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  • Writer's pictureUrban Freight Lab

Goods Movement 2030: So, what have we done here? And what’s next?

Need for public-private sector collaboration emerged throughout this Urban Freight Lab project


Congratulations, Urban Freight Lab members, for being at the vanguard of discussions about the future of urban freight in this country.


A year and a half ago, our members decided to dig into four topics for the Goods Movement 2030 project. They all — public and private sector alike— saw these areas as transformative. And they identified six priorities around which we hope to see improved outcomes for 2030.


From myriad lively discussions, debates, and expert-led learning over the last 18 months, this much is clear: Each of the four topics we’ve explored together cries out for deep and broad collaboration between the public and private sectors if we’re going to move the needle on our consensus priorities.


And the good news? Our members have already shown that they’re willing and able to approach that needed collaboration with curious minds and radical transparency (not to mention their demonstrated commitment to innovating and having tough conversations.) All of this bodes well for both the present — and the future we’ve all been working to imagine and shape.


(Pssst. Need a topic and priority refresher? Check out the lists below.)

While all six priorities surfaced throughout this project, it’s decarbonization that came up in virtually every discussion on every topic. On equity, we had to grapple early on with what that even means in urban freight.


Now, here’s a Cliffs Notes recap of big-picture project takeaways.


Electrification

It quickly became clear that many members are concerned about having adequate charging infrastructure — from the power grid to the plug–to advance sustainability goals.


The call for the public sector is to focus on getting utilities ready to support private sector demand (there’s that public-private collaboration again.) On charging, many fleet managers seem less keen on relying on public options (preferring to control charging) but see curb charging as playing a possible supporting role for small businesses.


Digital transformation

The private sector is moving faster here than the public sector. And that private sector progress centers on operations, while the public sector centers on digital infrastructure and policy. But from digitally managing the curb and travel lanes to speed-limiting vehicles for safer, more accessible and more environmentally sustainable streets, possible game-changing public sector advances could open the door to new public-private synergies that could benefit companies and cities alike. We came up with three ideas that could foster the private-public integration needed to advance on our 2030 priorities.


Idea 1. More digital data collection and more digital data sharing to close the data gap between the public and private sectors.


Idea 2. More digital infrastructure in the public sector and the digital policy that goes along with it.


Idea 3. More digital “nudges” to shape consumer behavior (aka the public) toward sustainability.


Easier said than done? Well, at least now we’ve said it!


Planning streets for people and goods

The idea is to integrate everything at the street level across all users. But today, considering city space for goods is often an afterthought. And when goods delivery is considered, it tends to be siloed from the work of planning streets for people.



And innovative modes (like bikes, lockers, carts) use street space in diverse and distinct ways. As such, they challenge more traditional planning that’s tended to focus almost exclusively on large trucks.


Some European cities have prioritized space over time, say, by closing a street to passenger vehicles but keeping it open — at very low speed limits — to pedestrians, bikes and freight.


Ultimately, both the public and private sectors will need to think and act flexibly to meet the challenges of the freight space race as cities move to climate-friendlier planning and transportation.



Microfreight

We defined microfreight as making deliveries by walking, biking, rolling (carts and robots) and flying (drones). And we dug into microhubs as one tool to help smaller modes plug into the broader delivery network — yet another area for public-private collaboration.



As more of these strategies hit the streets and iteration kicks in to fit the U.S. context, thoughts on efficacy and ease of implementation might well evolve.


As we call a wrap on the Goods Movement 2030 project, we want to share some ways the UFL is helping advance progress on project topics and priorities.


Meantime, keep this site bookmarked because we hope to add new blogs on an ad hoc basis.

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