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The challenges of curbside pickup
By Patrick Sisson
Cities are already redesigning their physical realms for the expanding ride-hailing industry, from designating pickup/dropoff zones to eliminating parking garages. As the Uber app update suggests, ride-hailing will become more and more embedded in everyday transit decisions.
But that’s not the only curbside challenge confronting tech firms. Even the growing ecommerce sector is placing congestion pressure on cities. As more and more deliveries pile up, and firms continue to test new methods of delivery and drop off, freight is still rarely factored into the transit planning conversation, according to Anne Goodchild, who runs the Urban Freight Lab at the University of Washington in Seattle.
“It’s like a transit system where you didn’t plan for the bus stops,” she told Curbed. “We all know we’re bringing more and more goods into the city, but there’s no programmatic way to account for what they’re delivering and when. We need scientific, data-driven, systematic views of urban freight analysis and planning.”
Street management will only become more complicated as autonomous vehicles enter the picture, for both passengers and deliveries. The California Public Utilities Commission recently signaled that it’s considering proposed rule changes to allow companies to start curbside pickup of riders using autonomous vehicles. Waymo plans to start testing an autonomous rideshare service in Phoenix later this year.
“Curbside loading will become more and more critical,” Zabe Bent, a principal at transportation consulting firm Nelson\Nygaard, told Curbed. “We need to understand how to manage that curb, since it’ll be important for loading, unloading, cyclists, and transit. It’s an increasingly important place for cities, and we need to learn how to use it better.”
Advances in Last-Mile Delivery Take Shape
NextGen Supply Chain Interview: Barbara Ivanov
By Gary Forger, Special Projects Editor
This month we spoke with Barbara Ivanov, director of the Urban Freight Lab at the University of Washington. She is also chief operating officer of the school’s Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center. Previously, Ivanov worked on freight research projects with the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Strategic Highway Research Program and the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board. Her focus included development of freight performance metrics, advanced freight data collection and analytic tools as well as freight-related economic impact analyses.
NextGen Supply Chain: The Urban Freight Lab’s primary focus is optimization of the final 50 feet of the urban goods delivery system. How are you doing that and who exactly is involved?
Ivanov: The Lab is a research partnership between its private sector members and the City of Seattle Department of Transportation. Urban Freight Lab members include retailers, urban freight carriers and tech companies in this space. Building developers and operators, managers and architects are also engaged in the Lab’s research.
We bring together both the public and private sector to solve problems in the final 50 feet of the goods delivery system that neither sector can solve alone. The members define the problems that the Lab works on.
NextGen Supply Chain: Plenty of people are focused these days on the final or last mile. But you’ve got it down to 50 feet. What’s your thinking here?
Ivanov: The final 50 feet is a concept that tracks the supply chain segment starting when delivery trucks stop at the curb, in an alley or in a loading bay underneath an urban tower. We’ve heard from our members that up to 60% of the time it takes to move goods from a distribution center to the final destination is spent in these final 50 feet.
Our approach is to analyze the process flow from the time the truck parks through loading of delivery carts, building entry going through security, to going door-to-door throughout the building to complete the delivery. What happens during this process has implications far beyond that single delivery.
Eliminating or decreasing failed first delivery attempts is the sweet spot for companies making deliveries. Our members say that 10 to 15% of all attempted deliveries to urban buildings are not completed. The right person may not be available to sign or the address is just wrong. That means the goods have to be returned to the distribution center and a second attempt made to complete the delivery. Those second attempts mean more trucks on the road, in the city and at the curb. The Lab can help change that.
NextGen Supply Chain: Tell us about the big picture here.
Ivanov: The City and Urban Freight Lab members also want to reduce truck dwell time in load/unload spaces. You can only do that by working with building managers and developers as their policies control how long it takes to complete deliveries in their building. Reducing dwell time makes each load/unload space more productive, you get more truck parking capacity without building more spaces. It can cut back the numbers of trucks circling the block looking for parking and so lower city traffic congestion.
Fortunately, there’s tremendous opportunity. We’re focused on a structured analysis of the final 50 feet in downtown Seattle by bringing together the City and supply chain companies. I’ll be talking about this at next month’s Modex show in Atlanta.
NextGen Supply Chain: What are you working on these days?
Ivanov: This month and next we’re pilot testing a common-carrier smart locker system located near loading bays under a 62-floor office tower. Now we already know that smart lockers work in general. We’re not pilot testing that. Instead, we’re trying to determine if smart lockers can reduce truck dwell time as well as reduce the level of failed first delivery attempts This is a test. But it’s a very focused test.
NextGen Supply Chain: On the surface, that sounds like it will change the final 50 feet in several ways.
Ivanov: If it works, it will.
Our data shows that nearly 80% of the time a delivery person is in this building is spent getting through security (12%) and riding elevators to different floors and going door-to-door to tenants (67%). The lockers, placed as close as possible to loading bays, could virtually eliminate that.
