Office of Operations Freight Management and Operations

FHWA Freight and Land Use Handbook

2.0 Freight as a Good Neighbor – Land Use, Transportation System, and Environmental Considerations

2.1 Purpose and Content

The previous section discussed some of the positive benefits of freight movements – including jobs, increased tax revenue, and supporting the demands of growing “just in time” consumer markets. Unfortunately, if not properly planned, freight movements and related land uses also have the potential to produce negative environmental impacts, including noise and light pollution, unwanted odors, vibrations, safety concerns, and impacts to regional air and water quality.

These impacts can be mitigated, to a great extent, by careful and smart regional planning, local land use and zoning, site and facility design, and operational considerations. However, these enhancements are only possible if they are implemented as part of a public transportation planning and land use planning, and zoning and permitting processes. If freight planning and land use decision-making activities are well integrated, both the public and private sector may benefit through reduced congestion, improved air quality and safety, enhanced community livability, improved operational efficiency, reduced transportation costs, and greater access to facilities and markets. The freight community can be considered “a good neighbor” when such a balance between economic activity and external impacts is achieved.

The purpose of this section is to review a range of strategies and tools that have been used successfully to ensure that freight land uses have a positive relationship with surrounding land uses. Throughout the section, “best practices” will be used to illustrate how other regional authorities and cities have successfully implemented freight uses into their land use fabric. Since land use and zoning rules, and responsibilities of public agencies regarding them vary widely from place to place, “best practices” were drawn from agencies of all sizes, and reflect freight and community needs in urban, rural, and suburban areas alike. A number of “critical success factors” are identified in each case, which are intended to provide key lessons learned and guidance to a variety of stakeholder and agency types.

Section Organization

This section will provide regional and local-level tools, strategies and resources to ensure that freight is a good neighbor. These tools, strategies, and resources will be focused in five areas:

  • Appropriate and Coordinated Land Use Policies – identifies land use policies, including regional visioning and planning, local zoning and transportation policies, and site-specific policies and practices addressing context-sensitive design and access to industrial and freight transportation facilities.
  • Effective Transportation Systems and Services – presents suggested ways of improving transportation systems. The development and maintenance of transportation systems that can effectively, efficiently, and safely accommodate freight and passenger traffic can help freight systems be better neighbors in a community or region.
  • Effective Operations and Management Policies – provides examples of policies to operate and manage transportation systems in order to reduce peak-period demand, and therefore, reduce congestion, and in ways that produce fewer negative impacts to quality of life and the environment.
  • Education and Outreach – describes how state and regional agencies, by educating themselves and providing technical assistance to local jurisdictions and other agencies and authorities, can effectively engage private stakeholders and develop effective land use and transportation policies.
  • Putting it All Together – demonstrates, through a series of detailed case studies, how several government agencies throughout the country have tied each of the previous four sets of policies and practices into a successful program.
Table 2.1 Examples of Freight and Land Use Integration Strategies and Tools
Policy Area Strategy/Tool Case Study Examples Goals
Appropriate and Coordinated Land Use Policies Regional visioning and scenario planning Pittsburgh Region “Power of 32” Sets regional stakeholder goals and gain common understanding between different levels of government
Incentives to reinvest in existing industrial space – e.g., tax credits Connecticut Urban and Industrial Reinvestment Tax Credit Program Offers tax credits as an incentive to (re)develop in urban and industrial areas, provided performance criteria are met
Creating buffers around freight Vancouver, Washington pedestrian bridge Provides safe means for residents to traverse a freight facility
Using zoning tools to preserve industry and limit freight impacts Baltimore, Maryland Maritime Industrial Zone Overlay District (MIZOD) Layton City, Utah manufacturing (M) zoning code Provides space for manufacturing where appropriate infrastructure and adjacent land uses exist, and protect industry from pressures to change use
Promote context-sensitive site and building design features Port of Seattle Central Waterfront Project mitigation Reduces the noise and vibration, light, aesthetic, and local air quality impacts of freight facilities on neighboring land uses
Effective Transportation Systems and Services Freight-exclusive facilities I-5 Truck Lanes Reduces the noise and vibration, light, aesthetic, and local air quality impacts of freight facilities on neighboring land uses
Effective truck route networks Arroyo Grande, California truck route network Ensures truck routes avoid sensitive areas and link with truck routes in neighboring jurisdictions.
Effective Freight Operations and Management Offering incentives for off-peak delivery Boston downtown delivery hours Spreads truck traffic times across a wider timeframe, as well as increase their efficiency because of decreased road congestion
Education and Outreach Technical assistance to local jurisdictions Atlanta, Georgia – Atlanta Regional Commission Ensures that local land use policy-makers are informed of freight needs and can help codify freight and land use integration best practices

2.2 Appropriate and Coordinated Land Use Policies

As described in Section 1.0, agencies at all levels of government have responsibilities regarding transportation and land use planning. Through goods movement studies, corridor studies, modal plans, and other planning efforts, state and regional agencies collect and publish data on goods movement, on economic activity, and on changing land use patterns at the state and regional level. These agencies establish policy guidelines and offer technical assistance to local jurisdictions, which have zoning authority. Local comprehensive planning and zoning authorities have the responsibility of establishing areas for residential, institutional, commercial, industrial, and other types of zones their areas require while ensuring that the various types of land uses can coexist, and minimizing impacts on residents and businesses. One important way to make sure that freight is a good neighbor is to implement appropriate land use policies, and to coordinate those policies among various local initiatives and between agencies in neighboring jurisdictions. The planning process, whether through regional transportation planning or local land use planning, can facilitate this interaction and problem solving. This section demonstrates how regional and local agencies can work together through the use of land use strategies, tools, policies, and practice, to include industrial and freight generating land uses, while minimizing their impact on other, sensitive land uses.

Example of Regional Visioning Process Recognizing the Needs of Freight Land Uses – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania region

The “Power of 32” is a regional visioning effort launched in May of 2009. The goal of the process is to allow every resident of the 4-state, 32-county region to participate in creating a shared vision for the region’s best future.

Representing the economic region centered on metropolitan Pittsburgh, the process recognizes and communicates the importance of freight land uses such as manufacturing, research and development, and fuel extraction to the region’s economy, and has taken steps to include freight-intensive land uses, and the transportation infrastructure supporting them, in the visioning process. The region’s vision includes strategies to help businesses find suitable development sites, including those with existing utilities, transportation facilities, and/or in existing industrial or commercial areas.

The effort also includes an extensive outreach and education program to communicate the importance of the region’s major industries to its economy, and to receive constructive feedback from stakeholders and the public. In addition, the group’s steering committee includes representatives of many of the region’s major shippers and receivers.

The Power of 32 effort is a good example of how statewide and regional agencies can work together to address multijurisdictional freight and land use issues. It is also a good example of how private sector freight stakeholders can participate in the process.


Regional-Level Strategies and Tools

Land use is generally planned and implemented at the local agency level, using the comprehensive plan, zoning code, and permitting system as reviewed in the previous section. However, many regional agencies, such as Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) are recognizing the importance of linking freight transportation and land use planning, and are learning to find ways to guide or educate local jurisdictions without infringing on their sovereignty. As such, strategies and tools at the regional level involve guidance in locating major freight-generating uses (such as manufacturing centers, distribution centers, etc.) within the region, as well as gaining regional planning consensus, and suggesting regionwide policies and approaches. Some strategies and tools implemented by regional agencies include scenario planning, preferential zoning and tax relief programs.

