Research

Research Across Boundaries

The Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center produces transformative research and conducts pilot tests in urban goods delivery, sustainable freight, curbspace management, zero emission freight, and modeling freight activity.


Researchers pilot tested a common carrier locker system's ability to create delivery density in an urban tower in Seattle.
Photo by Urban Freight Lab.

Strategic Research Area: Urban Goods Delivery

We are focused on finding solutions to urban goods delivery problems through collaboration between the public and private sectors. Our current projects are piloting and evaluating the following specific strategies:

  • Microhub Operations: The focus of the Common Microhub project is to pilot a central drop-off/pick up location for interested UFL members to pilot various services in downtown Seattle. Possible activities available at the microhub space include: vehicle maintenance services, e-scooter rental and charging stations, urban parcel delivery services using e-bikes and smart locker systems, contactless vending kiosks, and ghost kitchens. These diverse uses of the microhub allow for 24/7 activation of the space and aim to reduce congestion and vehicle emissions in urban areas by the consolidation of trips and offering additional services conveniently located onsite.
  • Common Lockers: In contrast to branded lockers that are limited to a single retailer or carrier, common carrier locker systems may be accessed by any retailer, carrier, and purchaser. Lockers could create parcel delivery density by allowing carriers to leave packages in one secure location, provide secure delivery location in publicly accessible locations, reduce congestion and emissions caused by commercial vehicle trips, and make commercial load/unload parking more productive. Our research shows that a loading bay smart locker system could reduce the time delivery workers spend in an urban tower by up to 73%, eliminate failed first deliveries, and dramatically cut the mean truck dwell time in parking spaces serving the tower.
  • Cargo Bike Delivery: Cargo e-bikes are two/three/four-wheeled vehicles with cargo carrying capacity. Since they are human-powered and often have an electric pedal assist, they are an alternative mode of delivering goods in dense urban areas. They present several advantages with respect to the traditional modes of urban freight: they are more agile in navigating traffic, they occupy less space, and can potentially park anywhere. However, previous studies and pilots showed mixed results. The Urban Freight Lab has been collecting and analyzing data from cargo bike pilot studies and simulation to address questions on their operational efficiency, sustainability and safety.
  • Integrated Freight and Passenger Planning: Although passenger and freight transport share infrastructure, predominantly in urban areas, they are largely seen as different systems and remain separate, wasting scarce resources and contributing to congestion and the last mile problem. 

Strategic Research Area: The Final 50 Feet: Optimizing the Last Leg of the Urban Goods Delivery System

We coined the term "Final 50 Feet" and defined it as the supply chain segment that begins when a delivery vehicle pull into a parking space and stop moving—in public load/unload spaces at the curb or in an alley, or in a building’s loading dock or internal freight bay. It tracks the delivery process inside buildings, and ends where the customer takes receipt of their goods. This research is analyzing processes, developing potential solutions, and piloting operational improvements in the Final 50 Feet of the urban goods delivery system.

Strategic Research Area: Sustainable Freight

We focus on areas of overlap between private freight operations and public space in an effort to find solutions that will improve urban environments for city dwellers and encourage efficient, sustainable business operations. Our current projects are piloting and evaluating these specific strategies: 

  • Microhub Operations: The focus of the Common Microhub project is to pilot a central drop-off/pick up location for interested UFL members to pilot various services in downtown Seattle. Possible activities available at the microhub space include: vehicle maintenance services, e-scooter rental and charging stations, urban parcel delivery services using e-bikes and smart locker systems, contactless vending kiosks, and ghost kitchens. These diverse uses of the microhub allow for 24/7 activation of the space and aim to reduce congestion and vehicle emissions in urban areas by the consolidation of trips and offering additional services conveniently located onsite.

  • Common Lockers: In contrast to branded lockers that are limited to a single retailer or carrier, common carrier locker systems may be accessed by any retailer, carrier, and purchaser. Lockers could create parcel delivery density by allowing carriers to leave packages in one secure location, provide secure delivery location in publicly accessible locations, reduce congestion and emissions caused by commercial vehicle trips, and make commercial load/unload parking more productive. Our research shows that a loading bay smart locker system could reduce the time delivery workers spend in an urban tower by up to 73%, eliminate failed first deliveries, and dramatically cut the mean truck dwell time in parking spaces serving the tower.

