, for its part, has had a low-emission zone (LEZ) for a decade and a half, with plans to expand its ultra-low-emission zone (ULEZ) in summer 2023. Meantime, in North American cities by and large we’re still figuring out how to pilot innovations — let alone roll them out on city streets in a big way.

And that’s no surprise, said Philippe Crist of the The International Transport Forum (ITF).

“Going from what is possible to what is actionable is going to be challenging in some instances, quite difficult in some instances, and in a handful of leading cities we’ll see some real progress,” Crist told UFL members. “And that’s OK because that’s how progress happens.”

So, what can we tackle first to make headway here? Ramp up modeling of innovative strategies, then test them on the street — much like the UFL has done with parcel lockers, a zero-emission last-mile delivery hub, and a first-of-its-kind real-time and forecasting curb parking app for commercial delivery drivers. Maybe that’s how we come up with a homegrown U.S. approach that works for our diverse physical and political landscape.

Here, we explore UFL member reflections to four innovative strategies presented and discussed at the spring meeting. We share overall reactions as well as questions and concerns raised about the challenges such strategies might face in a North American environment.

Recommended Citation:
“Lost in Translation? Considering Overseas Freight Planning Designs through a North American Lens.” Goods Movement 2030 (blog). Urban Freight Lab, May 15, 2023. https://www.goodsmovement2030.com/post/strategies-for-freight-planning-from-overseas.
Paper

Ecommerce and Logistics Sprawl: A Spatial Exploration of Last-Mile Logistics Platforms

 
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Publication: Journal of Transport Geography
Volume: 112
Publication Date: 2023
Summary:

The rise of ecommerce helped fuel consumer appetite for quick home deliveries. One consequence has been the placing of some logistics facilities in proximity to denser consumer markets. The trend departs from prevailing discussion on “logistics sprawl,” or the proliferation of warehousing into the urban periphery. This study spatially and statistically explores the facility- and region-level dimensions that characterize the centrality of ecommerce logistics platforms. Analyzing 910 operational Amazon logistics platforms in 89 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) between 2013 and 2021, this study estimates temporal changes in distances to relative, population centroids and population-weighted market densities. Results reveal that although some platforms serving last-mile deliveries are located closer to consumers than upstream distribution platforms to better fulfill time demands, centrality varies due to facility operating characteristics, market size, and when the platform opened.

Ecommerce has transformed the “consumption geography” of cities. These transformations have major implications for shopping behaviors and retail channels, last-mile operations and delivery mode choice, the management and pricing of competing uses for street and curb space, and the spatial ordering and functional role of logistics land uses. In the latter case, researchers have observed a diversification of logistics platforms to more efficiently serve home delivery demand. These platforms range from “dark stores” and “microfullfilment centers” that fulfill on-demand deliveries and omni-channeled retail without a consumer facing storefront, multi-use urban distribution centers that convert unproductive sites (e.g., abandoned rail depots) to more lucrative land uses, and “microhubs” that stage transloading between cargo vans and e-bicycles suited for dense urban neighborhoods.

Logistics spaces play an important role in improving urban livability and environmental sustainability. Planning decisions scale geographically from the region-level to the curb. Facilities such as urban consolidation centers and loading zones can mitigate common delivery inefficiencies, such as low delivery densities and “cruising” for parking, respectively. These inefficiencies generate many negative externalities including climate emissions, air and noise pollution, congestion, and heightened collision risks, especially for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and bicyclists. Limited commercial data has made it difficult, however, to observe spatial patterns with regards to ecommerce logistics platforms.

Using detailed proprietary data, this paper explores the evolving spatial organization of ecommerce logistics platforms. Given the company’s preeminence as the leading online retailer in the U.S., the paper presents Amazon as a case study for understanding warehousing and distribution (W&D) activity in the larger ecommerce space. Utilizing proprietary data on Amazon logistics facilities between 2013 and 2021, this research explores the geographic shape and explanatory dimensions of ecommerce within major U.S. metropolitan areas. In the following section, this study defines the state of research related to broader W&D land use and its implications to ecommerce’s distinct consumption geography. Afterwards, two methodologies for measuring logistics centrality are tested: a temporally relative barycenter-based metric, the prevailing method in literature, and another GIS-based, population-weighted service distance metric. The two measurements reveal nuances between facility- and region-level differences in the spatial organization of ecommerce platforms, which has yet to be fully researched. After presenting results from an exploratory regression analysis, this study discusses implications for future urban logistics land use and transport decisions.

Recommended Citation:
Fried, T., & Goodchild, A. (2023). E-commerce and logistics sprawl: A spatial exploration of last-mile logistics platforms. Journal of Transport Geography, 112, 103692. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2023.103692
Paper

Seeking Equity and Justice in Urban Freight: Where to Look?

 
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Publication: Transport Reviews
Publication Date: 2023
Summary:

What do equity and social justice mean for urban freight planning and management? New Urban Freight Lab paper reviews transportation and mobility justice theory and finds that urban freight issues are absent from these discussions, which primarily concern passenger and personal mobility. When urban freight is considered, authors usually discuss topics such as emissions, pollution, congestion, noise, and collisions. This paper looks more in-depth at urban freight justice, including access to essential goods, community governance, employment opportunities and barriers, and regional and global perspectives.

