Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

DC is getting coverage on freight delivery initiatives (but I think the impetus was not NYC, but me)

Stuff I've been suggesting for about 10 years maybe, time shifting freight deliveries, is getting a test in DC according to City Lab, which suggests it's based on what New York City is doing ("New York's Hugely Successful Late-Night Delivery Truck Program Is Heading to D.C).

 I do think my suggestions about this, predating the 2006 Comprehensive Plan process,but during that process as well, significantly pre-date the NYC initiative, although the NYC initiative was probably referenced by DC planners after my suggestions.

Back in 2013, after attending a session of the MoveDC transportation planning process, in response to the underwhelming presentation by the people "planning" the freight element of DC's transportation plan, I sent them an email with six suggestions, of which time shifting is only one.

From email (emphasis added, slight editing):

1. I thought I had written about the idea of railroad-based raw materials delivery to the Aggregate Concrete plant and the Ft. Myer Asphalt Plant, but it's not clear that I have as a separate blog entry.

Basically the thought is to bring back limited freight railroad service to those two locations, which abut the Metropolitan Branch CSX line [the western leg of the Red Line subway in Wards 4 and 5], to reduce the number of dump truck deliveries of raw materials to those facilities.

2. Related to this thought would be to set up a railroad dump operation (not unlike how mines dump ore into railroad hoppers) in the general vicinity of the Ft. Myer operation for dumping of excavation/aggregate and demolished building materials in association with large construction projects.

The idea would be to reduce the number of dump truck [trip]s in and out of the city M-F throughout the day. By having a railroad car centralizing operation of the gathering of the "waste" it would be a more efficient use of scarce road resources and would significantly reduce road damage resulting from heavy vehicle trips.

This article has an image of how I would see it working (at left).

Alternatively this could be done at the Fort Totten Waste Transfer Station, but that would be less efficient than the previously listed alternative.

b. another thing would be to set up a similar operation along railroad tracks south of the Southeast-Southwest freeway, to serve that part of the city.

3. Relatedly, you could rail ship out solid waste from the Ft. Totten waste transfer station. Although they are already moving this waste out at night with transfer trucks with minimal stress on the road network. But it could be more efficient and cheaper to dump it into railroad cars. I don't know if the waste-to-energy facility in Fairfax County that "landfills" DC's trash is railroad-accessible.

4. The other thing I discussed with you is the timeshifting of freight deliveries. I don't think it has to be everything, but even interdicting a small amount of this traffic could have significant positive effect on the road network, especially in congested commercial districts. E.g., CVS has a bad habit of getting deliveries between 3-6 pm, when the road network is particularly stressed.

I have observed that the Au Bon Pain restaurant chain and the Yes Grocery stores do night time delivery, which according to Gary Cha of Yes!, is called "key drop."

My recommendation would be to specify time shifting requirements for chain operations in the city with a certain number of locations or business size.

It would mean supermarkets (Giant, Safeway, Whole Foods, etc.), pharmacies (especially CVS, also Walgreens and Rite Aid), and general merchandise stores (Walmart, Target) and maybe big box stores of all types (e.g., Bed, Bath and Beyond), chain restaurants like Starbucks, etc.

I wrote about this in 2007.

5. WRT small package delivery to households, which we didn't discuss, while I have written that companies should be encouraged to shift more of their deliveries to the evening, I have also suggested that UPS [and similar firms] should be encouraged to set up a couple of urban package depots within the city [for customers to pick up packages where delivery was missed]. This would reduce the number of return trips and make it more convenient for residents as well.

UPS truck in DC.  UPI photo.

Other TDM related recommendations for big box stores are also in the same entry, such as UPS and FedEx consider different ways of delivering packages in Downtown:

[Added: note that Amazon is opening up some urban package store-depots. See "Amazon Tests a Millennial Market Strategy with its First-Ever Retail Store" from Chicago Now.]

6. This isn't a freight management issue per se, but commercial waste collection could be better coordinated in a manner that reduces heavy truck movement in to and within the city.

 It needs to be more micro-focused limiting service of one contractor per commercial block or district. For example, Monday mornings I have a meeting at 3rd and Pennsylvania Ave. SE, from 9-11am. During that time three or four separate waste collection companies come to the block to make pick ups from different businesses.

This is a huge stressor on the road network and is incredibly inefficient.

My understanding is that years ago, DC did a pilot test of this kind of idea in Adams-Morgan, but it never went beyond that particular location, which is particularly constrained.



At 4:55 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

I think the "Amazon Lockers" are a bit different than the Amazon retail options.

A friend in the first dot com bubble designed a secure locked about the size of a dishwasher to be used by delivery services. They were bought by Whirlpool and the project killed.

Building projects shoud be paying for damage they are doing to the roads. Let alone the traffic.

I don't think the Fairfax facility is rail accessible. Shame. Once you get it on a rail you can move it elsewhere as well.

At 7:44 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

... I remember those old secure delivery initiatives. In the early 1990s, I did tv programming about the Internet with a group working with a couple different arms of PBS. I wasn't patient enough though on the business. We wanted to develop something like a TechTV cable channel. Not sure it would have worked though, with the rise of online video.


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