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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

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

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

What does an equitable and just freight system actually look like?

We asked UFL members this question at the summer 2022 quarterly meeting. Their responses, shown in the graphic below, cover a wide range of ideas and topics. Some define equity in terms of equal access to the numerous benefits a freight system brings; others call for a reduction in freight costs — like pollution, noise, and traffic — to historically marginalized people.

Members differ on who the appropriate stakeholders are when it comes to addressing equity in urban freight. Is it the public agencies and big companies currently driving zero-carbon transitions? The warehouse workers, owner-operators and migrant truck drivers? The customers who shop online? Or the families who live near warehouses and truck routes?

Addressing these challenges is no simple task. Such questions challenge the urban freight community to grapple with the implications of histories of injustices that remain visible in today’s freight networks. And it also challenges us to look beyond the purview of planners and policymakers and assess the active role logistics companies play in delivering equity. In fact, evidence suggests the C-suite does think seriously about justice both within and beyond the context of the company. These understandings can be a foundation for a more equitable freight system and creating a truly equitable city.

Authors: Travis Fried
Recommended Citation:
"Freight’s Role in Delivering Equitable Cities (Part I)" Goods Movement 2030 (blog). Urban Freight Lab, November 16, 2022. https://www.goodsmovement2030.com/post/delivering-equitable-cities-p1
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
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
Presentation

Ecommerce and Environmental Justice in Metro Seattle U.S.

 
Publication: Laboratoire Ville Mobilite Transport (City Transportation Mobility Laboratory), Paris
Publication Date: 2022
Summary:

The central research question for this project explores the distributional impacts of ecommerce and its implications for equity and justice.

The research aims to investigate how commercial land use affects people and communities. In 2018, U.S. warehouses surpassed office buildings as the primary form of commercial and industrial land use, now accounting for 18 billion square feet of floor space. Warehouses have experienced significant growth in both number and square footage, becoming the predominant land use in the U.S. Warehouse expansion has strategically sprawled from port areas to suburbs in order to get closer to populations and transportation access.

The research findings reveal a correlation between warehouse locations and lower-income communities, resulting in increased exposure to air pollution and triple the traffic associated with ecommerce. Conversely, higher-income populations experience the least exposure, despite making more than half of their purchases online compared to their lower-income counterparts.

Factors such as race and proximity to highways and warehouse locations emerge as stronger predictors of the volume of freight activity through ecommerce than individuals’ income levels or the number of orders placed. Going forward, there is an opportunity for retailers and distributors to take into account the health implications of warehouse placement, and governments can provide best practices to facilitate municipal coordination, particularly where local authorities may be unaware of the impacts.

Authors: Travis Fried