Urban Freight Challenges

Truck with container in front of a city landscape with a map of the globe overtop and planes going from point to point. As cities grow larger and larger, the issue of getting freight into and around cities is becoming more difficult. On one hand, the growing number of delivery vehicles clog the already busy streets, but the freight is necessary to keep the city running, and people with food and the items that they require to survive.

Read the paper below on urban Freight Challenges (found in the Hunt library):

Rahman, A., & Haake, D. (2018). Urban Freight Challenges. (Links to an external site.) Institute of Transportation Engineers. ITE Journal, 88(9), 14-17.

Using peer-reviewed journals, research an urban freight challenge, write a review of the issue, and suggest alternatives or solutions (as outlined in the literature).

For complete assignment details, refer to the Requirements and Academic Integrity sections.

Full Text

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By Asheque Rahman and Daniel Haake, AICP, CMILT

A renewed focus has been placed on freight planning. While much of this focus can be attributed to recent changes in federal law, cities have recognized the role of freight in creating vibrant neighborhoods. Almost by definition, freight is the physical manifestation of a functioning economy. The multimodal freight system transports the materials necessary to manufacture goods and ultimately bring finished goods to market (or import/export). However, how those goods ultimately make it to market is a more complicated story.

First, the volumes involved are quite staggering. The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) estimates that the average person consumes about 60 tons of freight each year.1 Traditionally goods are shipped to neighborhood stores, restaurants, and regional destination centers. In fact, New York City’s bars and restaurants generate more truck trips than the Ports of New York/New Jersey.2

Complicating things further, the multimodal freight system is owned and operated by both the public and private sectors, which can make planning difficult. For example, privately employed drivers operate trucks on (mostly) publicly owned roadways. Truck drivers often do not work for the company shipping or receiving the goods conveyed. Freight routing and mode choice decisions are often made by third party logistics providers.3

Freight knows no borders. It does not care what city, town, or state it is travelling through, just that the regulatory framework among those jurisdictions are consistent. This is a major challenge for the Chicago and New York metropolitan areas. Both regions are highly urbanized; however they also contain large areas that are suburban and even rural. The two metros bound three states, each with their own interests and policies yet they are compelled to work together as one region economically, if they want to succeed.

Last Mile Challenges

The challenge of fulfilling consumer needs in dense urban cores is particularly complicated. Often these challenges are most visible during the “last mile” of a delivery. This is especially true in large cities. Regulatory, operational, geometric and urban design related impediments create significant challenges to delivering products to the right place, at the right time and while maintaining a consistent price.

Regulatory/System-wide Challenges: Because freight knows no borders, large metropolitan areas often have difficulty developing consistent and deliberately designed truck routes. A typical truck will travel through several jurisdictions within a region. While many communities may have designated truck routes, if they do not align regionally, the result is often congestion, crashes, and unnecessary traffic fines. Similarly, roads designed to handle truck traffic are often restricted by bicycle/pedestrian activity, and parking encroachments on deliberately designed intersections, curves, and designated commercial delivery parking spaces.

Operational Challenges: Congestion plagues most of our major cities. Aging bridges, interchanges, and tunnels create freight bottlenecks which decrease safety and reliability. In some regions, toll diversion shifts heavy truck volumes onto neighborhood streets.

Geometric Challenges: Older tunnels, bridges, and overpasses often have height restrictions that impact freight movement. Within the urban core, horizontal curves and lane widths are not typically designed for traditional large vehicles. Trucks are much slower to accelerate and decelerate than cars, yet most cities do not build de/acceleration lanes.

Urban Design Challenges: Recently constructed buildings often lack loading docks, which were a necessity in older buildings. Trucks often have to compete for on-street parking with passenger vehicles. As a result, trucks often double-park, restricting overall traffic flow. Parking fines- intended to be a deterrence-are factored into the cost of doing business for many trucking firms that deliver to the urban core. For example, UPS and FedEx were fined $2.8 million by New York City in the first quarter of 2013 alone.4

Finding the Right Balance

While communities must support freight movement, it is important to find the right balance between deliveries and the built environment. Communities must remain/ become livable places. It is possible to design a neighborhood to be conducive to freight movement without redesigning a city for large trucks. In large urban cores, this often means a shift from a large truck to smaller delivery vehicles. Often, these delivery vehicles are deliberately designed to not just be nimble on city streets, but with increased visibility to improve pedestrian safety.