Scenario Planning

Scenario planning is a collaborative visioning exercise which analyzes trends and alternative futures regarding forces such as health, transportation, livability issues, economic, environmental, and land use patterns, that affect the transportation needs of a community or region. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) encourages and supports scenario planning that is focused on transportation issues. From a freight perspective, changes in demographics (e.g., aging populations or changing population densities), advancements in alternative fuel technologies, fluctuations in fuel prices, climate change and associated policies, and economic variability can result in radical changes in global supply chains, influencing where raw materials are sourced, where goods are produced, and where and how they are transported to consumer markets.

Shifts in global supply chain patterns can have significant implications for local and regional governments in the United States. For example, in scenarios in which diesel fuel prices become volatile, advancements in alternative fuels or mode shift from truck to rail may accelerate. Such an outcome could result in changes in distribution networks, industry location decisions, and truck and rail travel patterns at the global, national and local levels. At the local level, land use policy scenarios that account for current trends versus “smart growth” scenarios could demonstrate the impact of land use policy decisions on economic development and land use conflict issues.

The specific issues addressed by a scenario planning process will depend on the priorities of the community, region, or study area engaging in the exercise. The engagement of freight stakeholders, including the public at large, is therefore required in order to develop a collaborative vision of a desired future, and principles that guide the development of the trend and alternative scenarios. FHWA published the Scenario Planning Guidebook which helps agencies understand and engage in the scenario planning process. The guidebook suggests six phases that agencies are likely to encounter when implementing scenario planning process. The phases are:

  • Phase 1: How Should We Get Started? Scope the effort and engage partners.
  • Phase 2: Where Are We Now? Establish baseline analysis. Identify factors and trends that affect the state, region, community or study area.
  • Phase 3: Who Are We and Where Do We Want to Go? Establish future goals and aspirations based on values of the state, region, community or study area.
  • Phase 4: What Could the Future Look Like? Create baseline and alternative scenarios.
  • Phase 5: What Impacts Will Scenarios Have? Assess scenario impacts, influences, and effects.
  • Phase 6: How Will We Reach Our Desired Future? Craft the comprehensive vision. Identify strategic actions and performance measures. (FHWA Scenario Planning Guidebook, Federal Highway Administration.)

Tax Relief Programs to Preserve Freight –Dependent Land Uses

Although the redevelopment of former industrial sites for residential and/or commercial land uses near many city and town centers is acting as a force to push freight development to the fringes of many metropolitan areas, regions and states are finding that preserving industrial areas can contribute to economic vitality and a variety of other regional objectives, such as limiting “freight sprawl” and associated impacts. (Freight sprawl can result in increased truck vehicle miles traveled (VMT), introducing significant air quality, congestion, safety, pavement issues, and other implications. Local and regional planning agencies sometimes facilitate this process because uses such as residential, commercial, or tourism are seen as preferred ways to foster economic development and expand the tax base.) Tax incentives are among the tools states, regions, and municipalities can use to encourage the preservation of industrial activity on existing industrial sites. Recognizing the public purpose provided by private rail services (such as job creation or retention, reduced congestion, reduced fuel consumption and emissions reductions), some states grant property tax relief for certain rail properties. The Federal Government offers tax credits (ranging from 10 to 20 percent) to businesses that rehabilitate existing and/or historic industrial buildings. Many states and municipalities offer additional incentives to encourage reinvestment in existing industrial buildings or parcels.

Figure 2.1 Creating Buffers or Separation Between Industrial Land Uses and Other Land Uses

Figure 2.1 is a photograph showing a sign that forbids trespassing at a freight rail yard.

Example of a State Tax Relief Program – Urban and Industrial Reinvestment Tax Credit Program, State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development

The Urban and Industrial Sites Reinvestment Tax Credit Program is an example of an economic development tool that a state may develop in order to steer investment to urban centers, economically distressed communities, and existing or former industrial sites. Under the Connecticut program, the State may provide up to $100 million in tax credits over a 10-year period to support projects that create significant jobs and capital investment in these areas. The program’s expenditures are capped at $500 million by statute. The amount of credits offered to applicants is determined upon the outcome of a comprehensive financial and economic impact review process, including the use of econometric modeling.

Eligible projects must demonstrate significant new economic activity, increased employment, additional tax revenues to the municipality and state, and (if applicable) a return of contaminated property to a viable business condition. Candidate projects must be located on an “urban site,” defined as 1) a designated enterprise zone, 2) an acknowledged distressed area, 3) a municipality with a population of more than 100,000; or in on an “industrial site,” defined as a site that has been subject to environmental contamination.

Many states offer similar incentive programs to encourage development in desirable areas, such as urban and former industrial sites where appropriate land use regulations and supporting infrastructure are established.


Local Policies and Practices

Local policies and practices generally refer to issues within a municipality, including the existence of truck routes and the access to intermodal facilities. Municipalities and businesses can work together in a number of ways to reduce the conflict between freight and sensitive land uses within communities, such as neighborhoods, schools, playgrounds, or near other areas where freight movement may have a negative impact. Tools and strategies included in this section, therefore, are most likely instituted by the municipality. However, private-sector businesses have also been active in voluntary restrictions to mitigate the impacts of goods movement on the communities that surround them. The following sections highlight some of the “best practices” (including local government policies and business practices) to mitigate the conflicts between freight and sensitive land use at the local level. (Many examples in this section came from NCHRP Report 320.)

Example of Industrial Uses and Highway Access – Layton City, Utah

Layton City, Utah, provides an example of using zoning codes to ensure that freight facilities are located with appropriate access to infrastructure while avoiding sensitive land uses.

In its Municipal Code, Layton City describes characteristics about each of the zones in the zoning code, including industrial uses. It states: The “M” (Manufacturing/Industrial) zoning districts are intended to provide areas for manufacturing and industrial uses, where they will have the necessary services and facilities, and minimize obtrusions by adjoining uses and districts. These districts shall be located near rail lines and shall be near interstate highway interchanges for ease of transportation of goods. In order to minimize conflict among incompatible uses, most non-industrial uses are not allowed in the “M” zoning districts.


Creating Buffers or Separation Between Industrial Land Uses and Other Land Uses

One method to reduce the impact of freight on the rest of the environment is to minimize the interference of freight on communities’ quality of life. This can be achieved through the construction of physical barriers, freight routing, and others. Examples are discussed below.

  • Create walls around freight corridors or create pedestrian/bicycle paths to make crossing of freight facilities safer. Pedestrian crossing of freight rail facilities and major highways is a safety concern, which governments and businesses can mitigate through the construction of walls to discourage pedestrian crossing of railways and highways. A better but more expensive option is to build pedestrian crossings over the facilities.
  • Build sound walls or berms around areas with freight activity. Installing these can reduce noise and light pollution. These types of structures can be mandated in zoning codes for specific sites or can be required through agreements between the surrounding community and the facility. Trees or tall plants can also act as a good visual barrier to freight centers.
  • Include buffer zones around freight generating sites. Creating a buffer zone between freight intensive activities and the rest of the community can insert space between two incompatible land uses. The buffer could take the form of open space, or make use of the concept of “stepping up” land uses, which refers to incremental increases in land use intensity over a given area. Intermediate land uses, such as retail or office, may be located between freight-intensive land use areas and sensitive areas such as residential areas and schools. The intermediate land uses should be less sensitive to industrial and freight activity, and impose fewer impacts on sensitive areas. The use of buffers in this manner reduces noise and air quality issues that increase with proximity to heavy industrial and freight-heavy facilities.