  • Cargo Bike Delivery: Cargo e-bikes are two/three/four-wheeled vehicles with cargo carrying capacity. Since they are human-powered and often have an electric pedal assist, they are an alternative mode of delivering goods in dense urban areas. They present several advantages with respect to the traditional modes of urban freight: they are more agile in navigating traffic, they occupy less space, and can potentially park anywhere. However, previous studies and pilots showed mixed results. The Urban Freight Lab has been collecting and analyzing data from cargo bike pilot studies and simulation to address questions on their operational efficiency, sustainability and safety.

Strategic Research Area: Curbspace Management

The rapid rise of autonomous vehicles (AV), on-demand transportation, and e-commerce goods deliveries, as well as increased cycling rates and transit use, is increasing demand for curb space resulting in competition between modes, failed good deliveries, roadway and curbside congestion, and illegal parking.

Strategic Research Area: Zero Emissions Freight

Meeting carbon emissions reductions goals and slowing global climate change means driving towards a zero emission freight future. Our research explores the obstacles and roadblocks that slow progress towards zero emissions urban freight through pilot tests and analytical studies.

Strategic Research Area: Modeling Freight Activity

Some elements of freight activity are poorly understood due to a lack of robust data, a historic lack of research emphasis, and relatively less well developed modeling tools. We engage in a select number of data and modeling efforts where we can contribute to the development of more accurate, or more useful planning and policy tools.

  • Vehicle Cordon Counts: We have completed a baseline vehicle count from 41 selected gateway arterials, streets, and I-5 highway on/off ramps, providing counts of 65 vehicle categories based on the number of axles, body type (bus, van, single-unit truck, trailer, and multi-trailer) and vehicle use (transit, goods transport, waste management, construction, service, and emergency). Understanding the patterns of commercial movement in the urban environment is essential to developing and evaluating public strategies that aim to improve efficiency and sustainability and make well-informed decisions regarding city and freight planning, especially in dense urban areas, but local governments often lack detailed data at the municipality level about commercial travel patterns (peak hours, fleet composition, activity type, volume, gateways of entry/exit). This work is the first to analyze inbound and outbound urban commercial vehicle flow in Seattle's downtown core, helping the city to understand fleet configuration and spatial and temporal variations of vehicles entering and exiting the urban center. This effort also allows the evaluation of new freight planning and traffic management strategies, such as new technologies, infrastructure planning, assessment of current street classification, and congestion pricing.


Interested in Getting Involved?

Students looking to get involved with the Urban Freight Lab: Attend a Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Research Group (RG) meeting as the first step. RG is composed of an interdisciplinary group of undergraduate and graduate University of Washington students who are engaged in research in various aspects of transportation, ports, and the movement of goods.

Contact:
Fiete Krutein
Research Assistant and RG Manager
Kfkru@uw.edu

Companies looking to become Urban Freight Lab members: The Urban Freight Lab is an innovative partnership bringing together private industry, academic researchers, and public transportation agencies to solve urban freight management problems that overlap private and public spaces and have wide-ranging benefits.

Contact:
Andisheh Ranjbari
UFL Director and Research Scientist
ranjbari@uw.edu


More:
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Read our research publications
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Learn about our current research
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About the Urban Freight Lab (UFL): An innovative public-private partnership housed at the Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center at the University of Washington, the Urban Freight Lab is a structured workgroup that brings together private industry with City transportation officials to design and test solutions around urban freight management.

About the Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center: The Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center at the University of Washington is the go-to place to analyze and solve urban goods delivery, sustainability, logistic hubs and ports, and freight system performance management problems that overlap private and public spaces and control. Our work integrates in-depth consultation with industry and the public sector, transformative research, and executive education, and serves the powerful nexus of industry, transportation infrastructure, and policymakers.

 

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