Research Projects

Technology Integration to Gain Commercial Efficiency for the Urban Goods Delivery System, Meet Future Demand for City Passenger and Delivery Load/Unload Spaces, and Reduce Energy Consumption

Project Funder: 
U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (DOE EERE)
Principal Investigator(s): 
Project Timing: 
November 2018 to November 2021
Project Description: 

The Urban Freight Lab (UFL) received $1.5M in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to help goods delivery drivers find a place to park without driving around the block in crowded cities for hours, wasting time and fuel and adding to congestion. The project partners will integrate sensor technologies, develop data platforms to process large data streams, and publish a prototype app to let delivery firms know when a parking space is open – and when it’s predicted to be open so they can plan to arrive when another truck is leaving. This will take place in an 8-blockface area in Greater Downtown, and we will also monitor a control location.

The UFL will also pilot test common carrier locker systems in public and private load/unload spaces near transit stops. Transit riders, downtown workers and residents will be able to pick up packages they ordered online from any retailer in a convenient and secure locker in a public plaza or outside their office. The benefits don’t stop there. Common carrier lockers create delivery density that increases the productivity of parking spaces and provides significant commercial efficiencies. They do this by reducing the amount of time it takes delivery people to complete their work. The driver parks next to the locker system, loads packages into it, and hops back into the truck. When delivery people spend less time going door-to-door, it decreases the time their truck needs to be parked, increasing turnover and adding parking capacity in crowded cities.

This is a timely project as cities are looking for new strategies to accommodate the rapid growth of e-commerce. Online shopping has grown by 15% annually for the past 11 years, and is now 9% of total retail sales in the U.S., with $453.5 billion in revenue in 2017. Many online shoppers want the goods delivery system to bring them whatever they want, where they want it, in one to two hours. At the same time, many cities are replacing goods delivery load/unload spaces with transit and bike lanes. Cities need new load/unload space concepts supported by technology to make the leap to autonomous cars and trucks in the street, and autonomous freight vehicles in the Final 50 Feet of the goods delivery system. The Final 50’ segment starts when a truck parks in a load/unload space, and includes delivery persons’ activities as they maneuver goods along sidewalks and into urban towers to make their deliveries.

The goals of this project are to:

  • Reduce parking seeking behavior by 20% in the pilot test area by returning current and predicted load/unload space occupancy information to users on a web-based and/or mobile platform to inform real-time parking decisions.
  • Reduce parcel truck dwell time in pilot test area locations by 30%, thereby increasing productivity of load/unload spaces near common carrier locker systems.
  • Increase network and commercial firms’ efficiency by increasing curb and alley space occupancy rates, and underutilized private loading bay occupancy in the pm peak, in the pilot test area.

Cost-share partnering organizations are the Seattle Department of Transportation, the Bellevue Department of Transportation, CBRE Seattle, King County Metro Transit, Kroger Company, Sound Transit, U.S. Postal Service, and Western Washington Clean Cities. Members of the UFL are also participating in the project.


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