Why Cities Can’t Ignore Goods Movement

Cities can no longer afford to ignore freight and how it interacts with the built environment.

The health of the city’s economy is dependent on its ability to accommodate the movement and delivery of goods. Yet the quality of life that most U.S. cities are striving for is frequently undermined by the congestion and environmental impacts of trucks, the backbone of the urban freight system.

As places compete on the global stage for businesses and residents, they don’t always consider the impact of population growth on their ability to effectively move goods. The addition of people and commercial activity increases the demand for goods and services, while at the same time increasing competition for scarce road and sidewalk space. In older cities, the competing demands are more acute as these places struggle with aging infrastructure. And sometimes steps taken by cities aimed at creating more pleasant living environments can have unintended consequences that impede goods movement.

To address these issues, Regional Plan Association, supported by a grant from Volvo Research and Educational Foundations, has conducted an extensive review of the role of the goods movement system and the challenges urban areas face when moving freight. The report summarizes strategies developed by researchers at the VREF Urban Freight Initiative’s centers to tackle these challenges and highlights areas where policy or physical interventions could be tailored to address obstacles that impede urban goods movement. The analysis focuses on four areas: livability and streets; buildings; the environment; and people & technology.

This effort will inform RPA’s research on goods movement research for the fourth regional plan, A Region Transformed, due out in 2017.

View the freight report here.

-- Rich Barone

About this report
The Volvo Research and Educational Foundations (VREF) Initiative on Urban Freight is playing a key role in filling a knowledge gap in urban goods movement and leading efforts to raise the profile of goods movement in planning and policy arenas. The brief was produced by Regional Plan Association, in close cooperation with VREF and three VREF-supported research centers: MetroFreight led by the METRANS Transportation Center in Los Angeles, California; Sustainable Urban Freight Systems (SUFS) led by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York; and the Urban Freight Platform (UFP) in Gothenburg, Sweden.