Figure 2.2 Creating Buffers between Industrial Land Uses and Other Land Uses

Figure 2.2 is an aerial photograph showing a wooded area separating a large rail yard from a residential area.

Upgrade Rail Crossings with New Technologies

The public and private sectors are developing and deploying technologies to reduce hazards at at-grade rail crossings. These new technologies include installation of median barriers (raised islands with markers mounted atop), four-quadrant crossing gates, and intelligent signal monitoring systems, which provide notification when the grade crossing mechanisms have failed. (Luczak, M., “Beating Back the ‘beat-the-train’ Brigade,” Railway Age, July 1999.)

Example of Construction of a Bike/Pedestrian Bridge at a Major Railyard – Vancouver, Washington

Washington State DOT (WSDOT) provides an example of how an investment in a pedestrian bridge can effectively connect neighborhoods, and provide safe travel for residents over a busy freight facility.

At one of the busiest railyards in the Pacific Northwest, located in Vancouver, Washington, WSDOT is improving pedestrian and bike safety by constructing an overpass over tracks near the railyard. In addition to providing a safe separation of pedestrian and bicycle traffic from the railyard freight activity, this crossing will improve connectivity between neighborhoods in this Portland suburb.


Utilize Zoning Powers

Zoning can be used to guide the development of industrial land uses, such as new freight warehouses or intermodal facilities, near major highway access points. It is recommended to locate new warehousing facilities close to major truck routes, such as interstates. The closer these freight generators are to major highway infrastructure, the fewer miles trucks will need to move on local roads before moving onto highways. The same can be said for intermodal facilities. Airports, rail/truck terminals, and seaports should have proximate and adequate freeway access to avoid truck movements on local roads. While facilities generating large volumes of freight should be located away from sensitive land uses, some industrial and retail activities which generate smaller volumes of freight activity may be allowable or even desired within multiple-use communities. Tools such as zoning overlay districts and preferential zoning can establish parameters to accommodate those activities while minimizing external impacts on surrounding areas.

  • Zoning overlay districts. Zoning overlays allow for the requirement of fewer or more restrictions on land use types within a zone or a district. Zoning overlay districts are typically designed to promote or discourage a particular type of land use or activity. Zoning overlay districts are often applied to historic neighborhoods in order to preserve scale and design features, or in special industrial areas to preserve endangered or incubate emerging industrial activities. Two examples of zoning tools used in overlay districts include form-based and performance zoning. Rather than segregating all industrial land uses, form-based and performance zoning may be used as tools to accommodate suitable retail and light industrial activities within or on close proximity to residential or multi-use communities.
    • Form-based zoning. Form-based zoning codes are methods for regulating development by building form rather than by land use. Form-based codes are typically employed in urban districts where mixed-use developments are encouraged, and address the physical and aesthetic relationship of a building to the streetscape and to surrounding buildings. Planners may use form-based codes to require retail and light industrial activities be housed in buildings that conform to neighborhood standards. The requirements may include maximum setbacks from the lot line, restrictions on driveways and curb cuts in front of a building, and establishment of loading areas on the rear façade of a building, away from the street, where possible. The desired form and design principles established in a form-based code are communicated with developers graphically using site plans and street section drawings to limit confusion or misinterpretation.
    • Performance zoning. While traditional zoning addresses land use types and form-based zoning addresses building form and design, performance zoning codes address the intensity of activity on a given parcel and the impacts of that activity on surrounding areas. Performance codes are more flexible regarding permitted land uses, provided impacts such as noise, odors, light pollution, water contaminants, and traffic generation remain within allowable thresholds. Theoretically, performance zoning could allow industrial land uses to be located almost anywhere in a community, as long as the impacts to adjacent properties are not excessive. Communities which adopt performance standards will have to weigh the benefit of reducing the effort required to draft zoning codes and administer variance procedures under traditional zoning codes against the effort required to establish performance criteria frameworks and a system to monitor performance.
  • Preferential zoning. It is possible to develop zoning regulations that encourage development that meets established planning goals. For instance, if regional stakeholders have determined that the provision/retention of freight-dependent land uses is an important goal, the planning authority can establish special zoning designations based on existing land use patterns and then offer rewards to developers who include desired freight amenities in their plans. These can include incentives such as floor-area-ratio (FAR) bonuses (FAR refers to the ratio of the total floor area of a building to the total area of the parcel on which it sits. Limits on FAR (often built into zoning codes) thus regulate the intensity of development.) or height limit bonuses. (Height limits are another way agencies regulate development intensity, in this case by specifying the allowable building heights for a property in a particular zone.) Allowing a developer to build to a higher FAR or height will increase the value of the property for the developer.

Example of Zoning Overlay to Preserve Freight Activity and Reduce Land Use Conflicts – Maritime Industrial Zoning Overlay District (MIZOD) – Baltimore, Maryland

The City of Baltimore’s Maritime Industrial Zoning Overlay District (MIZOD) is an example of an effective zoning tool that preserves a limited and desirable resource (waterfront land) for industrial uses in the face of a mixed-use real estate boom that has applied considerable pressure to convert waterfront industrial properties to mixed-use.

The City enacted the MIZOD in 2004 to preserve maritime properties with deep water, rail and highway access in order to protect maritime-dependent uses and intermodal freight movement. The goal was to balance the needs of both mixed-use and maritime shipping, maximizing each to the extent possible without harming the other. The City categorized its waterfront into two general districts: Mixed-Use and Maritime Industrial. In the first, mixed-use would be allowed, enabled, and encouraged. In the second, the MIZOD would protect maritime uses by prohibiting conversion of land to non-industrial uses. Establishing clearly defined mixed-use and maritime industrial areas streamlined the development by avoiding costly and time-consuming delays associated with site-by-site decision-making regarding changes of use. It is also credited with protecting the integrity of the maritime area by avoiding the “leapfrogging” of mixed use into maritime areas.

The City publishes an annual report to tracks performance indicators such as number of businesses located in the district, number of new permits, property tax collected, cargo volumes, and a survey of firms within or dependent upon the City’s maritime industry. The 2010 MIZOD Annual Report concluded that MIZOD protection has allowed companies to feel confident in making significant capital investments in Baltimore, citing a series of recent and planned investments as evidence.

The Baltimore experience can serve as an example for other locales experiencing rapid land development and population growth, and other pressures on industrial land uses.