Deliveries would simply be put in lockers and recipients notified that their goods are waiting for them. They can then collect the goods when it is convenient for them.
We’re going to collect data for a couple of weeks and then analyze it. We will also have to make a judgment if smart lockers make business sense for the delivery companies. And just as important, will people in the tower adopt the use of common-carrier smart lockers.
NextGen Supply Chain: Once you come to your conclusions, what happens next?
Ivanov: We will then present our results to Seattle’s Department of Transportation. In fact, smart lockers are only a small part of the City’s effort to write a strategy for goods trip reduction.
The ultimate end game is public policy development that benefits all.
NextGen Supply Chain: That all sounds very exciting and forward looking. What’s next up for the Lab?
Ivanov: This year and next we’ll be doing pilot tests on the flexible use of curb space by delivery vehicles. That will be a big undertaking. And after that, we plan to take a look at smart lockers at commuter rail stations. We’ve got our work cut out for us for the foreseeable future.
How can Seattle make deliveries more efficient so drivers don’t have to park illegally?
By Michelle Baruchman, Seattle Times staff reporter
A University of Washington and Seattle Department of Transportation study found the explosion of e-commerce and urban growth has dramatically added to the number of vehicles circling the Center City.
Warm deli sandwiches and fresh salads moved from a prep kitchen to a truck to Millennium Tower, through building security and up to an office suite just in time for lunch on Tuesday.
The delivery was part of an ever-growing explosion of e-commerce that has dramatically added to the number of vehicles circling Seattle’s Center City each day.
That congestion is compounded by the fact that just 13 percent of buildings in downtown, uptown and South Lake Union have private loading bays or docks, forcing delivery trucks to use the city’s curb and alley spaces to make deliveries, according to a study released Thursday.
Traffic Lab is a Seattle Times project that digs into the region’s thorny transportation issues, spotlights promising approaches to easing gridlock, and helps readers find the best ways to get around. It is funded with the help of community sponsors Alaska Airlines, CenturyLink, Kemper Development Co., PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company, Sabey Corp., Seattle Children’s hospital and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. Seattle Times editors and reporters operate independently of our funders and maintain editorial control over Traffic Lab content.
And it puts delivery companies in the position of choosing between their customers and following the law.
According to the joint study between the University of Washington’s Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center and the Seattle Department of Transportation, the number of truck trips in that urban core may double by 2023. That’s if no more residents move in and the mode of delivery stays consistent, said Barbara Ivanov, chief operating officer of the Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center who worked on the study.
In 2016, 8 percent of all U.S. retail sales took place online. Since 2010, growth in national online sales has increased by a 15 percent average annual rate.
“I don’t think the developers really thought about how fast Amazon was going to blow up when they built our tower,” said Jeff Maxwell, a concierge at Insignia Towers, a 1,500-person residential complex researchers examined.
The $205,000 study, part of a three-year contract between SDOT and UW’s Urban Freight Lab, analyzed the street network and the city’s vertical spaces, such as office, hotel, retail and residential towers, as one unified goods-delivery system.
Out of the data, researchers set two priorities: reduce the number of “failed first delivery attempts,” in which for a variety of reasons a package or parcel does not reach a consumer on the first try, and reduce the time trucks are parked in load spaces.
For many deliveries, the most difficult part is from the truck to the suite door inside the office building — which local researchers refer to as the final 50 feet.
Between finding curb space, clearing security, riding the freight elevator and locating a tenant door, deliverers hold packages and parcels for an increasingly extended period of time.
Tom O’Connor, owner of Market Fresh Fruit – Eat Healthy At Work, said he incurred $500 in tickets in the past year from illegal parking.
“With so many successful companies coming into Seattle and tenants filling buildings, a lot more businesses are going in,” he said. “I don’t think the city has adjusted, and I’m left to my own devices to get food to customers.”
Staysha Palm, a deliverer for FedEx, said she often competes for curb space with other deliverers as well as Uber and Lyft drivers.
“If the load zones are filled with parked cars or people waiting for riders, I have to circle around two or three times,” she said. “Within those two minutes that I circle the block, I could have had my cart set up and delivered a couple more packages.”
Her other main barrier to efficiency is security.
Researchers found clearing security accounted for 12 percent of total delivery time. Riding the freight elevator and looking for tenants’ locations took 61 percent of the total time.
“Sometimes things get lost because there’s a lot of steps and people involved,” said Evan Cole, assistant property manager at Dexter Horton.
As a potential solution, researchers proposed a smart-locker system.
“They pull in, they load the locker or hand everything to a concierge or mailroom, and it cuts all of that transaction time out,” Ivanov said.
They estimated that a secure structure placed in the loading-bay level of the Seattle Municipal Tower would reduce the time delivery people spend in the building by up to 73 percent and will be testing this theory in the next month.
In addition to the study, researchers will be building an online tool kit of practices for other cities to use and replicate.
“It’s not only important to Seattle but other cities struggling with the same problems,” she said.