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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Why not set up transit stations to be "access points" for package delivery

The newest apartment buildings have special set ups in their accommodations for "mail" for packages, enabling various size packages to be put into special lockers accessible through the use of one-time codes ("Package locker industry lifts off," Multifamily Executive).

A few years ago, I suggested that local transportation master plans should consider package delivery as a matter for the plan ("City transportation departments need to set up innovation units"). From the blog entry:
  • "bracing" UPS about offering convenient in-city package pick up options for missed deliveries.  How hard could it be for UPS to set up package routing for missed deliveries to the UPS stores, or at least a package pick up depot?  Note that UPS treats DC as part of the State of Maryland for routing purposes (cf. "Chins Up, Washingtonians. The Postmark's Back," Washington Post), which likely contributes to the problem.
Taking up that idea on their own, UPS and FedEx are creating "access point" networks where people can have packages delivered, to stores, UPS and FedEx stores, and other locations ("UPS using neighborhood stores to fight off USPS, Amazon, Fedex," Fortune Magazine).

An Amazon delivery locker in the back of a 7-Eleven. The convenience store chain is still offering this new way of picking up stuff ordered from the world's largest etailer, but Staples or RadioShack are not. Photo: Ariel Zambelich/Wired ("Stores boot Amazon lockers").

Many transit stations, especially in the WMATA system, have unused space, and in the context of thinking of "transit stations as entrypoints to neighborhoods" and as nodes in what I am now calling the "sustainable mobility platform," why not set up locker systems where people could have packages delivered to transit stations, where they can pick them up on their way home from the station?
Lots of empty space suitable for lockers at the Largo Town Center Metrorail station in Prince George's County, Maryland.  Photo from Clark Construction.

Many stations have similar types of empty spaces that could be used for lockers or inside the gates bike parking.

Well, one reason to not consider this would be the potential for terrorism, although presumably the packages get checked at various points in the process, before they would be delivered by a UPS, FedEx, or USPS driver.

GeekWire graphic based on a Shutterstock image.

Amazon has proposed delivering packages to transit vehicles ("Amazon envisions package pickups on public transit, using lockers on buses, trains and subways," GeekWire), but that seems inordinately complex to me.

Why not just set up package lockers at a transit station, and open up their use to any of the legitimate carriers, rather than to one specific firm and blocking out the others.

Alternatively, while it would make more sense to have a universal system, that would require management time and resources that a transit system doesn't normally have.

Maybe it's just a matter of setting up space and renting it out to UPS, Amazon, FedEx, etc., but those firms would have to create smaller locker systems, or at least a variable set of sizes, to fit into different spaces, especially tighter in-city locations.

UPS package locker system outside of a 7-11 in Dallas, Texas

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At 8:24 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Good lord, why hasn't this happened!

I realize that retail is tough in metro station, but the opportunity for stuff like this is priceless. Redbox video kiosks also come to mind.

At 12:39 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Good point about Redbox.

The press has reported on various food/grocery experiments, but those are too precious for me. There is a lot of problem in dealing with perishables, frozen items, etc. So it's too hard.

I've seen examples of tests I think in Chicago, South Korea, etc. Apparently the Post reported that Giant was gonna test this.

I guess this is different from what I remembered.

and I guess Peapod (owned by the same company as Giant) tested something similar in Chicago

Sure if Giant wants to do it, fine. But in general, focus at first on the easy stuff.

They can start by testing it on a pilot basis at a couple stations where this makes sense. I know that the e-lists for Takoma are full of lamenting about stolen packages. It's an ongoing issue, not just at the holidays.

Rather than expecting people to go to the post office, just set up a package point at the metro station...

But speaking of too hard, I think it's too hard to create a universal system although that is the most efficient space-wise. So don't worry about it, and just make the companies (Amazon, UPS, USPS, FedEx) have small systems.

Eventually a universal system could be devised.

And again, in the piece a few years ago about DOTs not being innovative, this is the kind of project an urban DOT could facilitate.

It would reduce truck traffic trips within neighborhoods, reduce congestion, ease life for users, etc.

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