Skip to content
Report

Evaluation of Sound Transit Train Stations and Transit-Oriented Development Areas for Common Carrier Locker Systems (Executive Summary)

 
Download PDF  (1.66 MB)
Publication Date: 2018
Summary:

The rapid expansion of ecommerce has flooded American cities with delivery trucks, just as those cities are experiencing booming population growth. Retailers need a more efficient, reliable, and cost-effective way to deliver goods in increasingly crowded urban environments. For their part, cities like Seattle want to minimize traffic congestion, both sustain quality of life for residents and ensure a smooth flow of goods and services.

Common carrier parcel lockers hold tremendous potential for streamlining the urban goods delivery system and addressing these challenges. This research study explores the viability of providing public right of way for common carrier lockers at or near transit stations in Seattle, a ground-breaking step toward improving freight delivery in the city’s fast-growing urban core.

Recommended Citation:
Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center. (2018) Evaluation of Sound Transit Train Stations and Transit Oriented Development Areas for Common Carrier Locker Systems (Executive Summary)
Report

The Final 50 Feet of the Urban Goods Delivery System (Final Report)

 
Download PDF  (6.73 MB)
Publication Date: 2018
Summary:

Urban Freight Lab’s foundational report is the first assessment in any American city of the privately-owned and operated elements of the Final 50 Feet of goods delivery supply chains (the end of the supply chain, where delivery drivers must locate both parking and end customers). These include curb parking spaces, private truck freight bays and loading docks, street design, traffic control, and delivery policies and operations within buildings.

Goods delivery is an essential but little-noticed activity in urban areas. For the last 40 years, deliveries have been mostly performed by a private sector shipping industry that operates within general city traffic conditions. However, in recent years e-commerce has created a rapid increase in deliveries, which implies an explosion of activity in the future.

Meeting current and future demand is creating unprecedented challenges for shippers to meet both increased volumes and increasing customer expectations for efficient and timely delivery. Anecdotal evidence suggests that increasing demand is overwhelming goods delivery infrastructure and operations. Delivery vehicles parked in travel lanes, unloading taking place on crowded sidewalks, and commercial truck noise during late night and early morning hours are familiar stories in urban areas.

These conditions are noticeable throughout the City of Seattle as our population and employment rapidly increase. However, goods delivery issues are particularly problematic in Seattle’s high-density areas of Downtown, Belltown, South Lake Union, Pioneer Square, First Hill, Capitol Hill and Queen Anne, described as Seattle’s “Center City”. Urban goods transportation makes our economy and quality of life possible.

As the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) responds to the many travel challenges of a complex urban environment, we recognize that goods delivery needs to be better understood and supported to retain the vitality and livability of our busiest neighborhoods.

U.S. cities do not have much information about the urban goods delivery system. While public agencies have data on city streets, public transportation and designated curbside parking, the “final 50 feet” in goods delivery also utilizes private vehicles, private loading facilities, and privately-owned and operated buildings outside the traditional realm of urban planning.

Bridging the information gap between the public and private sectors requires a new way of thinking about urban systems. Specifically, it requires trusted data sharing between public and private partners, and a data-driven approach to asking and answering the right questions, to successfully meet modern urban goods delivery needs.

The Urban Freight Lab (UFL) provides a standing forum to solve a range of short-term as well as long-term strategic urban goods problem solving, that provides evidence of effectiveness before strategies are widely implemented in the City.

Recommended Citation:
Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center. (2018) The Final 50 Feet of the Urban Goods Delivery System.
Report

NYC Zero-Emissions Urban Freight and Green Loading Zones Market Research

 
Download PDF  (3.99 MB)
Publication Date: 2022
Summary:

In an effort to reduce emissions from last-mile deliveries and incentivize green vehicle adoption, The New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) is seeking to implement a Green Loading Zone (GLZ) pilot program. A Green Loading Zone is curb space designated for the sole use of “green” vehicles, which could include electric and alternative fuel vehicles as well as other zero-emission delivery modes like electric-assist cargo bikes. To inform decisions about the program’s siting and regulations, this study was conducted by the University of Washington’s Urban Freight Lab (UFL) in collaboration with NYC DOT under the UFL’s Technical Assistance Program.

The study consists of three sources of information, focusing primarily on input from potential GLZ users, i.e., delivery companies. An online survey of these stakeholders was conducted, garnering 13 responses from 8 types of companies. Interviews were conducted with a parcel carrier and an electric vehicle manufacturer. Additionally, similar programs from around the world were researched to help identify current practices. The major findings are summarized below, followed by recommendations for siting, usage restriction and pricing of GLZs. It is important to note that these recommendations are based on the survey and interview findings and thus on benefits to delivery companies. However, other important factors such as environmental justice, land use patterns, and budgetary constraints should be considered when implementing GLZs.

Literature Review Findings

Green Loading Zones are a relatively novel approach to incentivizing electric vehicle (EV) adoption. Two relevant pilot programs exist in the United States, one in Santa Monica, CA and the other one in Los Angeles, CA. Both are “zero-emission” delivery programs, meaning alternative fuel vehicles that reduce emissions (compared to fossil fuel vehicles) are not included in the pilot’s parking benefits (dedicated spaces and free parking). Other cities including Washington, DC and Vancouver, Canada are also creating truck-only zones and dedicating parking to EVs in their efforts to reduce emissions. Bremen, Germany also has a similar program called an Environmental Loading Point.

