Skip to content

Evaluating Spatial Inequity in Last-Mile Delivery: A National Analysis

Download PDF  (2.98 MB)
Publication: International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management
Publication Date: 2024

Despite large bodies of research related to the impacts of e-commerce on last-mile logistics and sustainability, there has been limited effort to evaluate urban freight using an equity lens. Therefore, this study proposes a modeling framework that enables researchers and planners to estimate the baseline equity performance of a major e-commerce platform and evaluate equity impacts of possible urban freight management strategies. The study also analyzes the sensitivity of various operational decisions to mitigate bias in the analysis.

The model adapts empirical methodologies from activity-based modeling, transport equity evaluation, and residential freight trip generation (RFTG) to estimate person- and household-level delivery demand and cargo van traffic exposure in 41 U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs).

Evaluating 12 measurements across varying population segments and spatial units, the study finds robust evidence for racial and socio-economic inequities in last-mile delivery for low-income and, especially, populations of color (POC). By the most conservative measurement, POC are exposed to roughly 35% more cargo van traffic than white populations on average, despite ordering less than half as many packages. The study explores the model’s utility by evaluating a simple scenario that finds marginal equity gains for urban freight management strategies that prioritize line-haul efficiency improvements over those improving intra-neighborhood circulations.

Presents a first effort in building a modeling framework for more equitable decision-making in last-mile delivery operations and broader city planning.

Authors: Travis FriedDr. Anne Goodchild, Ivan Sanchez Diaz (Chalmers University), Michael Browne (Gothenburg University)
Recommended Citation:
Fried, T., Goodchild, A.V., Sanchez-Diaz, I. and Browne, M. (2024), "Evaluating spatial inequity in last-mile delivery: a national analysis", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management.

New Urban Freight Developments and Land Use

Publication: Handbook on Transport and Land Use: A Holistic Approach in an Age of Rapid Technological Change
Volume: Chapter 22
Pages: 383-397
Publication Date: 2023

Urban freight denotes vehicle and commodity flows in an urban environment. These flows depend on a complex set of relationships among various stakeholders. In the last decades, urban freight has experienced an incredible pace of evolution, which has occurred due to various technological factors. One example is the ubiquity of internet access and the advance in information technology, leading to e-commerce adoption. Another is the development of algorithms to forecast demand, design and maintain supply chains and plan vehicle routes. In this chapter, we summarize critical changes in urban freight developments and land use. We highlight the interactions between passenger and freight travel, the recent shifts in freight flows and associated planning needs.

Authors: Dr. Giacomo Dalla Chiara, André Alho, Takanori Sakai
Recommended Citation:
Alho, André, Takanori Sakai, and Giacomo Dalla Chiara. "New urban freight developments and land use." Handbook on Transport and Land Use: A Holistic Approach in an Age of Rapid Technological Change (2023): 383.

Ecommerce and Environmental Justice in Metro Seattle

Download PDF  (8.55 MB)
Publication: Research in Transportation Economics
Volume: 103
Publication Date: 2023

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.
White Paper

Biking the Goods: How North American Cities Can Prepare for and Promote Large-Scale Adoption of E-Cargo Bikes

Download PDF  (1.79 MB)
Publication Date: 2023

The distribution of goods and services in North American cities has conventionally relied on diesel-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Recent developments in electromobility have provided an opportunity to reduce some of the negative externalities generated by urban logistics systems.

Cargo e-bikes — electric cycles specially designed for cargo transportation — represent an alternative environmentally friendly and safer mode for delivering goods and services in urban areas. However, lack of infrastructure, legal uncertainties, and a cultural and economic attachment to motorized vehicles has hindered their adoption. Cities play a crucial role in reducing these barriers and creating a leveled playing field where cargo e-bikes can be essential to urban logistics systems.

This paper aims to inform urban planners about what cargo e-bikes are, how they have been successfully deployed in North America to replace ICE vehicles, and identify actionable strategies cities can take to encourage their adoption while guaranteeing safety for all road users.

