City Logistics: Concepts, Policy and Practice

NOTE

This web site is under construction. A few sections are currently available and material will be added as time progresses. See the Table of Contents for what is currently available.

Context

City logistics involves both freight distribution in urban areas as well as the strategies that can improve its overall efficiency while mitigating congestion and environmental externalities. It includes the provision of services that manage the movements of goods in cities and provide innovative responses to customer demands. City logistics has received a growing level of attention in light of ongoing urbanization, rising standards of living, globalization, and new forms of consumption such as e-commerce.

City logistics is inherently interdisciplinary, trying to reconcile several domains of inquiry and analysis. Freight movements are a function of economic activities and their spatial organization, the domains of urban geography and urban economics. They are also a function of consumer demand, the domains of economics, and sociology. Freight mobility is managed by competing transportation and logistics service providers who are constantly seeking new efficiencies, the domain of logistics. This mobility is also a function of sourcing, procurement production, and distribution, the domain of supply chain management. Finally, freight mobility is affected by the provision, quantity, and quality of infrastructure and public policies, the domains of urban planning, and engineering.

The complexity of urban freight distribution along with the potential conflicts between key stakeholders require a comprehensive approach. These stakeholders are each able to influence and shape city logistics:

  • Cargo owners that need freight moved as part of their commercial or manufacturing activities. They are mainly concerned with the cost, capacity, and reliability of deliveries.
  • Residents who are one of the main recipients of urban deliveries. Residents expect easy access to consumer goods and the prompt removal of refuse. They also expect not to be affected by truck traffic, noise, and pollution.
  • Retailers, who need to receive products and have refuse removed. They are mainly concerned with consistent and reliable deliveries that minimize inventory costs.
  • Distributors, such as carriers, that move the goods and try to implement strategies to improve efficiency and reliability. They are concerned by factors impacting their operations, particularly congestion and parking difficulties.
  • Planners and regulators implement policies to mitigate the negative impacts of city logistics. They are trying to reconcile the often-conflicting interests of the many stakeholders within their jurisdiction.

Scope

This online textbook introduces the core concepts, challenges, and methods of city logistics. It has three main sets of objectives:

  • Formalizing city logistics as the intersection of urban studies and freight distribution. The first relates to the understanding of urban areas and their dynamics. It draws from a long tradition in geography, economics, planning, sociology, and engineering, investigating the urban spatial structure and the drivers of its changes. The second relates to the understanding of freight distribution, which mostly draws from supply chain management and freight transportation. This perspective of understanding the city as a dynamic socio-economic construct is often absent from existing city logistics handbooks that focus on operational and engineering aspects.
  • Articulating the main components of urban freight transport systems and its main stakeholders. The urban environment is eminently complex, which makes freight distribution a very different endeavor than that of non-urban transport (e.g. intercity, global trade). The “urban last mile” in freight distribution is prone to challenges that need to be addressed by relevant policies and mitigation strategies.
  • Identifying the main dimensions of the practice of city logistics, the data sources and data collection used, and a set of methodologies supporting policies and decision making. A particular focus will be on the modeling and quantification of city logistics. Illustrative case studies will be introduced, analyzed, and debated.