Many cities in Europe are implementing low- or zero-emission zones. These are different than GLZs in that entire cities or sections of cities are restricted to vehicles that meet certain emissions criteria. London, Paris, and 13 Dutch municipalities are all implementing low-emission zones. These zones have achieved some success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions: in London, CO2 from vehicles has been reduced by 13 percent. Companies operating in those cities have opted to purchase cleaner vehicles or to replace trucks with alternative modes like cargo bikes. In addition to demonstrating similar goals as NYC DOT, these programs provide insights to the siting and structure of GLZs. Loading zones have been selected based on equity concerns, delivery demand, and commercial density. Every city in the literature review has installed specific signage for the programs to clearly convey the regulations involved.

Survey and interview Findings

A range of company types replied to the survey: parcel carriers (large shippers), small shippers, e-commerce and retail companies, freight distributors, a truck dealer, a liquid fuel delivery company, and a logistics NYC  association (answering on behalf of members). The majority of these companies will be increasing their fleet sizes over the next ten years, and most plan to increase the share of EVs in their fleets while doing so. A smaller share (4 of 13) also plans to increase their share of alternative fuel vehicles. The most cited reasons for increasing fleet size and green vehicle share are: 1) internal sustainability goals, 2) social responsibility, and 3) new vehicles/models coming to the market.

Green vehicle adoption is not without its challenges. For EV adoption specifically, companies identified three major barriers: 1) competition in the EV market, 2) electric grid requirements upstream of company-owned facilities, and 3) lack of adequate government-supported purchasing subsidies. To overcome these barriers, respondents would like larger or more government purchasing incentives and reduced toll or parking rates for EVs. However, the majority of companies also expressed a willingness to pay for GLZs at similar rates to other commercial loading zones.

As for area coverage, all respondents deliver to Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. 11 of 13 deliver to Staten Island and the Bronx as well. All EV and cargo bike operators deliver to Manhattan, whereas only one EV operator and one cargo bike operator deliver to all five boroughs of NYC. Respondents deliver at all times of day, but the busiest times are between 9:00AM and 4:00PM (stated by 8 of 13 respondents). Peak periods are busiest for four companies in the morning (6:00AM-9:00AM) and six companies in the evening (4:00PM-9:00PM).

The interviews supported findings from the survey. Both interviewed companies have a vested interest in reducing their environmental footprint and plan to use or produce exclusively zero-emission vehicles by 2050 (carrier) or 2035 (manufacturer). However, they noted challenges to electrifying entire fleets for cities. Charging infrastructure needs to be expanded, but incentives are also needed (parking benefits, subsidies, expedited permitting) to make the market viable for many delivery companies.

Recommendations

The preceding findings informed four key recommendations:

  • GLZs should be made available to multiple modes: green vehicles and cargo bikes. Adequate curb space might be needed to accommodate multiple step-side vans plus a small vehicle and cargo bikes, but this should be balanced against curb utilization rates and anticipated dwell times to maximize curb use.
  • Explore piloting GLZs in Lower Manhattan and commercial areas of Midtown Manhattan; they could be the most beneficial locations for the pilot according to survey respondents.
  • The preferred layout for GLZs is several spaces distributed across multiple blocks.
  • DOT can charge for the GLZ use. It is recommended that rates not exceed current parking prices in the selected neighborhood, but some companies are willing to pay a modest increase over that rate to avoid parking tickets.

 

Recommended Citation:
Urban Freight Lab (2022). NYC Zero-Emissions Urban Freight and Green Loading Zones Market Research.
Report

Mapping the Challenges to Sustainable Urban Freight

 
Download PDF  (2.29 MB)
Publication Date: 2022
Summary:

Just as there has been a push for more climate-friendly passenger travel in recent years, that same push is building for freight travel. At the same time ecommerce is booming and goods delivery in cities is rising, sustainability has become a policy focus for city governments and a corporate priority for companies.

Why? Cities report being motivated to be responsive to residents, businesses, and the goals of elected leaders. Companies report being motivated by cost reduction, efficiency, branding and customer loyalty, and corporate responsibility.

For its part, Amazon in 2019 pledged to become a net-zero carbon business by 2040. In the wake of that pledge, Amazon financially supported this Urban Freight Lab research examining two key questions:

  1. What is the current state of sustainable urban freight planning in the United States?
  2. What are the challenges to achieving a sustainable urban freight system in the United States and Canada?

Because the research literature reveals that denser, more populous cities are the areas most impacted by climate change, we focused our analysis on the 58 cities representing the largest, densest, and fastest-growing cities in the U.S. found within the nation’s 25 largest, densest, and fastest-growing metro areas. Our population, growth, and density focus resulted in heavy concentration in California, Texas, and Florida and light representation in the Midwest.