However, long-term solutions require fundamental changes in the design and placement of new facilities to optimize freight movement. These changes include requirements for items like loading docks or adequate space for hand cart movements. When loading docks are not feasible, adequate on-street truck parking areas is key. Additionally, cities must undertake sub-area planning to designate ingress/egress routes that align with current system capacity.

However, balance must be found within the regulatory framework. While individual jurisdictions set policy, it is important to review the regulatory framework as a region to ensure consistency and that differences do not result in un-intended negative consequences.

NACTO Global Street Design Guide

Released by the Global Designing Cities Initiative and the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), the 2016 Global Street Design Guide fundamentally shifts the design focus of urban streets from automobiles to one that encompasses an entire community’s quality of life. The guide encompasses a variety of street typologies and design features from around the world. This is important, because the freight challenges in Jefferson City are likely different than New York City.

The guide organizes their freight discussions on three main topics: freight basics, networks, and management/safety. Its focus on balancing competing needs is most evident in its recommendation for a hierarchical city freight network (much like FHWA Functional Classification), where roads are assigned to a tier based on their role in freight movement. Under this framework, heavy truck movements are limited to roadways specifically designed for this purpose. Similarly, small trucks provide last mile delivery connectivity in neighborhoods or urban core.

Real World Solutions: New York City

New York City is home to more than 8 million residents, and without efficient freight transportation, retail stores would not have goods to sell and restaurants would have nothing to serve. As the city’s population continues to grow, the demand for freight transportation will also increase, resulting in more trucks on the road.

Historically, New York City’s freight was delivered by ship and rail. As shipping and rail faded from the City in the mid-20th century, goods movement shifted to trucks. Today, 400 million tons of freight traverse the city annually, 90 percent of which is conveyed by truck. However, New York’s streets were not designed to handle this level of truck traffic. City blocks lack back alleys. Therefore, all deliveries and refuse collection take place curbside, competing with pedestrians, vehicles, and cyclists for space. Complicating these challenges further, the rise of e-commerce has increased deliveries directly to residential buildings.

The existing and forecasted truck volumes in New York City’s dense urban core can create safety challenges. To mitigate the traffic, neighborhood, and safety impacts, the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) developed a freight program that is focused on making trucking more efficient, safe and green through smarter technology, better enforcement, and partnerships with freight stakeholders.

The continuous growth and demand on NYC’s transportation system has caused increased congestion, which reduces economic productivity and diminishes quality of life. Improving the city’s freight network is vital to NYC’s continued growth. To help balance these needs, NYCDOT has undertaken two key freight initiatives: the off-hour deliveries (OHD) Program Expansion and the Smart Truck Management Plan.

NYCDOT has launched the off-hour deliveries (OHD) program to help reduce congestion and double parking. This voluntary program encourages businesses to switch to off-hour deliveries when overall traffic volumes are decreased. Additionally. NYCDOT is developing a citywide freight plan called the Smart Truck Management Plan to improve our understanding of how trucks operate within the City and to scale up NYCDOT’s data-driven freight management program. The agency is also looking to use sensor and camera technology to promote a culture of compliance with truck routes, loading regulations, and overweight and over-dimensional rules.

Off-Hour Deliveries (OHD) Program

In 2009, NYCDOT-in partnership with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), stake- holders, and research partners-successfully Implemented an OHD pilot program, which encouraged businesses to voluntarily shift their deliveries to the off-peak hours of 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Based on the success of the pilot, NYCDOT studied the feasibility of expanding the program. They brought on additional staff and developed a freight carrier and receiver survey to better understand how and when deliveries are made, and more Importantly, the reasons behind these decisions. Based on the results, NYCDOT rolled out an expanded program In 2016. By the end of 2019, NYCDOT expects to have 900 businesses agree to shift their deliveries to off-peak times.

The OHD program offer numerous benefits to freight carriers, receivers, and the community. Freight carriers (truckers) benefit by making deliveries more efficiently, Including: reduced travel time and fuel costs; less parking headaches; more predictable delivery windows; Improved truck utilization; and reduced delivery costs. Freight receivers (stores) benefit by having their goods delivered outside of store hours; having goods prepared before store opens; more reliable truck arrival times; and reduced delivery costs. The community benefits through reduced congestion, emissions and Improved neighborhood aesthetic and safety. The program results in a win-win for all involved.