Preserve and Maintain Existing Industrial Land Uses

Some regions have found that dedicated, preserved space in which to foster manufacturing and industrial land uses is a good way to support the development of freight generating land uses. In addition, by designating this space as industrial land and explicitly discouraging other land uses (such as residential or commercial), it is easier to build infrastructure and policies to support freight land uses. This can include infrastructure considerations – such as buffers or wide turning radii – but can also include supportive policies, for example relaxing any time-of-day restrictions in freight districts that may apply in surrounding residential communities. Supporting brownfield redevelopment for industrial use is another strategy that municipalities can consider. This can be accomplished through incentives and assistance in order to foster freight intensive activities in suitable locations, as well as to maintain some freight generating land uses within the urban core. Brownfield development is discussed in greater detail in Section 3.0.

Promote Context-Sensitive Solutions (CSS)

CSS is an approach used in transportation planning to achieve consensus among project stakeholders, and to ensure that a transportation project (solution) is in keeping with the context of a community’s identity. CSS requires the continuous involvement of stakeholders in the process of establishing an understanding of the context, documenting problems and issues, identifying and evaluating alternatives, and selecting a solution. CSS can be an effective process for freight-related transportation projects, as it calls for solutions that are sensitive to surrounding land uses, and it can solve the “freight doesn’t vote” problem by bringing private-sector freight stakeholders such as shippers, receivers, and motor carriers into the planning process with community residents and leaders. The outcome of CSS when applied to freight projects should be a solution that addresses the needs of the community, and which has the support of businesses and residents. Examples of building and site design features that could be part of context-sensitive applications are listed below:

  • Orient loading facilities to minimize aesthetic, noise, and pollution impacts on residents, including creating loading bays that are sufficiently large to allow easy truck entrance, egress, and maneuvering.
  • Consider creating a buffer around all freight generating land uses to preserve land for expansion and prevent encroachment of incompatible uses. Another option is to allow only those other land uses that are compatible with freight activities.
  • Establish staging areas for freight delivery. Many stores and other facilities receiving shipments do not have staging areas or freight loading docks. Trucks making deliveries must park along the curb or in a parking lot, which can impede traffic flow and cause congestion on the streets around the store. One solution calls for municipalities and other zoning authorities to require on-site, and, preferably, off-street staging areas for facilities and businesses that regularly receive freight shipments. In some cases there may not be sufficient space for on-site loading docks or parking areas. The establishment of common loading areas in multiple-tenant facilities, and/or regulations to effectively manage curbside truck parking may be more suitable solutions.
  • Reduce light spillage from freight facilities. Often, freight yards or businesses use heavy lighting for security, signage, or other reasons. However, lighting can have negative impacts on neighbors surrounding the facility, as the light might be a nuisance during sleeping hours or at other times of the day. This is referred to as “light pollution.” When selecting lighting for a facility, it is important to select fixtures, locations, and lighting orientations that minimize light spilling onto adjacent properties.(Source.) Freight locations located near highways or roadways should make sure that glare is reduced, so that drivers are not distracted by the glare produced by these lights. Glare can be reduced by locating the lights at an angle that minimizes disturbance to drivers.
  • Employ “Green Port” Technologies. Ports have historically been hotspots for air pollution and GHG emissions, as a result of the high density of truck, marine, and rail traffic at these facilities. As a result, much can be gained in terms of air pollution reduction at these facilities. This includes the following:
    • Installing electric gantry cranes;
    • Using modern generator set, or “GenSet” locomotives, which do not consume as much fuel as a diesel locomotive engine, for yard operations or drayage activities; and
    • Improving efficiency of flow through the port through the implementation of appointment systems, virtual container yards, peak-hour truck reduction programs and others.
    • Installing electric plug-in, or “cold-ironing” at ship berths so that ships do not need to idle their engines to power the ship while in port.

Figure 2.3 Flat-lens Lighting Fixtures, Direct light downward, reducing light pollution and glare

Figure 2.3 is a photograph showing a rail yard illuminated using flat-lens lighting fixtures that direct light downward, reducing light pollution and glare.

Example of Truck Lanes – Interstate 5, California

Caltrans, through its implementation of truck lanes on Interstate 5 and other highways, provides an example of managing traffic through freight-only transportation facilities.

Caltrans has developed truck lanes on segments of Interstate 5 to facilitate the rapid movement of freight and passenger traffic in a safer, separated configuration. Caltrans and other DOTs throughout the country are examining the feasibility of developing truck lanes and/or truck-only toll (TOT) lanes.


2.3 Effective Transportation Systems and Services

In addition to pursuing “good neighbor” land use policies, developing and maintaining effective transportation systems and services is an important element of supporting the freight community and mitigating potential adverse effects of freight. Freight-exclusive transportation facilities such as truck lanes, direct highway connections to freight facilities, and the reduction of at-grade rail crossings are examples of strategies that improve transportation system safety and limit the potential impacts of freight movement on the safety and quality of life of the public at large.

Example of Truck Route Language in the General Plan – Arroyo Grande, California

The City of Arroyo Grande, a small city with nearly 16,000 residents on California’s Central Coast, illustrates how a municipal truck route network should be coordinated with neighboring jurisdictions, and avoid areas containing sensitive land uses.

The City includes language in the circulation element of its General Plan that seeks to keep truck movements away from residential areas. The plan states “Truck routes should coordinate with County and adjoining cities designated routes and avoid traversing residential areas.” (CT3-4.1)


Freight-Exclusive Facilities

Many of the issues and challenges associated with freight transport revolve around safety and quality of life concerns that arise when freight vehicles come into contact with passenger modes. At the regional level, motorists and businesses are often concerned with the safety, congestion, and air quality impacts of commercial motor vehicle traffic on major freeways and arterials. Although it is usually recognized that freight movements are essential to commerce and economic growth, there is often pressure to find policies which reduce these negative externalities.

One way to mitigate these problems is to establish infrastructure solely dedicated to freight movements. The most common example is truck-only lanes, which are typically implemented as a regionwide network of managed lanes dedicated to trucks. This can reduce freight delays (trucks no longer have to contend with passenger cars for road space) while simultaneously minimizing conflicts between trucks and passenger cars. It can also focus truck traffic on one or more specified corridors – as opposed to having trucks impacting multiple routes in a region.

Truck-only lanes are typically planned as tolled facilities (truck-only toll, or TOT lanes), because it is often politically infeasible to raise taxes or use bonding authority to pay for transport infrastructure that is perceived to only benefit the freight industry. This raises the possibility of making the TOT lanes self-financed through user fees or using private capital through a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement. However, there are some practical considerations which must be evaluated when looking at TOT implementation:

  • Tradeoff between limiting access and generating demand. From an operational standpoint, the most efficient TOT-lane configuration would feature limited access points, for example between a port and a major transcontinental Interstate link. However, research suggests that average truck trip distances in many regions are shorter than might be expected, as freight trucks often need to access warehouses and distribution centers nearby other freight generators such as ports or intermodal yards. In this instance, providing access points at just a few locations would discourage truckers making local trips from using the facility. More access points may generate additional local demand, but this could come at the expense of operating speeds/efficiency while also increasing project capital costs. Fischer, Michael J., Ahanotu, D.N., and Waliszewski, J.M. Planning Truck-Only Lanes: Emerging Lessons from the Southern California Experience. Transportation Research Record No. 1833.)
  • Time-of-day distribution of truck traffic. Peak truck travel patterns differ from peak commuter travel patterns largely because truckers strive to avoid the most congested periods of the day. As a result truck volumes often peak in the mid-morning (after the morning rush) and again in the mid-afternoon (before the evening peak), and long-haul trucks are much more likely to operate at night than passenger vehicles. This means that travel-time savings associated with TOT lanes may be minimal – which reduces demand – unless the roadway in question is congested for most of the day. (Fischer, Michael J., Ahanotu, D.N., and Waliszewski, J.M. Planning Truck-Only Lanes: Emerging Lessons from the Southern California Experience. Transportation Research Record No. 1833.)
  • Tradeoff between toll rates and demand. Ideally, toll rates would be set in a way that maximizes toll revenues, achieves an acceptable level of service and a high-utilization rate, and diverts a significant number of trucks from local roads to the TOT lanes. In practice it is difficult to achieve all four of these objectives at the same time, since they may work at cross-purposes. For instance, if tolls are set higher than the travel-time savings that truckers would realize by using the facility, they would be unlikely to use the TOT lanes, thus reducing demand and toll revenues without removing many trucks from congested free lanes. (Chu, Hsing-Chung. Implementing Truck-Only Toll Lanes at the State, Regional, and Corridor Levels: Development of a Planning Methodology. Doctoral dissertation, Georgia Institute of Technology, 2007.) Trucker utilization of TOT lanes also is affected by the value and time-sensitivity of the cargo.

Replace At-Grade Rail Crossings

Rail tracks running near neighborhoods often create safety issues for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists looking to cross from one side of the tracks to the other. While expensive, replacing at-grade rail crossings with above or below-grade crossings for these modes will reduce conflicts with freight trains. These may also mitigate the divisive impact of a rail line on the community, allowing for more integration between neighborhoods on both sides of the tracks. Removing an at-grade crossing can reduce noise (no whistle blowing required) and may increase the effectiveness of freight rail operations. If removing at-grade crossings is not an option, upgrading rail crossings with new technologies, such as four quadrant crossing gates and intelligent signal monitoring system, can help make existing at-grade rail crossings safer.

2.4 Effective Operations and Management Policies

In addition to providing a safe and effective transportation system, there are a number of strategies that can be implemented to improve the operations of the transportation system to reduce freight impacts. Such operations strategies include incentivizing off-peak deliveries to reduce freight contributions to congestion during peak travel periods, creating “quiet” or “no whistle” zones along rail lines to reduce noise pollution in residential areas, and installing “hush kits” to reduce airplane noise impacts.

Incentives for Off-Peak Delivery

One way to minimize the freight contribution to traffic congestion in a region is to provide incentives that encourage delivery during off-peak-periods such as nights and weekends. Since one 70-foot long tractor-trailer occupies space on the road equivalent to 1.5 to 8 passenger cars depending upon the type and condition of the roadway, (Highway Capacity Manual 2000, Transportation Research Board) any reduction in peak-hour truck volumes can yield significant congestion relief benefits. It can also reduce the environmental impacts of goods movement since the time trucks spend idling in traffic typically translates into wasted fuel and increased emissions.

Successful implementation of off-peak delivery incentives requires freight carriers and receivers to come to an agreement about delivery times. Modeling simulation research suggests that the businesses that are most receptive to off-peak deliveries are those that would likely be open during off-peak hours anyway, such as restaurants, bars, convenience stores, 24-hour supermarkets and big-box retailers, and medical facilities. (Silas, Michael S. ‘A Simulation-Optimization Formulation for Design of Off-Peak Delivery Policies.’ Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, presentation dated September 18, 2007. Retrieved April 12, 2010.) The same research also found that off-peak delivery activity is driven mainly by receivers’ preferences. This is because the freight transportation industry is fragmented and intensely competitive, which makes it hard for carriers to unilaterally impose delivery times on their customers. The model found a positive correlation between tax deductions given to receivers and off-peak delivery participation rates among both carriers and receivers. This suggests that incentives targeted towards the receivers of freight may have the largest impacts on congestion relief. Such incentives might be paired with discounted truck tolls on nights and weekends, which might encourage carriers to engage in off-peak deliveries where feasible.

Example of Restricted Downtown Core Delivery Hours – Boston, Massachusetts

The City of Boston offers an example of a management policy that can reduce congestion and limit competition between trucks and automobiles for curb space.

Boston prohibits commercial vehicles from using certain downtown streets within the Downtown Crossing area (a high business and commercial area) between 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 pm. This helps to reduce congestion during the evening peak period of 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Exceptions are made for trucks with time-sensitive cargoes, including trucks from Brinks, FedEx, and the U.S. Postal Service.


At the local level, agencies, ports, and freight carriers can work together to adjust the times during which freight movements occur within municipalities. There are a number of options, which have different benefits and drawbacks:

  • Encourage off-peak delivery/pick-up times for major freight generators. Major freight generators, such as seaports, can reduce peak-hour traffic congestion by incentivizing goods pick-up/delivery during off-peak hours. For example, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach created a program called PierPASS, which provides incentives for shippers to move cargo at night and on weekends, rather than during congested daytime hours. This leads to reduced queues at the Port, which reduces truck idling and therefore has a positive impact on the air quality of surrounding communities. One drawback of this strategy is that off-peak hours usually are night hours, or quiet hours. If the freight facility or port is located in or near a residential area, this strategy may result in increased noise pollution near the facility.
  • Use an appointment system to schedule delivery of goods to freight pick-up or drop-off facilities. At facilities where numerous trucks are scheduled to deliver or pick up goods every day, it may be beneficial to create an appointment system to clear traffic. For example, if 5:00 p.m. is a very congested time when all carriers would like to pickup goods, an appointment system would require goods to be picked up at the discretion of the business or factory – this would enable the business to spread out the times at which goods are picked up, which can improve operations and lower the number of trucks around the factory at one time. This, in turn, can reduce negative externalities for surrounding communities and traffic. Any appointment system should be developed in coordination with the trucking industry, as it will likely impact company’s logistics patterns, labor needs, and scheduling.
  • Implement restricted delivery hours in the downtown core or create surcharges for peak-hour delivery. This strategy can reduce congestion and potential conflicts between residents and goods movement activities in the downtown core during peak travel times. In some cases (mostly smaller deliveries), this strategy can be coupled with the use of unattended delivery systems (such as electronic drop boxes or off-site collection locations) to minimize the impacts on labor or business opening hours.
  • Implement restricted delivery hours in residential zones. This strategy can reduce congestion in residential zones during peak personal travel hours or “quiet” hours. The main reason to do this would be to reduce the noise impact from freight movement on neighborhood residents during the least desirable periods for noise. This strategy is not applicable everywhere, as the shifting of truck travel from one period of the day, from nighttime to daytime, for example, may result in negative impacts on traffic congestion, by pushing more trucks onto the road during peak daytime traffic hours.
  • Modify rail hours of operation to minimize noise/vibrations during “quiet” hours. Trains can create noise pollution due to contact with the rails and their horns. For residences in close proximity to the railroad, vibrations may be another impact felt by residents. One strategy is for railroads to voluntarily move goods only during daytime hours when most residents are not asleep or at home, thus reducing conflicts. This is likely only a potential strategy for smaller, regional “shortline” railroads. Some shortlines, such as the Morristown and Erie (M&E) Railway, have done this. (NCFRP 320.)