Within those 58 cities, we reviewed 243 city planning documents related to transportation and conducted 25 interviews with public and private stakeholders. We intentionally sought out both the public and private sectors because actors in each are setting carbon-reduction goals and drafting plans and taking actions to address climate change in the urban freight space.

In our research, we found that:

  1. The overwhelming majority of cities currently have no plans to support sustainable urban freight. As of today, ten percent of the cities considered in this research have taken meaningful steps towards decarbonizing the sector.
  2. Supply chains are complex and the focus on urban supply chain sustainability is relatively new. This reality helps explain the myriad challenges to moving toward a sustainable urban freight system.
  3. For city governments, those challenges include a need to adapt existing tools and policy levers or create new ones, as well as a lack of resources and leadership to make an impact in the industry.
  4. For companies, those challenges include concerns about the time, cost, technology, and labor complexity such moves could require.

“Sustainability” can mean many things. In this research, we define sustainable urban freight as that which reduces carbon dioxide emissions, with their elimination—which we refer to as decarbonization—as the ultimate end goal. This definition represents just one environmental impact of urban freight and does not include, for example, noise pollution, NOx or SOx emissions, black carbon, or particulate matter.

We define urban freight as last-mile delivery within cities, including parcel deliveries made by companies like Amazon and UPS and wholesale deliveries made by companies like Costco and Pepsi. We do not include regional or drayage/port freight as those merely transit through cities and face distinct sustainability barriers.

Authors: Urban Freight Lab
Recommended Citation:
Urban Freight Lab (2022). Mapping the Challenges to Sustainable Urban Freight.
Report

The Seattle Neighborhood Delivery Hub Pilot Project: An Evaluation of the Operational Impacts of a Neighborhood Delivery Hub Model on Last-Mile Delivery

 
Download PDF  (2.98 MB)
Publication Date: 2021
Summary:

As one of the nation’s first zero-emissions last-mile delivery pilots, the Seattle Neighborhood Delivery Hub served as a testbed for innovative sustainable urban logistics strategies on the ground in Seattle’s dense Uptown neighborhood. Providers could test and evaluate new technologies, vehicles, and delivery models — all in service of quickly getting to market new more fuel- and resource-efficient solutions, reducing emissions and congestion, and making our cities more livable and sustainable.

These technologies are also an important part of the City of Seattle’s Transportation Electrification Blueprint, including the goal of transitioning 30% of goods delivery to zero emissions by 2030.

Recommended Citation:
Urban Freight Lab (2021). The Seattle Neighborhood Delivery Hub Pilot Project: An Evaluation of the Operational Impacts of a Neighborhood Delivery Hub Model on Last-Mile Delivery.
Report

Cargo E-Bike Delivery Pilot Test in Seattle

 
Download PDF  (2.98 MB)
Publication Date: 2020
Summary:

This study performed an empirical analysis to evaluate the implementation of a cargo e-bike delivery system pilot tested by the United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS) in Seattle, Washington. During the pilot, a cargo e-bike with a removable cargo container was used to perform last-mile deliveries in downtown Seattle. Cargo containers were pre-loaded daily at the UPS Seattle depot and loaded onto a trailer, which was then carried to a parking lot in downtown.

Data were obtained for two study phases. In the “before-pilot” phase, data were obtained from truck routes that operated in the same areas where the cargo e-bike was proposed to operate. In the “pilot” phase, data were obtained from the cargo e-bike route and from the truck routes that simultaneously delivered in the same neighborhoods. Data were subsequently analyzed to assess the performance of the cargo e-bike system versus the traditional truck-only delivery system.

The study first analyzed data from the before-pilot phase to characterize truck delivery activity. Analysis focused on three metrics: time spent cruising for parking, delivery distance, and dwell time. The following findings were reported:

  • On average, a truck driver spent about 2 minutes cruising for parking for each delivery trip, which represented 28 percent of total trip time. On average, a driver spent about 50 minutes a day cruising for parking.
  • Most of the deliveries performed were about 30 meters (98 feet) from the vehicle stop location, which is less than the length of an average blockface in downtown Seattle (100 meters, 328 feet). Only 10 percent of deliveries were more 100 meters away from the vehicle stop location.
  • Most truck dwell times were around 5 minutes. However, the dwell time distribution was right-skewed, with a median dwell time of 17.5 minutes.

Three other metrics were evaluated for both the before-pilot and the pilot study phases: delivery area, number of delivery locations, and number of packages delivered and failed first delivery rate. The following results were obtained:

  • A comparison of the delivery areas of the trucks and the cargo e-bike before and after the pilot showed that the trucks and cargo e-bike delivered approximately in the same geographic areas, with no significant changes in the trucks’ delivery areas before and during the pilot.
  • The number of establishments the cargo e-bike delivered to in a single tour during the pilot phase was found to be 31 percent of the number of delivery locations visited, on average, by a truck in a single tour during the before-pilot phase, and 28 percent during the pilot phase.
  • During the pilot, the cargo e-bike delivered on average to five establishments per hour, representing 30 percent of the establishments visited per hour by a truck in the before-pilot phase and 25 percent during the pilot.
  • During the pilot, the number of establishments the cargo e-bike delivered to increased over time, suggesting a potential for improvement in the efficiency of the cargo e-bike.
  • The cargo e-bike delivered 24 percent of the number of packages delivered by a truck during a single tour, on average, before the pilot and 20 percent during the pilot.
  • Both before and during the pilot the delivery failed rate (percentage of packages that were not delivered throughout the day) was approximately 0.8 percent. The cargo e-bike experienced a statistically significantly lower failed rate of 0.5 percent with respect to the truck fail rate, with most tours experiencing no failed first deliveries.

