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STATUS: Complete YEAR: 2014 TOPIC AREA: Sustainability, energy, and health CENTER: MetroFreight

The Dualism of Urban Freight Transport: City vs. Suburban Logistics

Project Summary

However, the urban environment characterized by scarcity of access, e.g., congested roads, space constraints and limitations of infrastructure restricts the efficiency and quality of freight operations. Freight vehicles are delayed by congestion and are constrained to carry out loading and unloading because of insufficient parking spaces. Reversing the perspective, urban freight transport is increasingly perceived as disturbing activity for passenger transport and the citizens’ quality of life. Truck traffic generates significant impacts including congestion, noise, and traffic incidents.  Furthermore, trucks account for up to 50% of the emission of air pollutants (depending on the pollutant considered) by transport activities in a city, although they represent only 20% to 30% of road traffic in cities.

In response to growing urban freight problems, cities around the world have engaged in extensive experimentation to manage urban freight. Also, a substantial work of research addresses the dilemma of environmental impacts and efficiency of urban freight transport. Most of the research and policies is targeted to last mile deliveries to retail stores in central business districts. Freight operations in sub-urban areas, on the other hand, are widely underrepresented in city policies and logistics research. This gap is not surprising since it is the high-density “downtown” areas and city centers where the conflicts between efficient logistics and impacts of freight traffic is most severe, while in the less dense suburban areas truck operations are easier to operate and cause less conflicts with citizens.

However, the significant trend of sub-urbanization, especially in metropolitan areas, may require a new focus for urban freight transport. More and more people both in developed and developing countries are moving outside the city to suburban neighborhoods with lower densities, where accommodation is more affordable than in central areas, and which offer a better quality of life. This trend of suburbanization, including edge cities, is well documented as an element of the urban spatial structure. What is less considered are the new forms of production, distribution and consumption that suburbia has created. The goal of this project is to identify the implications of sub-urbanization for logistics and to explore the extent to which suburban logistics deserves attention as a new field of urban freight transport research. Are we observing an emerging dualism in city logistics between the central areas and suburbia? If so, which forms this dualism is taking?

The composition of the project is as follows:

  1. Definition of the subject: what is the difference between city logistics and sub-urban logistics? (Theoretical part).
  2. Review of current trends impacting suburban logistics (Empirical part).
  3. Discussion on to what extent sub-urban logistics deserves attention as a new field of urban freight transport research.




Sonke Behrends
Ph.D., Technology Management and Economics, Division of Logistics and Transportation
Vera Sandbergs Allé 8 A
[email protected]