Smart Truck Management Plan

NYCDOT Is developing a comprehensive Smart Truck Management Plan to better manage freight throughout the city. The overall vision for the plan is to deliver a safer, cleaner and more efficient freight system that meets the demanding needs of Its residents and businesses. This Includes massive data collection and public and private sector outreach efforts to connect with stakeholders.

The plan will provide a better understanding of truck route usage, the needs of shippers and receivers, and community concerns. Leaning heavily on the lessons learned from the analysis and stakeholder Input, NYCDOT will recommend a series of strategies and actions to improve operations and enhance the economic vitality and quality of life for all New Yorkers. These strategies and Implementation actions will be aligned with the plan’s guiding principles:

* Improve safety for all road users;

* Reduce truck related congestion;

* Expand partnerships with shoppers, receivers, haulers and communities;

* Improve the trucking Industry environmental performance;

* Identify, evaluate, and Invest In essential freight corridors;

* Support NYC’s economy through more efficient goods movement and deliveries; and

* Create a culture of compliance with truck-related regulations.


Addressing freight challenges can be very complex. While traditional transportation planning focuses on commuter and personal travel patterns, freight Is very different. Freight movement takes place within a global supply chain. A decision made halfway around the world can have a dramatic effect on freight patterns within the US and ultimately In our communities.5 Freight requires planners to have a full understanding of the complexities Involved and trade-offs Involved In making good decisions for their community’s economy and overall quality of life. itej

Asheque Rahman is Chair of ITE’s Urban Goods Movement Standing Committee and a senior traffic engineer with the New York City (NYC) Department of Design and Construction. Formerly with the NYC Department of Transportation, Asheque was in charge of making deliveries more efficient and improving last mile delivery solutions throughout the city. A leader in transportation planning and engineering, Asheque was in the 2017 LeadershipITE class as well as NYU Rudin Center’s Emerging Leaders in Transportation program. Asheque was recipient of the 2013 ASCE Metropolitan Section’s Young Government Civil Engineer of the Year Award as well as the 2017 INFORMS Franz Edelman Finalist Award.

– Daniel Haake, AICP, CMILT is Vice Chair of ITE’s Urban Goods Movement Standing Committee and a senior transportation planner with HDR in their Indianapolis, IN, USA office. Dan has helped more than 40 clients overcome infrastructure and policy impediments that hinder their ability to compete in the global marketplace. A national planning leader, Dan serves on several national TRB, ITE, and APA committees, and is a frequent contributor to publications, including: Planning, ITE Journal, TR News and Governing. Dan received a bachelor of arts in political science and a master of urban and regional planning from Ball State University, who named him a Graduate of the Last Decade in 2013.


1. Haake, D.G. “Long Haul: The Crucial Link Between Freight and Economic Development,” Governing. (2015)

2. Holgu?n-Veras, J., M. Jaller, I. Sanchez-D?az, J. M. Wojtowicz, S. Campbell, H. S. Levinson, C. T. Lawson, E. Powers and L. Tavasszy, (2012). NCHRP Report 739 / NCFRP Report 19: Freight Trip Generation and Land Use. National Cooperative Highway Research Program / National Cooperative Freight Research Program.

3. Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization, Regional Freight Plan (2016), page 5-1.

4. Calder, Rich, “FedEx, UPS owe $2.8 Million In Parking Tickets to City In First Three Months of 2013,” New York Post, May 27, 2013.

5. Haake, D.G. “Out of the Box and Into the Scenario,” Planning magazine (June 2015)

Word count: 2136
Copyright Institute of Transportation Engineers Sep 2018

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LGMT 636 – 3.3 Writing Rubric
LGMT 636 – 3.3 Writing Rubric
Criteria Ratings

Identification and Analysis of the Main Issues/Problem
25 pts
Excellent (24 – 25 pts)
Identifies and understands all of the main elements in the assignment. Insightful and thorough analysis of all the elements.

This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeOrganization and Coherence

30 pts
Excellent (28 – 30 pts)
Uses a logical structure appropriate to paper’s subject, purpose, audience, and disciplinary field. Sophisticated transitional sentences often develop one idea from the previous one or identify their logical relations. It guides the reader through the chain of reasoning or progression of ideas.
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeLinks to Course Readings and Additional Research

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Excellent research into the issues with clearly documented links to class (and/or outside) readings. Much more than the minimum references required; effort to explore topic exceeds expectations; use of primary and secondary sources; all information meets quality criteria. Sources interspersed with writer’s own analysis or synthesis; quotes are less than 10% of paper; good use of summary and paraphrase; all sources are documented.

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