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1/9/2017 2:30:00 PM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Experts Say Lack of Public Understanding Complicates Urban Freight Movement

David Elfin/Transport Topics

WASHINGTON  The disconnect between the government agencies that regulate freight and the companies that move it in ever-increasing volumes throughout the United States was a focus of a Transportation Research Board session on Jan. 9.

“Public officials don’t have an adequate understanding of freight operations or business drivers: why that warehouse is suddenly showing up in their community or why isn’t that intermodal facility coming to the community when they know that there’s a real economic benefit?” said panelist Chris Steele of Investment Consulting Associates in Newton, Massachusetts. “[Many] communities don’t have the zoning or land use regulations. They don’t have the transportation planning in place. So companies are very often dropping communities that would otherwise be good locations.”

Steele also noted that agencies within government such as DOTs and planning departments don’t communicate well with each other either.

Professor Alison Conway of the City College of New York studies the last mile, and even the final 50 feet, or freight movement, a process that is fraught with headaches in today’s urban environments.

“Our population trends are reversing; our cities are growing,” Conway explained. “We’re trying to achieve all these different priorities: public safety and health, economic vitality, environmental sustainability, livability. That’s a pretty tall order to meet all of those goals.”

Conway said the online marketplace’s rapid growth has meant that consumers are increasingly demanding what they want when they want it — which brings more, if smaller, delivery trucks into residential areas at all hours. Complicating matters are dedicated bicycle and bus lanes which prohibit those trucks from using that prized curbside real estates.

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By David Elfin
Staff Reporter

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