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STATUS: Complete YEAR: 2018 TOPIC AREA: Freight logistics and optimization Safety and security CENTER: MetroFreight

Complete Streets Considerations for Freight and Emergency Vehicle Operations

Project Summary

Project number: MF-SP-8.1
Funding source: New York State Energy Research and Development Authority
Performance period: 1/1/2018 to 12/31/2018

Project description
According to the National Complete Streets Coalition:

"A Complete Streets approach integrates people and place in the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of our transportation networks. This helps to ensure streets are safe for people of all ages and abilities, balance the needs of different modes, and support local land uses, economies, cultures, and natural environments."


Two groups of street users critical to support community needs are freight carriers and emergency service providers. Freight carriers give neighborhood residents access to the material goods essential to support their quality of life and enable the economic vitality of local businesses that both employ and serve community residents. They also remove unwanted materials such as household and commercial waste and construction and demolition byproducts that pose a threat to public health, the environment, and neighborhood habitability. Emergency service providers protect the health, safety, and prosperity of local residents and employees by responding rapidly and reliably to incidents that threaten lives and destroy property.


Yet, despite the importance of their functions during multimodal street planning and design, these operators are often overlooked or viewed as a nuisance due to the safety and environmental challenges their unique operations pose on compact facilities. Many freight vehicles are larger and heavier than passenger vehicles; as a result, they require more space for navigation and parking, produce greater impacts on traffic congestion and infrastructure, and are major generators of air pollutants, greenhouse gases, and noise. Some emergency vehicles-particularly aerial fire apparatus-are also longer and heavier than typical vehicles in the neighborhoods they serve. Perhaps most concerning when designing a street for the safety of all users, both large and fast moving vehicles present a dangerous collision risk for other travelers, especially pedestrians and cyclists. The externalities and risks that freight and emergency vehicles pose in communities are real and concerning; unfortunately, these impacts cannot be decoupled from the tremendous demand for emergency services and consumer goods deliveries generated by the same communities.


Highly populated or business dense areas generate significant demand for everyday goods. In an economically diverse community, necessary freight movements to fulfill this demand will include large-scale truck trips to and from major manufacturing and warehousing facilities, s well as medium- and small-scale deliveries to local businesses and residents. Deliveries and pickups will not be concentrated at a few isolated locations or only during certain hours of the day, but rather will be fulfilled at times and locations dictated by local receivers and shippers. Even in residential areas, individual shoppers can now specify both the time and speed of delivery directly to their homes for any number of household and consumer goods. These on-demand deliveries generate home delivery trips and may also require complex networks of distribution facilities, some of which will need to be located in or close to the communities that they serve. While demand management strategies such as off-hour deliveries, lockers and pick-up points, and urban consolidation centers can be implemented to reduce some last-mile freight activity and associated externalities, these solutions will not be feasible for all stakeholders or sectors.


Emergency responders must also meet local needs for services. Personal medical emergencies, traffic collisions, crimes, and natural and man-made disasters occur where people live, work, and travel. Fire stations, police stations, and hospitals are located in or close to the communities they serve. While large police and fire departments may have diverse fleets of specialized vehicles to respond to different incidents, in smaller communities, a few large vehicles may need to carry a wide variety of equipment for response to different emergencies. In densely developed areas, rapid fire response is needed to reduce spread to adjacent and nearby buildings; if buildings are tall, firefighters will need aerial equipment to reach high floors. Programs such as secondary medical referral service can help reduce demand for ambulance trips, and effective building design-including the installation of sprinklers-can help to reduce the demand for high-speed fire response; however, these alternatives will not eliminate all life-threatening medical and fire emergencies.


Alison Conway
Associate Director, New Initiatives, University Transportation Research Center (UTRC), Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering
140th St. and Convent Ave
Steinman Hall T-195New York, NY 10031
United States
[email protected]