The above reported empirical results should be interpreted only in the light of the data obtained. Moreover, some of the results are affected by the fact that the pilot coincided with the holiday season, in which above average demand was experienced. Moreover, because the pilot lasted only one month, not enough time was given for the system to run at “full-speed.”

Recommended Citation:
Urban Freight Lab (2020). Cargo E-Bike Delivery Pilot Test in Seattle.
Report

The Final 50 Feet of the Urban Goods Delivery System: Completing Seattle’s Greater Downtown Inventory of Private Loading & Unloading Infrastructure (Phase 2)

 
Download PDF  (2.35 MB)
Publication Date: 2020
Summary:

This report describes the Urban Freight Lab (UFL) work to map the locations of all private loading docks, loading bays, and loading areas for commercial vehicles in Seattle’s First Hill and Capitol Hill neighborhoods and document their key design and capacity features, as part of our Final 50 Feet Research Program.

Taken together with the UFL’s earlier private freight infrastructure inventory in Downtown Seattle, Uptown, and South Lake Union, this report finalizes the creation of a comprehensive Greater Downtown inventory of private loading/unloading infrastructure. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) commissioned this work as part of its broader effort with UFL to GIS map the entire Greater Downtown commercial load/unload network, which includes alleys, curbs and private infrastructure.

The research team could find no published information on any major U.S. or European city that maintains a database with the location and features of private loading/unloading infrastructure (meaning, out of the public right of way): Seattle is the first city to do so.

By supporting and investing in this work, SDOT demonstrates that it is taking a high-level conceptual view of the entire load/unload network. The city will now have a solid baseline of information to move forward on myriad policy decisions. This commitment to creating a private load/unload infrastructure inventory is significant because infrastructure is often identified as an essential element in making urban freight delivery more efficient. But because these facilities are privately owned and managed, policymakers and stakeholders lack information about them—information critical to urban planning. By and large, this private infrastructure has been a missing piece of the urban freight management puzzle. The work represented in this section fills a critical knowledge gap that can help advance efforts to make urban freight delivery more efficient in increasingly dense, constrained cities, like Seattle.

Without having accurate, up-to-date information on the full load/unload network infrastructure—including the private infrastructure addressed here—cities face challenges in devising effective strategies to minimize issues that hamper urban freight delivery efficiency, such as illegal parking and congestion. Research has shown that these issues are directly related to infrastructure (specifically, a lack thereof). (4) A consultant report for the New York Department of Transportation found that the limited data on private parking facilities for freight precluded development of solutions that reduce double parking, congestion and other pertinent last-mile freight challenges. (5) The report also found that the city’s off-street loading zone policy remained virtually unchanged for 65 years (despite major changes like the advent and boom of e-commerce.)

Local authorities often rely heavily on outside consultants to address urban freight transport issues because these authorities generally lack in-house capacity on urban freight. (6) Cities can use the replicable data-collection method developed here to build (and maintain) their own database of private loading/unloading infrastructure, thereby bolstering their in-house knowledge and planning capacity. Appendix C includes a Step-by-Step Toolkit for a Private Load/Unload Space Inventory that cities, researchers, and other parties can freely use.

The method in that toolkit builds—and improves—on the prior data-collection method UFL used to inventory private infrastructure in the dense urban neighborhoods of Downtown Seattle, Uptown and South Lake Union in early 2017 (Phase 1). The innovative, low-cost method ensures standardized, ground-truthed, high-quality data and is practical to carry out as it does not require prior permission and lengthy approval times to complete.

This inventory report’s two key findings are:

  1. Data collectors in this study identified, examined, and collected key data on 92 private loading docks, bays and areas across 421 city blocks in the neighborhoods of Capitol Hill, First Hill, and a small segment of the International District east of I-5. By contrast, the early 2017 inventory in Downtown Seattle, Uptown, and South Lake Union identified 246 private docks, bays and areas over 523 blocks—proportionally more than twice the density of private infrastructure of Capitol Hill and First Hill. This finding is not surprising. While all the inventoried neighborhoods are in the broad Greater Downtown, they are fundamentally different neighborhoods with different built environments, land use, and density. Variable demand for private infrastructure—and the resulting supply—stems from those differences.
  2. A trust relationship with the private sector is essential to reduce uncertainty in this type of work. UFL members added immense value by ground-truthing this work and playing an active role in improving inventory results. When data collectors in the field found potential freight loading bays with closed doors (preventing them from assessing whether the locations were, in fact, used for freight deliveries), UPS had their local drivers review the closed-door locations as part of their work in the Urban Freight Lab. The UPS review allowed the researchers to rule out 186 of the closed-door locations across this and the earlier 2017 data collection, reducing uncertainty in the total inventory from 33% to less than 1%.

