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High-Speed Delivery Linked to Increased Congestion and Pollution

It's not only mom and pop shops that suffer from over-reliance on online shopping: streets and the environment also suffer the consequences.
December 9, 2020, 9am PST | Lee Flannery | @leecflannery
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"Almost all the climate and congestion benefits of online shopping are wiped out by rush deliveries, a study finds — which could spell disaster for U.S. roadways this holiday season," reports Kea Wilson. 

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of California Davis ITS Institute for Transportation Research, finds that high demand for same-day delivery forces courier companies to send fleets of almost empty trucks to dwellings across the country. These less than ideal conditions lead to congestion and increased carbon emissions

Analysts from the University of California Davis ITS Institute for Transportation Research modeled how the rising popularity of same-day delivery might translate to delivery trucks on our roads and greenhouse gasses in our skies. Unsurprisingly, the faster a company races to deliver a package, the more likely it is to send inefficient, near-empty trucks to far-flung homes.

"The average vehicle miles travelled for a package that was delivered in an hour or less was seven times higher than for a package delivered in as little as 24 hours; per-package nitrogen oxide emissions, meanwhile, were about six times higher for customers who selected the fastest available shipping," Wilson writes. 

To remedy the situation, Wilson suggests that done right, a smaller, "slower, more local kind of online retail" could reduce VMT. The more online shopping becomes that status quo, however, the fewer small neighborhood shops an services are lost, argues Wilson.

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Published on Monday, December 7, 2020 in Streetsblog USA
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