Cities Must Act to Curb Delivery Van Congestion

With more and more products available for doorstep delivery, Janette Sadik-Khan argues that policymakers have to proactively face the imminent "delivery deadlock" and take control of curb management.

2 minute read

June 20, 2021, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Deliveries Truck

Philip Lange / Shutterstock

Former New York City transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, writing in Bloomberg CityLab, argues that cities must address the congestion and pollution caused by a growing number of delivery vehicles on city streets. "One online order can easily generate multiple vehicle trips via the U.S. Postal Service, UPS or private carriers to deliver even the tiniest items — a package of paper towels arrives in the morning, a box of cereal arrives midday and a 2.5-ounce tube of bike-chain lube is handed off in the afternoon. While we love to see the delivery person pull up with that must-have item," Khan writes, "we don’t love the trucks double- and triple-parked outside, blocking traffic, buses and bike lanes — not to mention the negative impact they have on the brick-and-mortar businesses struggling to stay open nearby."

A report from the National Association of City Transportation Officials, Bloomberg Associates, and the Pembina Institute "calls for urgent action by cities to ward off this gathering delivery deadlock" and suggests methods for managing freight movement, including "neighborhood-scale delivery hubs, loading zones that utilize pricing technology, citywide e-commerce charges and new systems that make the most of underused inland waterways." According to Khan, "It’s increasingly up to cities to take action and experiment" with programs like Santa Monica's "zero-emissions delivery zone," which gives "priority to zero-emission vehicles and more efficient delivery."

"Large and cumbersome delivery trucks are out of place on city streets, creating chaos and danger by blocking sightlines of people trying to cross the street." While this can be mitigated by compact delivery vehicles, Khan suggests that cities can implement policy-based solutions to manage the use of street and curb space more effectively. She points to resources like SharedStreets, a NACTO initiative "that creates detailed data maps of the vast curbside network, allowing cities to analyze, manage, price and allocate space depending on needs at specific times, days and on changing needs." Tools like this, Khan writes, "can help city leaders rein in the worst effects of today’s e-commerce boom, and protect residents and road users from whatever new disruption awaits."

Thursday, June 17, 2021 in Bloomberg CityLab

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