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"Although plenty of evidence has shown that vans that are servicing e-commerce are a growing contributor to traffic and congestion, consumers are also making less shopping trips using vehicles. This poses the question of whether e-commerce reduces traffic congestion," writes Cong Peng in the abstract for a paper published by the London School of Economics' Centre for Economic Performance.
Cong's research centers on Chinese e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba's Singles' Day, a discount event similar in nature to Cyber Monday. "I tracked hourly traffic congestion data in 94 Chinese cities in one week before and two weeks after the event," Cong writes.
The study found that a 10 percent increase in online retail accounted for a 1.4 percent drop in traffic congestion. That might not sound like much, but Cong also reports that "a welfare analysis conducted for Beijing suggests that the congestion relief effect has a monetary value of around 239 million dollars a year."