With a major increase in residential deliveries, new urban delivery challenges have also arrived. That’s due in part to the failures of urban planning and the nature of the trucking business. While matters of public policy like public transit, bike lanes, and walkability fall within the purview of planning boards and municipal departments of transportation, freight has always been a purely private-sector enterprise. That means cities don’t even have reliable data on the number of delivery trucks coursing through their streets. “Metro planning organizations do regular data collection on personal travel. We don’t have that equivalent for freight, and we don’t have good, metropolitan-scale data about goods movement. Surprise surprise, we don’t understand it very well,” says Anne Goodchild, director of the Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Recently, the center launched UW’s Urban Freight Lab, a new partnership between the university, the Seattle Department of Transportation, and private-sector delivery companies (including UPS). Founded in the fall, the lab’s job is to begin collecting some of that data. So far, Goodchild and a team of students are measuring dwell time (how long a delivery vehicle has to remain on the street) and failed deliveries (when a driver shows up somewhere to deliver a package but can’t because the recipient isn’t home and a signature is required). It’s the sort of data Seattle hopes to incorporate into an urban goods delivery strategy, one of the cornerstones of a “freight master plan” the city adopted last year.
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