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With delivery traffic on the rise, cities revamp their urban logistics strategies

  •   2 min read
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Walk a few blocks in any modern city and you’ll see the problem. Packages piled on curbs. Double-parked trucks. Delivery workers struggling with hazardous conditions. And it’s not just inconvenient: this increased traffic congestion means longer commutes, more pollution, and inflated costs for businesses. Delivery traffic was already on the rise before COVID-19 led to an unprecedented boom in online business, with customers turning to delivery as a lockdown-necessity rather than a luxury. And the pandemic has only accelerated these trends — according to a recent McKinsey analysis, online commerce experienced the equivalent of 10 years’ worth of growth in just the first three months of the COVID era.

As traffic comes to a standstill and emissions continue to rise, cities need comprehensive strategies to streamline urban goods movement. These strategies will be critical to ensuring that new ways of shopping and managing just-in-time inventory are consistent with long term sustainability and equity.

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There is good news: cities around the world have begun implementing a wide range of pilot projects attempting to harmonize previously uncoordinated last-mile urban goods movement while reducing congestion and emissions. For example, New York City recently passed legislation creating loading-only curb space and testing new micro-distribution centers to keep large delivery vehicles off of neighborhood streets. Other cities have explored zero-emission delivery zones, digital curb management technologies, or supported multi-brand parcel lockers and off-peak hour delivery incentive programs.

These programs are a promising start, but are unlikely to be sufficient on their own to address a problem of this magnitude. Although cities are working hard to tackle individual elements of the delivery traffic boom, resources to help cities plan, implement, and analyze a comprehensive, coordinated strategy for managing that traffic have lagged behind. And since no two cities are the same, each urban logistics strategy needs to take into account the unique characteristics of a city and its streets. With a problem this complex — multiple private delivery operators, difficult-to-access data, and unpriced externalities from use of motor vehicles — there is no one-size-fits-all solution. 

As your city works to welcome new modes of commerce while improving its sustainability and equity, Via is here to help. We are a private mobility company with experience working with cities and public entities to operate complex transit services, deliver meals and goods to those in need during the pandemic, and design infrastructure and transit planning software. Our mission is to help communities thrive by keeping people and goods moving where they need to go. Via Strategies, our in-house planning and consulting team, has served as a trusted partner to dozens of mayors, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), business improvement districts, transportation departments, and transit agencies. As these groups continue to face new challenges, our team is proud to help them identify new technologies and policies that will make a real impact in their unique communities — and then bring those plans to life on the ground.

To learn how we can work together on your urban logistics strategy, send us a note at urbanlogistics@ridewithvia.com,

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