Researchers find strategies for integrating freight and livability

A food service truck makes a local delivery

New research from the NITC program identifies key strategies for integrating freight into livability planning.

The typical vision of a livable neighborhood does not include big trucks—with their emissions, vibrations, noise and congestion—traveling through it. So where livability is a goal of the planning process, freight runs the risk of not being considered except as an afterthought or as something to be excluded.

However, because economic prosperity is an important characteristic of livable communities, freight will inevitably be needed and must be incorporated into the planning process.

Investigators Kristine Williams and Alex Carroll of the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research conducted a NITC research project to explore the relationship between freight and livability. Their goal was to provide a “menu of options” for planners to be aware of when considering freight solutions.

“There is a strong push for more livable, walkable and bikeable communities throughout the U.S. and without this kind of information, there may be more of a focus on where we don’t want to have trucks, rather than designating truck routes and identifying appropriate circulation routes for last mile deliveries,” Williams said.

The report, “Integrating Freight Into Livable Communities,” uses five case studies to describe a multitude of approaches for ensuring freight needs are met without compromising livability goals.

Download it here.

The researchers traveled to Tampa, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; San Antonio, Texas; Albany, New York and Portland, Oregon to gather information about how freight was being handled in the various communities.

“They all had something unique to offer. I think that context is really valuable; the case studies in and of themselves can be a useful tool for people to understand how these different issues are playing out in different areas of the country,” Carroll said.

Each case study offers a different take on infrastructure design, parking and loading, noise reduction and other concerns related to the movement of goods through cities.

“Context-sensitive solutions popped up in almost every case. In Tampa they came up with a great set of strategies. They got the truckers involved and put their issues into a database online that can be easily accessed by the planning community throughout the region. They found dual purposes for certain routes: in areas with both bikes and trucks, the presence of a bike lane allowed the trucks a greater turning trajectory,” Williams said.

With the goal of lowering carbon emissions, the City of Portland has been very supportive of B-Line, a local transportation company that uses human-powered, electric-assisted trikes for local deliveries. Since 2009, B-Line has replaced approximately 80,000 truck deliveries in Portland, but this sustainable delivery mode is limited to a niche market.

“We found that the cargo trikes are useful within urban core areas; obviously they are human-powered so the radius on that mode is small,” Carroll said.

Researchers also took note of solutions for ensuring lower-income neighborhoods are not disproportionately impacted by freight and livability decisions.

The inland Port of San Antonio has been highly successful in this regard, providing living wage jobs as well as technological apprenticeships and training which have effectively led to the creation of a Hispanic middle class in the city.

Findings from this study were recorded in a webinar at the end of March.

For more information, visit the project page or download the final report.

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