Urban Freight Distribution Study

E-Commerce Trends and Implications for Regional Planning

This is a woman fulfilling orders in a fulfillment center.Urban freight delivery is a critical component of our transportation system, and one that is rapidly changing as new technology and trends emerge in the marketplace. In addition, data from Met Council research on travel during the pandemic found that online shopping and home delivery has grown, and those trends are expected to continue.

With those trends, the region must consider the role of transportation in contributing to global climate change, and how using new and more efficient systems and technologies can play a role in lessening climate impacts.

This work is a vital factor in planning for the future of transportation in the Twin Cities region, and some outcomes of this study will be among many inputs into the region’s 2050 Transportation Policy Plan. The results may also inform land use-related policies and actions in the 2050 Regional Development Guide.

Study intent

The intent of this Met Council study led by CPCS Inc. is to:

  • Gain a better understanding of trends in retail shopping/e-commerce purchases, warehouse/fulfillment center siting and operations, and last-mile parcel deliveries.
  • Estimate impacts of increasing e-commerce on the region’s overall vehicle miles traveled and association greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Identify potential land-use strategies to increase efficiency and reduce regional vehicle miles traveled.
  • Assess best practices in curbside management for commercial deliveries and last-mile modal technologies.

Study work plan

This study has three main elements of focus described below.

Part I: E-Commerce Trends and Sustainability Impacts

  • Analysis of trends in online purchases and last-mile delivery practices
  • Calculation of impacts of e-commerce deliveries on the region’s vehicle miles traveled and their contribution to global climate change from vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.

Part II: Land Use and Siting Trends for E-Commerce Warehouse-Distribution Centers

  • Analysis of typical siting criteria for fulfillment centers, warehouse and distribution centers, and related last-mile delivery facilities.
  • Research of logistics trends relating to warehouse, sortation center, and delivery facility space management.
  • Identification of potential land use strategies to minimize vehicle miles traveled and related greenhouse gas emissions from last-mile deliveries.

Part III: Curbside Management and New Technologies for Last-mile Parcel Deliveries

  • Research of best practices for managing curb space for urban deliveries in cities around North America.
  • Research in emerging technologies for low- or zero-emissions vehicles and mechanisms
  • Identification of opportunities to reduce vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions

Project timeline

The study kicked off in March 2023 and is expected to run through January 2024.

  • Project kickoff – March 2023
  • Part III draft report – June 2023
  • Part II draft report – August 2023
  • Part I draft report – October 2023
  • Draft final report – Late Fall 2023
  • Final report – January 2024
Steven Elmer
[email protected]