Freight is essential to a city's economy, jobs and supplying homes and businesses.  -  Photo: Automotive Fleet / Canva

Freight is essential to a city's economy, jobs and supplying homes and businesses.

Photo: Automotive Fleet / Canva

In the age of e-commerce, the supply chain now stops at millions of front doors. And with that convenience comes a logistics nightmare. Cities worldwide are being overrun by urban freights, according to a report in The Seattle Times.

The media outlet's opinon article reports:

City streets and buildings are not designed to manage expanding fleets of trucks and vans bringing a daily flood of parcels. Freight is essential to Seattle’s economy, jobs and supplying homes and businesses.

It must grow safely and sustainably because left unchecked, it’s threatening the city’s priorities for sustainable density, Vision Zero and Carbon Neutral streets.

A new survey of Seattleites says urban freight is among their top transportation priorities, reports the Times.

To ensure mobility and minimize impacts, policies need to be updated for land use and transportation policies, with standards designed to keep streets moving and people safe. 

Five years ago, the University of Washington Urban Freight Lab predicted a doubling of goods deliveries and truck trips in the city center by 2023 — even with zero population growth.  But Seattle has grown and the pandemic only accelerated reliance on e-deliveries.

Today, a GPS study of 2,900 downtown delivery vehicles reveals 28% of their trip time is spent circling streets for parking, up to 18 extra minutes on some blocks.

As trucks and vans cruise streets for parking or double-park in streets and alleys causing other vehicles to circle, it quickly accumulates Vehicle Miles Traveled, or VMT.

VMT is a proxy for gauging greenhouse gas emissions and an area’s level of transportation safety, according to Fehr & Peers, a national consultancy that advises cities including Seattle. It finds areas with low VMT-generation rates have less frequent and severe collisions.

And with urban freight VMT rising, so have collisions.

Federal statistics show fatality rates for collisions on city streets and arterials growing at five times the rate of all vehicle crashes. The rate for nonfatal urban freight crashes has risen 40%.

Environmental costs are also steep. The national Urban Mobility Report on 101 U.S. cities ranks Seattle 11th in excess CO2 from trucks and 15th in annual truck delays and congestion costs, reports the Times.

In the densest city center neighborhoods, excessive freight VMT is a problem of supply and demand. There’s not enough on-and-off street infrastructure to support the rising number of delivery vehicles.

More curb parking lanes are being converted for bus and bike use while only 13% of buildings in the city center have off-street loading berths. To contain urban freight, buildings and streets must work together.

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