Gathering data and opinions from key public and private sector stakeholders and building on the expertise of the Urban Freight Lab, this paper identifies nine recommendations and 21 actions for urban planners across the following four main thematic areas:

  1. Infrastructure: cycling, parking infrastructure, and urban logistics hubs
  2. Policy and Regulation: e-bike law, safety regulation, and policies de-prioritizing vehicles
  3. Incentives: rebates and business subsidies
  4. Culture and Education: labor force training, educational programs, and community-driven adoption


The Urban Freight Lab acknowledges the following co-sponsors for financially supporting this research: Bosch eBike Systems, Fleet Cycles, Gazelle USA, Michelin North America, Inc., Net Zero Logistics, Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium (PacTrans) Region 10, Seattle Department of Transportation, and Urban Arrow.

Technical contributions and guidance: Amazon, B-Line (Franklin Jones), Cascade Bicycle Club, Coaster Cycles, City of Boston, City of Portland, Downtown Seattle Business Association (Steve Walls), New York City Department of Transportation, People for Bikes (Ash Lovell), Portland Bureau of Transportation, University of Washington Mailing Services (Douglas Stevens), UPS,

Recommended Citation:
Dalla Chiara, G., Verma, R., Rula, K., Goodchild, A. (2023). Biking the Goods: How North American Cities Can Prepare for and Promote Large-Scale Adoption of Cargo e-Bikes. Urban Freight Lab, University of Washington.

Success Factors for Urban Logistics Pilot Studies

Publication: The Routledge Handbook of Urban Logistics
Publication Date: 2023

The last mile of delivery is undergoing major changes, experiencing new demand and new challenges. The rise in urban deliveries amid the societal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected urban logistics. The level of understanding is increasing as cities and companies pilot strategies that pave the way for efficient urban freight practices. Parcel lockers, for instance, have been shown to reduce delivery dwell times with such success that Denmark increased its pilot program of 2,000 lockers to 10,000 over the past two years. This chapter focuses on challenges faced during those pilots from technical, managerial and operational perspectives, and offers examples and lessons learned for those who are planning to design and/or run future pilot tests. On-site management proved to be critical for locker operations.

Recommended Citation:
Ranjbari, Andisheh & Goodchild, A & Guzy, E. (2023). Success Factors for Urban Logistics Pilot Studies. 10.4324/9781003241478-27.

Urban Delivery Company Needs and Preferences for Green Loading Zones Implementation: A Case Study of NYC

Download PDF  (0.42 MB)
Publication: Proceedings of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Transportation and Development Conference 2022: Transportation Planning and Workforce Development
Publication Date: 2022

(This project is part of the Urban Freight Lab’s Technical Assistance Program, where UFL contributes to the project by providing 1:1 match funds in terms of staff and/or research assistants to complete project tasks.)

Green Loading Zones (GLZs) are curb spaces dedicated to the use of electric or alternative fuel (“green”) delivery vehicles. Some U.S. cities have begun piloting GLZs to incentivize companies to purchase and operate more green vehicles. However, there are several questions to be answered prior to a GLZ implementation, including siting, potential users and their willingness to pay. We reviewed best practices for GLZs around the world, and surveyed goods delivery companies operating in New York City to collect such information for a future GLZ pilot. The findings suggest the best candidate locations are areas where companies are currently subject to the most parking fines and double parking. Companies expressed willingness to pay for GLZs, as long as deploying green vehicles in the city can offset other cost exposures. Respondents also selected several single-space GLZs spread throughout a neighborhood as the preferred layout.

Recommended Citation:
Maxner, T., Goulianou, P., Ranjbari, A., and Goodchild, A. (2022). "Studying Urban Delivery Company Needs and Preferences for Green Loading Zones Implementation: A Case Study of NYC", In Proceedings of ASCE Transportation and Development Conference (Forthcoming), Seattle, WA.