This report is part of a broader suite of UFL research to date that equips Seattle with an evidence-based foundation to actively and effectively manage Greater Downtown load/unload space as a coordinated network. The UFL has mapped the location and features of the legal landing spots for trucks across the Greater Downtown, enabling the city to model myriad urban freight scenarios on a block-by-block level. To the research team’s knowledge, no other city in the U.S. or the E.U. has this data trove. The findings in this report, together with all the UFL research conducted and GIS maps and databases produced to date, give Seattle a technical baseline to actively manage the Greater Downtown’s load/unload network to improve the goods delivery system and mitigate gridlock.

The UFL will pilot such active management on select Greater Downtown streets in Seattle and Bellevue, Washington, to help goods delivery drivers find a place to park without circling the block in crowded cities for hours, wasting time and fuel and adding to congestion. (7) One of the pilot’s goals is to add more parking capacity by using private infrastructure more efficiently, such as by inviting building managers in the test area to offer off-peak load/unload space to outside users. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy under the Vehicles Technologies Office is funding the project.

The project partners will integrate sensor technologies, develop data platforms to process large data streams, and publish a prototype app to let delivery firms know when a parking space is open – and when it’s predicted to be open so they can plan to arrive when another truck is leaving. This is the nation’s first systematic research pilot to test proof of concept of a functioning system that offers commercial vehicle drivers and dispatchers real-time occupancy data on load/unload spaces–and test what impact that data has on commercial driver behavior. This pilot can help inform other cities interested in taking steps to actively manage their load/unload network.

Actively managing the load/unload network is more imperative as the city grows denser, the e-commerce boom continues, and drivers of all vehicle types—freight, service, passenger, ride-sharing and taxis—jockey for finite (and increasingly valuable) load/unload space. Already, Seattle ranks as the sixth most-congested city in the country.

Recommended Citation:
Urban Freight Lab (2020). The Final 50 Feet of the Urban Goods Delivery System: Phase 2, Completing Seattle’s Greater Downtown Inventory of Private Loading/Unloading Infrastructure.
Report

The Final 50 Feet of the Urban Goods Delivery System: Tracking Curb Use in Seattle

 
Download PDF  (4.54 MB)
Publication Date: 2019
Summary:

Vehicles of all kinds compete for parking space along the curb in Seattle’s Greater Downtown area. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) manages use of the curb through several types of curb designations that regulate who can park in a space and for how long. To gain an evidence-based understanding of the current use and operational capacity of the curb for commercial vehicles (CVs), SDOT commissioned the Urban Freight Lab (UFL) at the University of Washington Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center to study and document curb parking in five selected Greater Downtown areas.

This study documents vehicle parking behavior in a three-by-three city block grid around each of five prototype Greater Downtown buildings: a hotel, a high-rise office building, an historical building, a retail center, and a residential tower. These buildings were part of the UFL’s earlier SDOT-sponsored research tracking how goods move vertically within a building in the final 50 feet.

The areas around these five prototype buildings were intentionally chosen for this curb study to deepen the city’s understanding of the Greater Downtown area.

Significantly, this study captures the parking behavior of commercial vehicles everywhere along the curb as well as the parking activities of all vehicles (including passenger vehicles) in commercial vehicle loading zones (CVLZs). The research team documented: (1) which types of vehicles parked in CVLZs and for how long, and; (2) how long commercial vehicles (CVs) parked in CVLZs, in metered parking, and in passenger load zones (PLZ) and other unauthorized spaces.

Four key findings, shown below, emerged from the research team’s work:

  1. Commercial and passenger vehicle drivers use CVLZs and PLZs fluidly: commercial vehicles are parking in PLZs, and passenger vehicles are parking in CVLZs. Passenger vehicles made up more than half of all vehicles observed parking in CVLZs (52%). More than one-quarter of commercial vehicle drivers parked in PLZs (26 %.) This fact supports more integrated planning for all curb space, versus developing standalone strategies for passenger vehicle and for commercial vehicle parking.
  2. Most commercial vehicle (CV) demand is for short-term parking: 15 or 30 minutes. Across the five locations, more than half (54%) of all CVs parked for 15 minutes or less in all types of curb spaces. Nearly three-quarters of all CVs (72%) parked for 30 minutes or less. When considering just the delivery CVs, an even higher percentage, 60%, parked for 15 minutes or less. Eighty-one percent of the delivery CVs parked for 30 minutes or less.
  3. Thirty-six percent of the total CVs parked along the curb were service CVs, showing the importance of factoring their behavior and future demand into urban parking schemes. In contrast to delivery CVs that predominately parked for 30 minutes or less, service CVs’ parking behavior was bifurcated. While 56% of them parked for 30 minutes or less, 44% parked for more than 30 minutes. And more than one quarter (27%) of the service CVs parked for an hour or more. Because service vehicles make up such a big share of total CVs at the curb, this may have an outsize impact on parking space turn rates at the curb.
  4. Forty-one percent of commercial vehicles parked in unauthorized locations. But a much higher percentage parked in unauthorized areas near the two retail centers (55% – 65%) when compared to the predominately office and residential areas (27% – 30%). The research team found that curb parking behavior is associated with granular, building-level urban land use. This occurred even as other factors such as the total number, length and ratio of CVLZs versus PLZs varied widely across the five study areas.