Urban freight systems embed and reflect spatial inequities in cities and imbalanced power structures within transport decision-making. These concerns are principal domains of “transportation justice” (TJ) and “mobility justice” (MJ) scholarship that have emerged in the past decade. However, little research exists situating urban freight within these prevailing frameworks, which leaves urban freight research on socio-environmental equity and justice ill-defined, especially compared to passenger or personal mobility discussions. Through the lens that derives from TJ and MJ’s critical dialogue, this study synthesizes urban freight literature’s engagement with equity and justice.

Namely, the review evaluates:

  • How do researchers identify equitable distributions of urban freight’s costs and benefits?
  • At what scale do researchers evaluate urban freight inequities?
  • And who does research consider entitled to urban freight equity and how are they involved in urban freight governance?

The findings help inform researchers who seek to reimagine urban freight management strategies within broader equity and justice discourse.

Decades-long growth in urbanization and the more recent surge in e-commerce have spurred concerns around the uneven impacts of freight’s swelling urban footprint. Transport scholars note increasing conflicts between freight vehicles and vulnerable road users, like bicyclists and pedestrians in dense urban areas. Meanwhile, environmental justice (EJ) scholars have long measured unequal exposure to freight traffic pollution along socio-economic and ethnic lines.

However, relatively few urban freight studies engage with social equity. Those that do usually avoid critical discussions contained in justice-oriented theory, instead portraying the movement of goods as an “apolitical science of circulation”. In the U.S., for instance, politicizing urban freight overlooks a history of city industrial zoning practices, infrastructure construction, exclusionary decision-making, and consequent path dependency that placed key logistics facilities including highways, manufacturing plants, warehouses and distribution centers disproportionately near low-income households and non-white, populations of color. The longitudinal effects of these institutional decisions are still largely visible today.

Transportation research also inconsistently defines and measures equity. In a review of equity in transportation literature, Lewis et al. describe equity as an empty conceptual space that “authors then fill … either explicitly with clearly defined arguments or implicitly with whatever idea of justice intuitively comes to mind” (p. 2). Arbitrarily engaging with equity concepts, the authors argue, creates confusion that is both normative (e.g. what does an equitable urban freight system look like?) and positive (e.g. what measurable thresholds determine whether an urban freight outcome is inequitable?). Consequently, most equity research measure unequal distributions of burdens and/or benefits but spend less time identifying when and why unequal distributions are unjust.

Therefore, this paper synthesizes prevailing discourse around equity and, by extension, justice in transportation research and urban freight literature.

Authors: Travis FriedDr. Anne Goodchild, Ivan Sanchez Diaz (Chalmers University), Michael Browne (Gothenburg University)
Recommended Citation:
Travis Fried, Anne Goodchild, Michael Browne & Ivan Sanchez-Diaz (2023). Seeking Equity and Justice in Urban Freight: Where to Look? Transport Reviews, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01441647.2023.2247165
Chapter

Overview on Stakeholder Engagement

Publication: Handbook on City Logistics and Urban Freight
Publication Date: 2023
Summary:

Until recently, urban transport authorities often overlooked freight, concentrating their attention on the movement of people. Even when motivated to tackle urban freight, many city authorities find it difficult to mobilize their own resources, and address the complex set of differing views of a large variety of stakeholders.

Historically, the role of city authorities, or local authorities within cities, has been confined largely to one of regulation as opposed to collaborative planning. Correspondingly, until recently there has been limited engagement of private companies in the local-authority transport-planning process.

Engaging stakeholders is very important as without their involvement it is very difficult to motivate changes in the urban freight and logistics system or design policies that might be mutually beneficial; successful implementation of effective urban logistics initiatives demands a solid understanding of both freight activity and the supply chains serving the urban area.

This chapter examines these issues and addresses how cities can more effectively engage with stakeholders. There is a strong need to identify obstacles, propose solutions and define implementation paths that consider the concerns of all stakeholders involved. This sounds rather straightforward but in practice there are many conflicts among and within public and private-interest groups and these often result in obstacles to success.

This chapter will address the range of complex issues involved and establish a framework for understanding the options related to stakeholder engagement to improve urban freight sustainability.

Authors: Dr. Anne Goodchild, Michael Browne (University of Gothenburg)
Recommended Citation:
Michael Browne & Anne Goodchild, 2023. "Overview on stakeholder engagement," Chapter in: Edoardo Marcucci & Valerio Gatta & Michela Le Pira (ed.), Handbook on City Logistics and Urban Freight, chapter 15, pages 311-326, Edward Elgar Publishing.
Chapter

Success Factors for Urban Logistics Pilot Studies

Publication: The Routledge Handbook of Urban Logistics
Publication Date: 2023
Summary:

The last mile of delivery is undergoing major changes, experiencing new demand and new challenges. The rise in urban deliveries amid the societal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected urban logistics. The level of understanding is increasing as cities and companies pilot strategies that pave the way for efficient urban freight practices. Parcel lockers, for instance, have been shown to reduce delivery dwell times with such success that Denmark increased its pilot program of 2,000 lockers to 10,000 over the past two years. This chapter focuses on challenges faced during those pilots from technical, managerial and operational perspectives, and offers examples and lessons learned for those who are planning to design and/or run future pilot tests. On-site management proved to be critical for locker operations.

Recommended Citation:
Ranjbari, Andisheh & Goodchild, A & Guzy, E. (2023). Success Factors for Urban Logistics Pilot Studies. 10.4324/9781003241478-27.