An Evaluation of Logistics Sprawl in Chicago and Phoenix

Download PDF  (2.28 MB)
Publication: Journal of Transport Geography
Volume: 88
Publication Date: 2018

This paper evaluates whether or not there is a sprawling tendency to the spatial patterns of warehouse establishments in the Chicago and Phoenix metropolitan areas. The trend of warehouses to move away from the urban centers to more suburban and exurban areas is referred to as “Logistics Sprawl”. To measure sprawl, the barycenter of warehousing establishments was compared to the barycenter of all other industry establishments in the region between the years of 1998 and 2013 for Chicago; 1998 and 2015 for Phoenix. This shows that logistics sprawl is a behavior experienced by warehouses in the Chicago area, but not in the Phoenix area. This paper discusses if logistics sprawl is a national trend or a regional behavior by comparing these results to the previous case studies of the Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Seattle metropolitan areas.

Authors: Dr. Anne Goodchild, Melaku Dubie, Kai C. Kuo
Recommended Citation:
Dubie, Melaku, Kai C. Kuo, Gabriela Giron-Valderrama, and Anne Goodchild. (2018) An Evaluation of Logistics Sprawl in Chicago and Phoenix. Journal of Transport Geography, 88, 102298–.

Logistics Sprawl: Differential Warehousing Development Patterns in Los Angeles and Seattle

Download PDF  (0.91 MB)
Publication: Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board
Volume: 2410
Pages: 105-112
Publication Date: 2014

The warehousing industry experienced a period of rapid growth from 1998 to 2009. This paper compares how the geographic distribution of warehouses changed in both the Los Angeles and Seattle Metropolitan Areas over that time period. These two west coast cities were chosen due to their geographic spread and proximity to major ports as well as their difference in size. The phenomenon of logistics sprawl, or the movement of logistics facilities away from urban centers, which has been demonstrated in past research for the Atlanta and Paris regions, is examined for these two areas. The weighted geometric center of warehousing establishments was calculated for both areas for both years, along with the change in the average distance of warehouses to that center, an indicator of sprawl. We find that between 1998 and 2009, warehousing in Los Angeles sprawled considerably, with the average distance increasing from 25.91 to 31.96 miles, an increase of over 6 miles. However in Seattle, the region remained relatively stable, showing a slight decrease in average distance from the geographic center. Possible explanations for this difference are discussed.

Authors: Dr. Anne Goodchild, Laetitia Dablanc, Scott Ogilvie
Recommended Citation:
Dablanc, Laetitia, Scott Ogilvie, and Anne Goodchild. "Logistics sprawl: differential warehousing development patterns in Los Angeles, California, and Seattle, Washington." Transportation Research Record 2410, no. 1 (2014): 105-112. 

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

Download PDF  (3.99 MB)
Publication Date: 2022

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.


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.
Technical Report

Safe Truck Parking in PacTrans Interstate Corridors: I-5 and I-90

Download PDF  (1.46 MB)
Publication Date: 2018

Unresolved safety issues caused by truck parking shortages in high-demand locations are of keen importance to the State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) participating in the Regional PacTrans Center and to the thousands of trucking companies and drivers using the Interstate 5 (I-5) and Interstate 90 (I-90) corridors. Safety issues include serious and/or fatal crashes that may be related to the lack of safe and secure parking, and illegal/unofficial parking on entrance and exit ramps, shoulders, and freeway lanes that create hazards for motorists during severe weather.

WSDOT completed a statewide truck parking study in December 2016, and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) published a report on truck parking along the US97 corridor in July 2017. Both states are interested in addressing safety issues inherent in the current lack of truck parking capacity. Researchers at the Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center (SCTL) at the University of Washington developed this project’s research goals with WSDOT to support their work.


The project goals are to:
  • Provide data-based decision support to WSDOT and neighboring states as they develop solutions for the lack of safe truck parking along the I-5 and I-90 corridors.
  • Develop new and valuable insights from truck drivers’ expertise on safety problems resulting from the lack of truck parking capacity on these corridors.
To achieve these goals, the research team first conducted a research scan of existing studies and other online reports that describe the lack of parking in high-demand locations along the I-5 and I-90 corridors in the PacTrans region.