Promote the Application of Anti-Idling Technologies for Trucks

Idling trucks are recognized as a significant source of localized pollution in neighborhoods around the country. A heavy-duty diesel truck engine can burn one gallon of diesel for every hour the engine idles, and emit tons of CO2 and particulates over the course of a year. In many states and locales, truck idling is prohibited for periods longer than a few minutes. One method to reduce truck idling is to use on-board anti-idling technologies such as engine control modules, automatic shut-down/turn-on systems, direct-fired heaters, auxiliary power units, or generator sets. These technologies reduce or eliminate the need to idle the engine, although each has different capabilities (engine control and automatic shut-down/turn-on systems to not address cab comfort or power source needs, for example), and costs to install. Electrified parking spaces can provide electrical power and cab heating or air conditioning while trucks are parked at spaces equipped with the technology. Through the SmartWay Program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has partnered with trucking companies throughout the country to upgrade truck fleets with power units, generator sets, and other emissions-reduction technologies. Government agencies may find it worthwhile to direct motor carrier and locomotive fleet operators to programs like SmartWay for assistance in determining their emissions reduction needs and opportunities. (More information regarding the U.S. EPA SmartWay Program is available from.)

Create “No-Whistle Zones” or “Quiet Zones” for Rail

While it is a Federal requirement for trains to blow their horns at at-grade intersections, there are some instances where alternate safety measures can be put in place that waive this requirement. The required measures are site-specific and vary per intersection, but can include measures such as four quadrant gates or public education. Communities can apply for “quiet zone designations,” but are responsible for all costs to make their crossings qualify. (Source.)

Reduce or Mitigate Airplane Noise

Aircraft, especially older ones, create lots of noise for surrounding communities. As a result, airlines have retrofitted many of their older planes with hush kits, which reduce the noise produced by aircraft. Newer airplanes are designed with larger fan blades, which turn at a slower speed and emit less noise. Installation of sound-protective walls between airports and adjacent sensitive land uses can reduce the spillage of noise associated with on-airport activities into surrounding areas. In addition, strategies that manage approach and on-the-ground operations, including suggested limits on use of reverse thrust upon landing, limitations on power used while taxiing, and reconfigurations of runways or taxiways (where possible) to direct activity away from residential areas may be implemented to reduce noise impacts. The ability to implement these and other noise-reducing strategies at airports depends upon airport size, space availability, the location and configuration of sensitive land uses near the airport and along approach paths, and day-to-day weather and runway conditions. (ACRP Report 15: Aircraft Noise: A Toolkit for Managing Community Expectations.)

2.5 Education and Outreach

Lack of awareness is a key reason that logistics needs are not often considered in planning and development decisions. Local and regional authorities can therefore make sure that its staff members are well educated in freight and land use issues, and can develop and deliver training targeted towards planning and zoning board officials and professional planners that educates them on logistics and freight needs with regard to transportation and land use planning. This can help provide the institutional push to integrate freight into the planning process. Through improving the understanding of material flows, receiving technical assistance and engaging and educating community groups and residents, and industry representatives, dialog about community needs and freight impacts can be undertaken in an educated manner, in which the benefits of freight and the community impacts are understood by everyone at the table.

Stakeholder Engagement

Freight-dependent businesses may be engaged in zoning and land use planning processes, however, they may not fully understand the transportation implications of zoning and land use decisions. Therefore, it is important for local and regional authorities to “go to them” by actively reaching out to the freight generators. For example, a regional body could host a “Freight Forum” bringing stakeholders and local planning agencies together periodically or on a regular recurring basis to discuss freight-related land use needs and issues.

Engage Community Groups and Residents

The communities who are impacted by freight have legitimate concerns about the noise, vibrations, light, air quality and other impacts they experience. While many communities may find freight an undesirable neighbor, there are strategies that industry groups, possibly with the assistance of government, can implement to engage the community and become a welcome neighbor.

  • Create a neighborhood investment fund. Freight generating industries or freight carriers themselves can volunteer to give back to their surrounding communities by setting up neighborhood investment funds. These funds can help facilitate local economic development, which improves the lives of those in surrounding communities by adding jobs and improving services. This also can work as a public relations tool for the freight company, as direct investment in the community can lead to better relations with neighbors and local officials.
  • Hire locally. Another strategy that helps to make the economic benefits of freight uses very evident to nearby communities is to develop an on-site workforce composed largely of community residents. This also can serve to improve private-sector relations with the community and officials.
  • Create complaint hotlines and open communication with neighbors and the community. It is important to create a way for neighbors and the community to express their concerns, so that they can be addressed as appropriate by the business. Businesses can add such information to their web sites, while the government also can take complaints, if citizens feel more comfortable going to the local jurisdiction for complaints.

Technical Assistance to Local Jurisdictions

Oftentimes, inadequate consideration for freight in local land use and development decisions stems from a lack of freight provisions in local comprehensive planning efforts and associated zoning codes and land development regulations (LDR). As a result, freight and logistics needs end up as an afterthought in the planning and development review process. This can result in development projects getting approved even if the plans do not include sufficient provisions for efficient freight operations. For example, a freight and land use study in Atlanta found examples of large new mixed-use (residential and commercial) centers with no loading zones, off-street truck parking, or rear access for trucks. This could easily lead to conflicts between freight and passenger vehicles, not to mention pedestrians. The same study found instances of new residential development immediately adjacent to truck and rail terminals (see Figure 2.4). (Mays, Caroline A. ‘Integrating Freight and Land Use in the Atlanta Region.’ Presentation given November 9, 2008 to FHWA Talking Freight Seminars.)

Figure 2.4 Residential Development Adjacent to Freight-Generating Land Use

Figure 2.4 is an aerial photograph showing new residential development adjacent to a container yard and rail terminal.

Source: Atlanta Regional Commission.

State DOTs and MPOs can help resolve this problem by educating their own staff members, and other divisions and departments, and by offering technical assistance to local governments.

This assistance should cover several key areas, including:

  • Providing data and modeling tools that quantify freight needs and impacts. Often, state and regional agencies, through transportation planning activities and special studies such as corridor and subregional freight studies, have developed detailed freight data and regional modeling tools and products that local jurisdictions may not have the capability to develop or use on their own. By sharing these data, local jurisdictions may achieve a fuller understanding of freight activity occurring in their areas, weigh the costs and benefits of freight activity to the area’s economy and quality of life, and make appropriate policy decisions.
  • Assisting local jurisdictions in developing coordinated comprehensive plans that consider freight. Because agencies at all levels of government (local, regional, state, and Federal) are engaged in transportation, economic development, land use, and many other subjects of comprehensive plans, the task of ensuring that planning activities are coordinated with other agencies’ and neighboring jurisdictions’ activities can be daunting for local government planners. State and MPO agencies can assist by being engaged in local planning activities occurring within their jurisdictions, participating on advisory committees, and by cataloguing published planning documents for reference.
  • Model zoning/land development regulations. Since freight is often not considered in local zoning ordinances or LDRs, a regional authority can help by developing model land development and zoning codes for use and adaptation by local agencies. These codes may include provisions for:
    • Buffer zones between incompatible land uses;
    • Protecting undeveloped land near freight facilities from encroachment through zoning, easements, or outright purchase of the land (this has the benefit of providing future expansion opportunities for freight businesses); or
    • Directing warehouse and distribution center development towards sites with multimodal access options.
  • Develop “logistics supportive design guidelines.” Ultimately all development occurs at the site level, so it is important that freight-friendly design requirements are built into the site design and development review process. Regional agencies can provide site layout and building design guidelines that address logistics needs such as loading zones, street geometry, truck routes, and access points. This helps ensure that logistics needs are met for individual projects.