The occupancy study documents that each building and the built environment surrounding it has unique features that impact parking operations. As cities seek to more actively manage curb space, the study’s findings illuminate the need to plan a flexible network with capacity for distinct types (time and space requirements) of CV parking demand.

This study also drives home that the curb does not function in isolation, but instead forms one element of the Greater Downtown’s broader, interconnected load/unload network, which includes alleys, the curb, and private loading bays and docks. (1,2,3) SDOT commissioned this work as part of its broader effort with the UFL to map—and better understand—the entire Greater Downtown area’s commercial vehicle load/unload space network. Cities and other parties interested in the details of how to conduct a commercial vehicle occupancy study can see a step-by-step guide in Appendix C.

In this study, researchers deployed six data collectors to observe each curb study area for three days over roughly six weeks in October and December 2017. To make the data produced in this project as useful as possible, the research team designed a detailed vehicle typology to track specific vehicle categories consistently and accurately. The typology covers 10 separate vehicle categories, from various types of trucks and vans to passenger vehicles to cargo bikes. Passenger vehicles in this study were not treated as commercial vehicles, due to challenges in systematically identifying whether passenger vehicles were making deliveries or otherwise carrying a commercial permit.

The five prototype Seattle buildings studied are Seattle Municipal Tower (also the site of a common carrier parcel locker pilot), Dexter Horton, Westlake Center, and Insignia Towers. (4) The study shows how different building and land uses interact with the broader load/unload network. By collecting curb occupancy data in the same locations as their earlier work, the research team added a new layer of information to help the city evaluate—and manage—the Greater Downtown area load/unload network more comprehensively.

This report is part of a broader suite of UFL research to date that equips Seattle with an evidence-based foundation to actively and effectively manage Greater Downtown load/unload space as a coordinated network. The UFL has mapped the location and features of the legal landing spots for trucks across the Greater Downtown, enabling the city to model myriad urban freight scenarios on a block-by-block level. To the research team’s knowledge, no other city in the U.S. or the E.U. has this data trove. The findings in this report, together with all the UFL research conducted and GIS maps and databases produced to date, give Seattle a technical baseline to actively manage the Greater Downtown’s load/unload spaces as a coordinated network to improve the goods delivery system and mitigate gridlock.

The UFL will pilot such active management on select Greater Downtown streets in Seattle and Bellevue, Washington, to help goods delivery drivers find a place to park without circling the block in crowded cities for hours, wasting time and fuel and adding to congestion. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy under the Vehicles Technologies Office is funding the project. (5) The project partners will integrate sensor technologies, develop data platforms to process large data streams, and publish a prototype app to let delivery firms know when a parking space is open – and when it’s predicted to be open so they can plan to arrive when another truck is leaving. This is the nation’s first systematic research pilot to test proof of concept of a functioning system that offers commercial vehicle drivers and dispatchers real-time occupancy data on load/unload spaces–and test what impact that data has on commercial driver behavior. This pilot can help inform other cities interested in taking steps to actively manage their load/unload network.

Actively managing the load/unload network is more imperative as the city grows denser, the e-commerce boom continues, and drivers of all vehicle types—freight, service, passenger, ride-sharing and taxis—jockey for finite (and increasingly valuable) load/unload space. Already, Seattle ranks as the sixth most-congested city in the country.

The UFL is a living laboratory made up of retailers, truck freight carriers and parcel companies, technology companies supporting transportation and logistics, multifamily residential and retail/commercial building developers and operators, and SDOT. Current members are Boeing HorizonX, Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) – Seattle King County, curbFlow, Expeditors International of Washington, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Kroger, Michelin, Nordstrom, PepsiCo, Terreno, USPack, UPS, and the United States Postal Service (USPS).

Recommended Citation:
Urban Freight Lab (2019). The Final 50 Feet of the Urban Goods Delivery System: Tracking Curb Use in Seattle.
Report

Curbing Conflicts: Curb Allocation Change Project Report

 
Download PDF  (4.05 MB)
Publication Date: 2019
Summary:

Like many congested cities, Seattle is grappling with how best to manage the increasing use of ride-hailing services by Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft. According to a 2018 Seattle Times analysis, TNC ridership in the Seattle region has grown to more than five times the level it was in the beginning of 2015, providing, on average, more than 91,000 rides a day in 2018. And the newspaper reports Uber and Lyft trips are heavily concentrated in the city’s densest neighborhoods, where nearly 40,000 rides a day start in ZIP codes covering downtown, Belltown, Capitol Hill and South Lake Union.