Future Trends 

SCTL identified three trends in the truck parking industry that will affect the truck parking shortage in the future:
  1. The rising cost of land in growing metropolitan areas will continue to intensify this problem. Rapidly increasing land costs create pressure on truck service firms to either create new revenue streams (charging for parking that was formerly included for ‘free’ along with retail fuel sales) or relocate further from metro centers if they cannot compete with higher-value land uses near highway interchanges. Also, manufacturing and wholesale facilities that generate a high number of truck trips will likely continue to maximize building footprints on parcels, reducing available land for on-site truck parking.
  2. Federal regulatory changes are likely to increase long-haul truck parking demand in the next 10 years. In the short term, the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate beginning in 2018 will change driver behavior. Although some long-haul drivers have not strictly followed federal Hours of Service (HOS) regulations in the past, under the new ELD mandate they are more likely to stop and park for required rest periods because it will be more difficult to evade detection. In the next 10 years, additional federal regulations may be enacted and shorten drivers’ HOS again, thereby increasing demand for more rest stops on the Interstate Highway System and other major truck routes.
  3. In the longer term, emerging autonomous and cooperative truck technologies that address driver fatigue are likely to reduce demand for truck stops in rural areas – but not near cities. The truck driver interviews conducted for this project show that drivers stop for business reasons, not just for safety rest periods.

Finally, SCTL conducted 184 interviews of truck drivers over a three-week time period at two high-demand truck stops on the I-5 and I-90 corridors to determine: (a) origin and destination of trips; (b) connection to the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma; (c) drivers’ perceptions of safety issues caused by a lack of truck parking; (d) types of commodities carried; and (e) why drivers parked at these rest stops.

Key Findings 

The SCTL Center’s research provides new data and insights to answer questions under discussion between state, local, and regional transportation agencies and communities in the central Puget Sound region. The research results supported development of the Washington State Freight Mobility Plan. However the project’s findings have not resulted in public funding for additional parking in high-demand locations near I5 and I-90.

One of the most topical questions is whether the state’s economy and/or the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma benefit from the truck trips that require rest stops near the Seattle-Tacoma Bellevue metropolitan area. This question is central to understanding their proportional roles and funding responsibilities to add parking capacity where it is scarce: in the central Puget Sound region.

  • The on-site truck driver survey showed that there is an extremely strong tie between truck parking activity and the state’s economy: 91% percent of trucks parked along I-90 (at TA Seattle East Travel Center in North Bend) and 87% of those parked along I-5 (at the Mustard Seed in Sumner) delivered goods to businesses and other customers within Washington State. The evidence belies the hypothesis that most trucks using parking facilities in Washington are passing through the state and therefore provide no economic value to it.
  • Most drivers using the two truck parking facilities in central Puget Sound were not going to either the Port of Seattle or Port of Tacoma. In fact, 83% of truck drivers parked near I-90 and 78% near I-5 did not go to either of the two container ports. Although port-related traffic uses iv the truck parking facilities, it is not the major cause of increased parking demand at these locations.
  • Why do truck drivers park in these facilities? Surprisingly, more park there – and park longer – for business reasons rather than for safety reasons. The largest group of drivers (34% of those interviewed at TA Seattle East and 36% at Mustard Seed) said their primary reason for the stop was to wait to meet a specific delivery time at their destination or wait to locate another load. When SCTL compared the number of hours parked with the primary reason for parking, it found that delivery operations were the largest driver for longer stays.

The research findings have been used to communicate the importance of providing truck parking in high-demand areas in Washington State, particularly near I-5 south of Seattle and along I-90 near North Bend, to local officials, WSDOT, and other state officials.

By an overwhelming margin, truck drivers who parked along I-5 and I90 near the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area delivered goods in Washington State, providing strong evidence that their activities support the state’s economy and residents.

Recommended Citation:
Giron-Valderrama, Gabriela, Barbara Ivanov, and Anne Goodchild. "Safe Truck Parking in PacTrans Interstate Corridors: I-5 and I-90." (2018).