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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Primer for Improved Urban Freight Mobility and Delivery
Operations, Logistics, and Technology Strategies


What are Urban Areas?

For the purposes of this primer, “urban areas” include cities and suburbs with a developed, and often multimodal, transportation network. This definition includes major metropolitan areas containing an extensive multimodal transportation network, medium-sized cities with pockets of population and employment activity centers, as well as smaller cities with vibrant main streets. Although cities may vary significantly in their urban form, they all face similar challenges when it comes to the efficient flow of goods.

Commercial trucks are the dominant mode of transportation for urban freight. They represent approximately 8 percent of vehicle travel in metropolitan areas. This percentage is likely to increase with the rise of e-commerce and increased globalization of trade. E-commerce is increasing demand for freight deliveries to urban residents, while growing international trade is increasing traffic at ports of entry, many of which are located in metropolitan areas.

Table 1. Target Primer Audience

Target Stakeholders Role in Freight and Goods Movement in Urban Areas
Public-sector planners and engineers Plan and implement OLT strategies to manage urban freight in a city, State, or region.
Regulators, elected officials, and advocacy and community groups Advocate for and enact policy changes pertaining to urban freight transportation for a city, State, or region.
Shippers, receivers, freight carriers, and logistics professionals Move freight and coordinate pick-ups and deliveries.
Industry/business associations and economic development organizations Represent business interests of an industry, sector, city, or region.
Researchers and academics Lead research efforts to develop solutions to urban freight challenges.

Effective urban freight systems facilitate goods movement, reducing costs for businesses and improving services for consumers while minimizing unwanted impacts on infrastructure, safety, and the environment. Because freight is typically moved by private-sector entities on infrastructures built and maintained by an array of public and private stakeholders, effective freight mobility strategies usually involve both public and private stakeholders in planning and implementation. In coordination with private-sector partners, State and local transportation agencies can implement strategies to facilitate the movement of freight in metropolitan areas and reduce its impacts on residents and other travelers. Although coordinating with diverse stakeholders across jurisdictions, authorities, and sectors can be challenging, many agencies have found ways to engage successfully with stakeholders to enhance freight mobility while addressing impacts on other road users and residents.

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