Supply Chain Expertise and Technology Blog by TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson

Improving Logistics Efficiency: How Cities Can Join Forces to Combat Traffic Congestion

Urban LogisticsMany big cities around the world have implemented environmentally sustainable programs to reduce the traffic snarls that add costs to urban supply chains. Can the expertise they have gained in introducing these solutions be transferred to other traffic-choked cities?

A European project called SOLUTIONS developed a framework for such an exchange of expertise. The project was completed in October 2016, but the work continues.

Progress in pairs

While some major cities have deployed innovative urban mobility programs, others still struggle to find ways to speed up traffic flows and meet their sustainability goals.

The SOLUTIONS project aimed to address this imbalance by helping laggard cities to import know how from innovators.

Simply replicating successful traffic management schemes is not enough. Programs that work well in leading urban centers often don’t survive beyond the pilot phase in take-up cities (i.e. those that adopt best practices from other cities). Political, economic, infrastructural and societal differences frequently frustrate the transfer of best practices.

A central goal of the SOLUTIONS initiative was to understand the causes of these failures during the feasibility study stage of traffic projects.

The study team analyzed the differences between cities, and looked at key challenges such as how to scale solutions and how to secure the support of policymakers.

The 22 research centers that participated in the SOLUTIONS project each explored specific topics such as transportation infrastructure and the use of low-carbon vehicles.

The Zaragoza Logistics Center (ZLC) focused on city logistics solutions including the use of bicycles in urban delivery services, promoting freight movements during off-peak periods, and establishing networks of pick-up points in urban areas.

To apply solutions like these, leading cities were twinned with take-up cities in the Asia, Latin America and Mediterranean regions.

For example, Barcelona, Spain, was twinned with Guiyang, China, a take-up city that is seeking solutions to severe traffic congestion problems, possibly by extending its public transportation network. Barcelona has tackled this problem in several ways. An example is a scheme to designate so-called superblocks (400 square meter blocks), where special traffic restrictions and controls apply. The measure is designed to lighten traffic levels within designated zones and encourage people to walk to destinations.

Such measures could be implemented in Guiyang.

Another example is a program to help the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte to develop an urban logistics plan, by drawing on the expertise of leading European cities such as Bremen in Germany.

Belo Horizonte’s plan includes local government, freight carriers and other stakeholders. The idea is to develop urban mobility policies relating to land use, traffic flows, freight loading/unloading procedures, off-peak deliveries and last mile logistics.

The study team documented best practices in urban logistics and identified current practices in Belo Horizonte, with a view to helping the city to identify which solutions it can implement.

Widespread gains

Promoting the adoption of sustainable urban logistics solutions not only benefits take-up cities – reducing traffic congestion in densely populated urban centers improves the performance of global supply chains.

It is hoped that the SOLUTIONS project will generate interest in other urban centers, because the basic methodology can be applied in any country or region.

Participant cities are still using the project’s outputs, and the exchange of knowledge continues via a series of policy papers and events such as webinars.

The initiative might even get a second life. A call for cities to join another SOLUTIONS project is in the pipeline.

- Associate Research Professor and Transport Research Group Manager, Zaragoza Logistics Center
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