Photo: Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue, 2015.
In urban agglomerations, a significant share of large apartment complexes (more than 25 units, either rented or privately owned) have a lobby monitored by a concierge, this often on a 24-hour basis. The traditional role of a concierge (also called a doorman, but the term is not gender-neutral) is to provide a level of security by monitoring the access of a building, screening visitors, and provide general assistance services to residents. A concierge is also responsible for receiving packages on the residents’ behalf, particularly in their absence, a role that has substantially expanded with the growth of online retailing and its resulting home deliveries of large boxes (see above photo).
Under such circumstances, a growing amount of deliveries end up using the lobby as a distribution center (an informal freight station); a buffer between the deliveries schedules and the availability of residents to collect them. For parcels and goods delivery companies, this is a very efficient system as it guarantees uninterrupted supply chains (ability to deliver to the consignee) and continuity of deliveries. The delivery truck is ensured of being able to drop all the cargo bound to a specific address because there will always be someone available to act as a consignee.
It is thus not surprising that large apartment buildings receive priority for delivery scheduling both because of the volume they generate (three to five large buildings could generate enough cargo to fill a standard urban delivery truck each day) and the reliability they confer to deliveries. Inversely, deliveries to single-family homes or small apartment complexes are prone to a high risk of missed deliveries as the consignee may not be present, which requires the setting of an alternative delivery date and time (additional organizational complexity). As this trend continues, the higher costs of maintaining a concierge service are better justified through its resulting improvement in freight distribution. The lobby has therefore become an essential dimension of city logistics by assuming the role of an urban freight station.