This University of Washington (UW) study focuses on a strategy to manage TNC driver stops when picking up and dropping off passengers to improve traffic flow in the South Lake Union (SLU) area. SLU is the site of the main campus for Amazon, the online retail company. The site is known to generate a large number of TNC trips, and Amazon reports high rates of ride-hailing use for employee commutes. This study also found that vehicle picking-up/dropping-off passengers make up a significant share of total vehicle activity in SLU. The center city neighborhood is characterized by multiple construction sites, slow speed limits (25 mph), and heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Broad concerns about congestion, safety, and effective curb use led to this study, conducted by researchers at the UW’s Urban Freight Lab and Sustainable Transportation Lab. Amazon specifically was concerned about scarcity of curb space where TNC drivers could legally and readily stop to pick up and drop off passengers. Without dedicated load/unload curb space, TNC vehicles stop and wait at paid parking spots, other unauthorized curb spots, or in the travel lane itself, potentially blocking or slowing traffic. To try to mitigate the impacts of passenger pick-up/drop-off activity on traffic, the city proposed a strategy of increasing passenger loading zone (PLZ) spaces while Uber and Lyft implemented a geofence, which directs their drivers and passengers to designated pick-up and drop-off locations on a block. (Normally, drivers pick up or drop off passengers at any address a rider requests via the ride-hailing app.)

By providing ample designated pick-up and drop-off spots along the curb, the thinking goes, TNC drivers would reduce the frequency with which they stop in the travel lane to pick up or drop off passengers and the time they stay stopped there. By these measures, this study’s findings show the approach was successful. But it is important to note that the strategy is not a silver bullet for solving traffic congestion—nor is it designed as such. It is also important to note that any initiative to manage use of curbs and roads (by TNCs or others) is part of a city’s broader transportation policy framework and goals.

For this study, researchers analyzed an array of data on street and curb activity along three block-faces on Boren Ave N in December 2018 and January 2019. At a minimum, data were collected during the morning and afternoon peak travel times (with some collected 24 hours a day). The research team collected data using video and sensor technology as well as in-person observation. Researchers also surveyed TNC passengers for demographic, trip-related and satisfaction data. The five Amazon buildings in the area studied house roughly 8,650 employees. Researchers collected data in three stages. Phase 1, the study baseline, was before PLZs were added and geofencing started. Phase 2 was after the new PLZs were added, expanding total PLZ curb length from 20 feet (easily filled by one to two vehicles) to 274 feet. Phase 3 was after geofencing was added to the expanded PLZs. The added PLZ spaces were open to any passenger vehicle—not just TNC vehicles—weekdays from 7am to 10am and 2pm to 7pm. (Permitted food trucks were authorized from 10am to 2pm.)

Note that while other cities can learn from this analysis, the findings apply to streets with comparable traffic speed, mix of roadway users, and street design.

The study’s main findings include:

  • A significant percentage of vehicles performing a pick-up/drop-off stop in the travel lane. Those in-lane stops appear connected to the lack of available designated curb space: Adding PLZs and geofencing increased driver compliance in stopping at the curb versus stopping in the travel lane to load and unload passengers. But it was not lack of curb space alone that influenced driver activity: Between 7 percent and 10 percent of drivers still stopped in the travel lane even when PLZs were empty. After adding PLZs and geofencing, in-lane stops fell from 20 percent to 14 percent for pick-ups and from 16 percent to 15 percent for drop-offs.
  • Adding PLZs and geofencing reduced the average amount of time drivers stopped to load and unload passengers. For example, 90 percent of drop-offs took less than 1 minute 12 seconds, 42 seconds faster than the average with the added PLZs alone.
  • While curb occupancy increased after adding PLZs and geofencing, occupancy results show the current allocation of PLZ spaces is more than what is needed to meet observed demand: Average PLZ occupancy remained under 20 percent after PLZ expansion, even during peak commute hours.
  • Vehicles picking-up/dropping-off passengers account for a significant share of total traffic volume in the study area: during peak hours the observed average percentage of vehicles performing a pick-up/drop-off with respect to the total traffic volume was 29 percent (in Phase 1), 32 percent (in Phase 2) and 39 percent (in Phase 3).
  • High volumes of pedestrians (400-500 per hour on average) cross the street at points where there was no crosswalk. Passengers picked-up/dropped-off constituted a fraction (five to seven percent) of those pedestrians, but high rates of passengers (30 to 40 percent) cross the street at non-crosswalk locations.
  • Adding PLZs and geofencing did not have a significant impact on traffic safety. Researchers found no significant change in the number of observed conflicts from baseline to the addition of PLZs and geofencing. Conflicts are situations where a vehicle, bike, or pedestrian is interrupted, forced to alter their path, or engaged in a near-miss situation. Conflicts include vehicles passing in the oncoming traffic lane. • Adding PLZs and geofencing also did not produce a significant impact on roadway travel speed.
  • Of the 116 TNC passengers surveyed in the study area:
    • Roughly 40 percent to 50 percent said their trip was work related. More than half said they used ride-hailing service at least once a week and 70 percent or more used TNC alone (versus in combination with other transportation options) to get from their origin to their destination.
    • Most responded positively to the added PLZs and geofence: 79 percent rated their pick-up satisfactory and 100 percent rated their drop-off satisfactory as compared to 72 percent and 89 percent in the baseline.
    • Nearly half said they would have taken transit and one-third would have walked if ride-hailing was not available.
    • 40 percent requested a shared TNC vehicle in Phase 1 and 47 percent in Phase 3.

