Imagine an apartment complex with 400 units. When the majority of its occupants rely on a service like Amazon Prime to deliver retail goods and groceries, what is the most efficient way to get parcels to their destinations? If that sounds like the kind of problem you'd rather not tackle, then fear not a corps of graduate students in Seattle are hard at work finding the answer.
At the Urban Freight Lab at the University of Washington's Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center (SCTL), students are looking for ways to improve operations in the "final 50 feet" of the urban goods delivery system. (The final 50 feet begins at the city-owned curb, commercial vehicle load zone, or sidewalk; extends through privately owned building freight bays; and may end in the common areas within a building such as the lobby.)
Currently, the students are mapping the city's freight infrastructure, such as the private loading bays and commercial vehicle load zones. Once that project is complete, they'll begin filming video of loading and unloading processes. Solutions are expected to address the challenge of delivery trucks finding curbside parking in dense urban traffic and avoiding dangerous compromises like illegal double-parking in center lanes.
The research lab has received a grant of $285,000 over the next three years from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and will receive $15,000 a year from each of three private industry partners working with the school: Costco, UPS, and Nordstrom. The university plans to enlist additional private companies to help fund the project.
"Service expectations are completely different [among millennials]," SCTL chief operating officer Barbara Ivanov told the university's newspaper, The Daily. "A lot of things have to happen for the delivery system to [facilitate] that. The beauty of this is doing not only data collection, but taking it out and testing it in the real world."