Purpose and Goals
We are living at the convergence of the rise of e-commerce, ride-hailing services, connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technologies, and fast-growing cities. Customers 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.

Our Goals

The UFL’s first task is pilot testing promising low-cost and high-value actions to optimize operations of the Final 50 Feet of the urban goods delivery system. The Final 50 Feet is defined as the supply chain segment that begins when trucks 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. The top goals for the Final 50 Feet research project are:

1. Reduce dwell time (the time a truck is parked in a load/unload space in the city). Reaching this goal has both public and private benefits:

  • Lower costs for delivery firms, and therefore potentially lower costs for their customers;
  • More efficient use of public and private truck load/unload spaces creates more capacity without building additional spaces; and
  • Room for other vehicles to move through alleys—trucks can legally unload at both ends of the alley, blocking other uses.

2. Reduce failed first deliveries. First delivery attempts in urban areas have an 8-10% fail rate. Reducing failed first deliveries will:

  • Improve urban online shoppers’ experiences and protect retailers’ brands;
  • Make the City of Seattle a more inviting place to live and work, thereby attracting more business development;
  • Cut business costs for the retail sector and logistics firms;
  • Cut crime and provide a safer environment for residents and workers;
  • Improve an amenity that adds value at multifamily properties—the ability to ensure that their tenants can shop online and get their order when they expect it;
  • Lower traffic congestion in cities, as delivery trucks could make up to 10% fewer trips while still completing the same number of deliveries; and
  • Ensure that all city neighborhoods can receive online orders, not just a few.

Our Achievements

The UFL’s Final 50 Feet research projects analyze both the street network and the city’s vertical space (office, hotel, retail, and residential towers) as one unified goods delivery system. Since its first meeting in December 2016, the UFL has become a going concern and reached the following strategic milestones:

  1. We have established an international brand as the strategic partnership of retailers, delivery firms and other private firms working with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and other major cities to address urban delivery issues. This attention is drawing new companies in to join the lab, as well as offers to collaborate from international and national agencies and universities.
  2. From concept development through analysis to innovative pilot tests, our research project accomplishments include:
    • Geocoding the location and features of all private truck load/unload bays and loading docks in Seattle’s Center City (see the full SDOT TO #1 report). This work matters because it is the basis for planning a comprehensive truck load/unload space network in the city. It is the first time that a major U.S. city has had this information, and it is considered so useful that the New York City DOT has asked for the methodology we developed and our findings in 2018.  
    • To complete identification of the truck load/unload space network, SDOT has engaged the UFL to collect similar data for all of the alleys in Center City: comprised of the Downtown, Uptown, South Lake Union, First and Capitol Hill urban centers. When they have accurate data layers of the curbs, private spaces, and alleys, SDOT will have a complete picture to gauge which load/unload spaces to protect at all costs, and where additional capacity is needed. 
    • Documenting detailed goods delivery system process flows and delays in five prototype buildings. The concept behind this Final 50 Feet project has added a new field of research in supply chains that begins where trucks stop, extends across intersections and sidewalks, and tracks into buildings where customers take receipt of their goods. This project is the first time that researchers have analyzed both the street network and cities’ vertical space (office, hotel, retail, and residential towers) as one unified goods delivery system. Although delivery companies have been acutely aware of challenges in the Final 50 Feet, this is new information for the public sector, and is now leading them to re-examine building codes and regulations that affect outcomes in the delivery system.
    • Two truck occupancy studies are underway in the UFL (funded by SDOT): one investigates how trucks use all curb space and the other on how trucks load and/or unload in alleys. These studies show how long trucks park at curbs and in alleys and CVLZs, as well as in passenger load zones, near fire hydrants, in the center lane, and more. SDOT has set flex zone curb use policies and is interested in flex space that works for trucks and other vehicles.
    • Under contract to SDOT, King County Metro, and Sound Transit, the UFL has developed criteria to evaluate potential sites for common carriers lockers near train stations. Based on this work, Sound Transit is considering a larger project to pilot test common carrier lockers at their train stations in 2018. They are extensively building out the system in the next 20 years, and are looking for proven strategies that create customer amenities and reduce trips.
    • Hosting the UFL's first Tech Day in September. Venture capitalists in attendance appreciated the mix of evaluators (UFL members and city officials). SDOT considers it to be a model way to evaluate new technologies in real time to determine if they will meet business needs as well as city goals. SDOT asked the UFL to host two additional Tech Days in 2018, and investors have offered to socialize it with their networks so we find more firms to review.
  3. The UFL received high marks from national experts on the innovative concepts and methods developed in 2017. We have begun strategic relationships with the Washington DC District DDOT and NYCDOT to transparently share data, analysis and results of our research. Independent reviewers from NYCDOT and City College of New York (CCNY) rated the work as follows

Averaged Rating (1-5 scale where 5 is high)

Final 50’ Research Experimental Tasks


“This was a really useful exercise that evoked an impressive amount of candid input from the partners. The issues identified are definitely very important, and are extremely relevant here in NYC.”

Identify measureable high-priority problems in alignment with UFL members’ and Seattle DOT’s policy goals.


“The quality of the data you were able to gather in a short time with very limited funding is truly impressive. The quality controls you put in place provide an example of best practices that can and should be replicated.”

Collect original data and GIS map private freight bays and loading docks in Urban Centers, with data describing their features.


“The process flow mapping is very valuable, for the partners and as a research example for other cities to follow. The maps illustrate the complexity of factors that influence a delivery (and ultimately parking) time. These are really useful for the public policy discussion surrounding urban freight, as they show how important building management factors are to delivery behavior.”


Collect original data and develop high-level process flow maps for five prototype buildings.


Reviews of the Final 50 Feet Project

When asked what they consider to be the most innovative and valuable elements of the Final 50 Feet project, reviewers said:

“The approach for a tailored stakeholder engagement process and ability to get buy-in was impressive. The quantified delivery model of the last 50 feet process is an unique use of industrial engineering techniques and critical in understanding strategies and policies that Seattle DOT can implement with regards to regulating the curb as well as other city planning policies regarding loading and off-street freight infrastructure provisions that need to be evaluated. (We have) an interest to replicate this process and approach to creating a parallel live freight lab in NYC, particularly in the Central Business District. ” – NYCDOT

“The data collection process in Task 2 is a great example of how academia (or government) can work together with industry—a clear request with a limited scope to address a real problem with benefits for both partners. The most impressive aspect of your data collection was the way you engaged UPS to address the unknowns. The security issues you confronted, and the way that you resolved them, are definitely of interest to anyone planning to undertake field data collection surrounding freight facilities/activities. The typology developed is also really useful as both a starting point and as a standard.” – CCNY