Urban freight stations are receiving a growing level of attention as a city logistics strategy aiming at consolidating deliveries bound to a specific area or even a large facility (e.g. a high rise office tower). A sufficient volume and density level are two fundamental conditions justifying their integration in urban supply chains. There are two main settings in which an urban freight station can be established:
- Clustered. In a standard situation (without a freight station), carriers perform individual deliveries to customers in a neighborhood (a cluster of customers), each time having to park (street or off-street) to unload the consignment. Since parking is one of the most salient issues in city logistics, carriers usually spend some time for each delivery trying to find a parking spot or have to double park, impairing local circulation. While carriers may have the opportunity to consolidate several deliveries in one truck trip, variations in demand and delivery times make such an approach challenging. Two customers, even if in proximity, could thus involve two separate deliveries. The setting of a freight station aiming at servicing a cluster of customers consists of the selection of a central location maximizing accessibility to this cluster. Carriers only need to deliver to the freight station, which gives additional opportunities to consolidate deliveries and use delivery time frames avoiding local congestion. A dedicated parking space for deliveries to the freight station can even be established. Customers have the responsibility to pick up their consignments at the freight station at their own convenience, which is relatively easy if the freight station involves parcels in locker boxes. This may also require additional “last mile” hurdles for larger deliveries, such as the usage of rolling carts.
- Punctual. Concern deliveries in a single large facility that may regroup a large number of customers, such as an office tower, an institution, or a large residential tower. Without a freight station, each customer usually receives an individual delivery involving parking, unloading, and delivering the consignment to the customer within the facility (this can involve the usage of a freight elevator). The setting of a freight station within the facility enables the consolidation of deliveries and more rational use of the parking space. Consignments can be delivered within the facility at the convenience of the customers. An issue about freight stations in large facilities concerns the setting of dedicated and secure storage space, including a workforce to deliver the consignments. Such deliveries may also not be suitable for specific cargo types such as refrigerated cargo (for restaurants and cafeterias). Many lobbies of residential buildings are already operating as informal freight stations.