Example of Offering Technical Assistance to Local Jurisdictions and Stakeholders – A Lesson from the Atlanta Regional Commission – Atlanta, Georgia

The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), the MPO for the Atlanta, Georgia region, offers a Community Choices Resource Center, which provides tools and guidance to communities to help them wrestle with land use decisions and (re)development plans. This service is a proven example of how a regional agency can assist local governments in making smart land use policy decisions.

Through the Community Choices Program, ARC provides a broad range of tools, staff resources, and technical assistance to help local governments design communities that work for them. The goal is to assist local governments with making good, long-term decisions about where, when and how they should grow in order to achieve the unique and individual vision of each community. ARC has assisted over seven local governments to implement their growth and land use visions.


2.6 Putting it All Together

This section highlights, through three detailed case studies, specific examples of how issues in Sections 2.1 through 2.4 have been addressed and mitigated in three different metropolitan regions. Each case study is presented according to the following outline:

  • Issue Background – insight into the key problem and causes of the issue addressed by the case study plan or initiative.
  • Approach and Resolution – a summary explanation of the procedure, findings and recommendations each case study plan or initiative identified.
  • Critical Success Factors – key points or “takeaways” that planners in other jurisdictions should learn from the case study subjects’ experiences.
Table 2.2 Key Issues Illustrated within the Best Practice Review
Case Study Key Issues Addressed
Chicago Industrial Corridor Program
  • The importance of preserving industrial and freight-related land uses
  • Retaining manufacturing in the urban core
Atlanta Regional Freight Mobility Plan
  • Encroachment of residential development onto freight/industrial land uses
  • Site design to mitigate freight/industrial noise, light, and dirt
Seattle’s Urban Mobility Plan
  • The use of restricted delivery hours in the urban core
  • Provisions of off-street loading areas and reservation of on-street parking for trucks

Case Study: City of Chicago’s Industrial Corridor Program and The Metropolis Freight Plan: Delivering the Goods

Issue Background

Since its founding in 1833, Chicago has been a major transportation hub – growing from a small trade link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi region – to the point where it now sees the convergence of over 500 freight trains a day, as well as thousands of trucks and a vibrant air cargo industry. Chicago’s residential housing market has been putting increasing pressure on many of the city’s prime industrial sites, especially those located near downtown. Many sites previously devoted to transportation and industry are now being converted into residential lofts and condominiums – leading to tension between uses and diminishing the city’s manufacturing employment base. These factors led to two different actions by two different groups:

The City of Chicago created an Industrial Corridor Program in the early 1990s to protect and guide industrial land use development along specific corridors. Part of this included the creation of “Planned Manufacturing Districts (PMD).” The latter is a special zoning designation for a defined geographic area that limits the types of development to industrial activity, as well as other compatible land uses. The Industrial Corridors and the PMD are shown in Figure 2.5.

In 2004, Chicago Metropolis 2020 created The Metropolis Freight Plan: Delivering the Goods in 2004. Chicago Metropolis 2020, since renamed Metropolis Strategies, is not the region’s MPO, rather it is an organization composed of civic and business leaders, collaborating in an effort to secure the region’s economic competitiveness. (“Metropolis Strategies”) Starting with the Industrial Corridor Program activities, this plan goes further to suggest a series of steps that Chicago Metropolis 2020 believes are needed to prevent future freight gridlock and to secure the economic benefits of growing freight traffic.

Figure 2.5 Chicago’s Designated Industrial Corridors and Planned Manufacturing Districts

Figure 2.5 is a map illustrating the locations of designated Industrial Corridors and Planned Manufacturing Districts throughout the City of Chicago.

Source: City of Chicago.

Approach and Resolution

The City of Chicago established Planned Manufacturing District (PMD) zones in 1991 to preserve the city’s industrial economy. The zones protect industry from encroachment of incompatible land uses by disallowing residential and other sensitive uses within the PMD zones. The City established “buffer” subzones near the edges of some of the PMD zones that allow for a variety of commercial and institutional uses to smooth the transition between industrial and sensitive land uses. Chicago’s zoning code also includes performance criteria specific to the conditions within each PMD zone that limit the levels of noise, vibration, smoke and particulate matter, toxic matter, noxious odorous matter, fire and explosive hazards, and glare or heat emitted from properties within the zones. (Zoning Ordinance, City of Chicago.)

The City of Chicago’s Industrial Corridor Program is designed to support Chicago’s industrial environment by bringing company and community interests together to plan and implement improvements in dedicated industrial areas. Corridors are identified by a series of characteristics, including their accessibility to goods dependent industries and transit, the existence of compatible uses within the corridor. By mid-2004, the City of Chicago had delineated 24 industrial corridors, and 35 were designated by 2011. The industrial corridors program has helped to organize and “legitimize” the industrial clusters throughout the City as neighborhoods or districts. The corridors have served as mechanisms through which appropriate redevelopment and improvement programs have been implemented. (Source.)

In 2004, this concept was expanded upon by Chicago Metropolis 2020, which completed the Metropolis Freight Plan: Delivering the Goods. This report began with a close study of the Industrial Corridor and Planned Manufacturing District program. It then went further, to complete an in-depth interview/discussion period, held with a wide range of industry professionals involved in freight, logistics managers, drayage carriers, commercial real estate developers, academics, transportation advocacy groups, county planning departments, municipal government, and law enforcement. Finally, it included a truck modeling effort, including different scenarios of truck-only infrastructure, including a truck bypass of the downtown core. Outcomes from this effort include the identification of a need for more intermodal facilities in the region, as well as the establishment of local truck routes to connect freight-generating facilities to the main freeway facilities efficiently to reduce VMT and associated impacts. It also called for improved coordination between land use authorities and transportation agencies throughout the metropolitan region.

Critical Success Factors

Two key lessons emerge from these two actions:

  • Preservation and maintenance of manufacturing and industrial land uses in urban areas. Both actions began with the assumption that it is critically important for cities to maintain a mix of land uses in order to support a full range of employment opportunities for residents. It also is vital that manufacturing and industrial land uses be maintained in their current locations in dense urban areas so that the jobs they provide can be reached by public transit systems and so that their freight transportation needs can be met on existing facilities.
  • Zoning as a tool. The City of Chicago used several tools at its disposal, in this case zoning and land use planning, to maintain the viability of its manufacturing sector and attract new industrial development. By designating 35 industrial corridors, and 15 Planned Manufacturing Districts this land is preserved in a manner that means it will not be encroached upon by residential or commercial land uses.

In all, these two efforts are an example of incremental freight and land use integration. They offer: 1) key lessons to any growing urban region, in particular those experiencing residential redevelopment pressures on industrial land, 2) guidelines by which to retain goods movement industries within the urban center, instead of pressuring them to relocate towards the urban fringe, and 3) a compelling argument for cities to understand the hidden costs of these changes, both in terms of job loss and new infrastructure needs.