The study suggests that while vehicles picking-up/dropping-off passengers account for a significant share of traffic volume in SLU, they are not the primary cause of congestion. Myriad factors impact neighborhood congestion, including high vehicle volume overall and bottlenecks moving out of the neighborhood onto regional arterials. As researchers observed in the afternoon peak, these bottlenecks cause spillbacks onto local streets. Amazon garages exit vehicles onto streets that then feed into these clogged arterials.

Regarding traffic safety in SLU, this study was not designed to assess whether TNC driver behavior on average is safer or less safe than that of other vehicles. It is important to understand the safety and speed findings in the context of the SLU traffic environment. Drivers tend to drive at relatively slow speeds, navigating around high pedestrian and jaywalking volumes, and seem relatively comfortable stopping in the middle of the street for short periods of time. Due to the nature of area traffic, this seems to have relatively little impact on other drivers. Drivers appear to anticipate both this behavior and the high volumes of vehicles moving onto/off the curb and into/out of driveways and alleys.

Whether the strategy this study analyzed is recommended depends on a city’s transportation goals and approach. The researchers found the increased PLZ allocation and geofencing strategy worked in that it improved driver compliance, reduced dwell times, and boosted TNC user satisfaction. However, this may encourage commuters to use TNC. The passenger survey clearly shows that TNC service is attracting passengers who would have otherwise walked or used transit. While in the short term the increased PLZs and geofencing had a positive effect on traffic, if this induces TNC demand, there could be larger, more negative long-term consequences. If the end goal is to reduce traffic congestion, measures to reduce—rather than encourage—TNC and passenger car use as the predominant mode of commuting will yield the most substantial benefits.


In the news:

Geekwire: As Uber and Lyft pick-ups and drop-offs clog traffic, new study calls load zones a move in right direction

The Seattle Times: Seattle Uber and Lyft drivers often stop in the street to pick up or drop off riders. Here’s a way to reduce that.

Recommended Citation:
Goodchild, Anne. Giacomo dalla Chiara. Jose Luis Machado. Andisheh Ranjbari. (2019) Curb Allocation Change Project.
Report

Seattle Center City: Alley Infrastructure Inventory and Occupancy Study

 
Download PDF  (2.84 MB)
Publication Date: 2018
Summary:

The Supply Chain and Transportation Logistics (SCTL) Center conducted an alley inventory and truck load/unload occupancy study for the City of Seattle. Researchers collected data identifying the locations and infrastructure characteristics of alleys within Seattle’s One Center City planning area, which includes the downtown, uptown, South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, and First Hill urban centers. The resulting alley database includes GIS coordinates for both ends of each alley, geometric and traffic attributes, and photos. Researchers also observed all truck load/unload activity in selected alleys to determine minutes vacant and minutes occupied by trucks, vans, passenger vehicles, and cargo bikes. The researchers then developed alley management recommendations to promote safe, sustainable, and efficient goods delivery and pick-up.

Key Findings:

The first key finding of this study is that more than 90% of Center City alleys are only one lane wide. This surprising fact creates an upper limit on alley parking capacity, as each alley can functionally hold only one or two vehicles at a time. Because there is no room to pass by, when a truck, van, or car parks it blocks all other vehicles from using the alley. When commercial vehicle drivers see that an alley is blocked they will not enter it, as their only way out would be to back up into street traffic. Seattle Municipal Code prohibits this, as well as backing up into an alley, for safety reasons.

When informed by the second key finding—68% of vehicles in the alley occupancy study parked there for 15 minutes or less—it is clear that moving vehicles through alleys in short time increments is the only reasonable path to increase productivity. As one parked vehicle operationally blocks the entire alley, the goal of new alley policies and strategies should be to reduce the amount of time alleys are blocked to additional users.

The study surfaces four additional key findings:

  1. 87% of all vehicles in the 7 alleys studied parked for 30 minutes or less. Given the imperative to move alley traffic quickly, vehicles that need more parking time must be moved out of the alleys and onto the curb where they don’t block others.
  2. 15% of alleys’ pavement condition is so poor that delivery workers can’t pass through with loaded hand carts.  Although trucks can drive over fairly uneven pavement without difficulty, it is not the case for delivery people walking with fully loaded handcarts.  The alley pavement rating was done with a qualitative visual inspection to identify obvious problems; more detailed measurements would be needed to fully assess conditions.
  3. 73% of Center City area alleys contain entrances to passenger parking facilities. Placing garage entrances in alleys has been a city policy goal for years. But it increases the frequency of cars in alleys and adds demands on alley use. Understanding why cars are queuing for passenger garages located off alleys, and providing incentives and disincentives to reduce that, would help make alleys more productive.
  4. Alleys are vacant about half of the time during the business day. While at first blush this suggests ample capacity, the fact that an alley can only hold one-to-two parked trucks at a time means alleys are limited operationally and therefore are not a viable alternative to replace the use of curb CVLZs on city streets.

These findings indicate that, due to the fixed alley width constraint, load/unload space inside Seattle’s existing Center City area alleys is insufficient to meet additional future demand.

Recommended Citation:
Urban Freight Lab (2018). Seattle Center City: Alley Infrastructure Inventory and Occupancy Study.