Case Study: Atlanta Regional Freight Mobility Plan

Issue Background

According to the Atlanta Regional Freight Mobility Plan, the population of the Atlanta region is expected to reach almost seven million people by 2030. The region is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the nation. This growth has and will continue to put development pressure on areas with existing infrastructure. Key freight corridors with access to the interstate and major arterials also are becoming prime space for high-density office and residential or mixed-use developments. As a result, the incidence of adjacent but incompatible land uses is growing (e.g., residential subdivisions bordering warehouse facilities). As property values increase within the urban core, distribution and logistics firms locate facilities at more remote sites at the metropolitan fringe, a phenomenon that has come to be known as “freight sprawl.”

Approach and Resolution

The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) identified the connection of land use and transportation as a key element of developing the ARC Regional Freight Mobility Plan. The Plan is intended to provide guidance for accommodating freight facilities and reduce the sprawl of freight activities (illustrated in Figure 2.6) by developing goods and trade-related distribution facilities within existing transportation corridors and zones. This can also help ensure a balance between the movement of people and the movement of goods across key corridors in the region. The goals of integrated freight-land use planning are to:

  • Preserve the region’s quality of life by seeking “peaceful coexistence” of freight and non-freight land uses;
  • Preserve and enhance efficient and safe access and mobility for freight transportation purposes; and
  • Support smart transportation planning and projects. (Atlanta Regional Commission, Atlanta Regional Freight Mobility Plan, February 2008.)

The ARC study examined planning documents completed by various agencies in the region, interviewed stakeholders, and conducted a review of literature produced in other regions to identify freight and land use issues and strategies that are in use, or could be used, to mitigate conflicts.

Figure 2.6 Geographic Distribution of Warehousing/ Distribution Centers in the Atlanta Region

Figure 2.6 is a map illustrating the dispersed geographic distribution of warehouses and distribution centers throughout the Atlanta Region.

Source: Atlanta Regional Freight Mobility Plan, Atlanta Regional Commission.

Critical Success Factors

The Freight Mobility Plan discovered the following issues and opportunities:

  • Recognizing corridor-level impacts of freight. The study found that corridor-level impacts of freight-related development is fairly minimal, and that the focus of freight planning activities tends to rest in resolving local traffic concerns and accommodating future traffic volumes rather than management of mobility and access. Many planning documents and processes do not fully understand logistics and supply chain systems and the needs of different freight system users, and they apply one-size-fits-all solutions to freight issues that may not address unique activities or impacts, and may result in the potential for poorly coordinated land use planning. As the region grows, so too will the need for freight infrastructure to support the population. Current trends indicate that freight facilities will locate in areas with relatively inexpensive land capable of accommodating facilities with large footprints, and with access to high-speed/high-capacity transportation networks. A proactive approach is needed to plan to accommodate the needs of the industry, to keep freight mobile and the population mobile.
  • Recognizing freight’s contribution to a region’s economy. The plan recognizes that freight-supportive land use planning is critical to sustaining the Atlanta Region’s economic vitality, mobility, and quality of life in the future. The plan advised ARC and its planning partners to evaluate in future Metropolitan Transportation Plans (MTP) and Regional Development Plan (RDP) updates and pursue the following objectives:
    • Preserve freight mobility as the region continues to develop;
    • Coordinate freight and non-freight land uses and mobility needs;
    • Ensure adequate segregation and protection of different land uses; and
    • Build goods movement and logistics needs into land development and site design. (Atlanta Regional Commission, Atlanta Regional Freight Mobility Plan, February 2008.)

Case Study: City of Seattle Urban Mobility Plan

Issue Background

Seattle’s Urban Mobility Plan (UMP) was undertaken in order to chart a course for the City as it undergoes rapid population and employment growth in the coming decades. The goal of the plan was to ensure that Seattle’s Center City would continue to grow in size, economic vitality, and accessibility through improving the efficiency of infrastructure, while also making it more inviting, and accommodating to users. The Plan specifically recognizes the importance of goods movement to support industry, facilitate port activities, and attract businesses.

Approach and Resolution

The UMP includes a section detailing best practices in freight movement, which identifies practices in use or under consideration by other cities to keep freight moving in congested multiuse areas. Many of the examples profiled in this review are European cities, since they often deal with tighter geometric requirements that U.S. cities and have been considering this issue for many years. Recent developments include: (Briefing Book, Seattle Urban Mobility Plan, January 2008.)

  • Low emission zones – where vehicles can only enter a designated Low Emission Zone (LEZ) if they meeting specific emissions criteria set by the local government (currently in use in Sweden, Amsterdam, and London).
  • Combined-use lanes – where lanes are designated for different uses throughout the day – for example certain time periods allow through-traffic, truck stopping, or parking (currently is being used on Barcelona’s Balms Street arterial).
  • Preferential zoning or property tax relief for properties used in urban goods movement – which offers incentive to incorporate goods movement into new development plans, exists in several Canadian cities.
  • Unattended delivery systems – that allow deliveries to be made when offices are closed or recipients are not at home, so trucks do not need to return goods to the depot for later delivery. This may be in the form of a drop box, or a convenience store.
  • Retail delivery stations – micro-warehouses are used to receive large truckloads of goods. The goods are later transported to individual businesses by pallet truck, small carts, etc. This reduces the amount of large truck trips in the urban core (currently in use in Brussels).

In addition, the UMP reviewed a wide variety of other freight and land use coordination methods from around the U.S., including restricted delivery hours, incentives for off-peak deliveries, and combined use or freight-exclusive lanes.

The UMP also identified a set of policies and practices that Seattle could use to best manage urban freight operations in a manner that both optimizes street operations and ensures safety. These proposed policies and practices are summarized in Table 2.3. (Briefing Book, Seattle Urban Mobility Plan, January 2008.)

Table 2.3 City of Seattle Policies to Manage Urban Freight Operations
Key Issues Addressed
Reserve some on-street parking for commercial vehicles.
Reserve some on-street parking for commercial vehicles.
Require permits for all over-dimension trucks.
Require new developments to provide off-street truck loading areas.
Retain alleys for truck deliveries and garbage/recycling collection.
Provide signage for truck drivers to identify appropriate routes and note prohibitions.
Provide businesses with information regarding route closures and detours early enough for them to adjust routes or delivery schedules if required.
Provide real-time information about incidents that will disrupt traffic operations.

Critical Success Factors

  • Establish space for freight. By requiring new developments to provide off-street truck loading areas, and reserving some on-street parking for commercial vehicles, Seattle is implementing a management policy that will offer commercial vehicles a “place to work” while loading and unloading. This limits illegal and unsafe parking that may have occurred otherwise.
  • Share travel information. By providing appropriate signage for truck drivers, and making information on route closures and incidents available to the freight community, businesses can take appropriate measures to “plan accordingly” and avoid undesirable routes and congested areas. When incidents occur, trucks and passenger vehicles may divert to other routes, but not all routes are suitable alternatives for trucks. By having truck route and detour information available, trucks can take appropriate actions to avoid sensitive areas.

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