New challenge: urban logistics to shape the sustainable city

Urban logistics is the best way to transport incoming and outgoing goods and their movement within the urban fabric. It forms a whole that includes not only transport but also storage, packaging, order management, returns management, packaging and pallet management, home delivery and the delivery relay offer. A global reflection and management are essential. After having left the city for several decades, logistics is back.

What are the logistical challenges facing cities?

Cities are facing strong population growth, with more than two thirds of the world’s population living in urban areas by 2050. This growth, along with economic growth, fuels demand for goods and services, leading to increased freight transport flows, increased demand for transport infrastructure, as well as for logistics and warehousing activities. These elements are essential to the functioning of metropolitan areas.

Today, the place of urban logistics is being questioned. So far, the dynamic has been the spread of logistics platforms in the suburbs and beyond, caused by high land costs in dense urban areas as well as increased demand for land for the development of high value-added projects such as residential developments. This spreading, combined with the low cost of transportation, leads to a deterioration in the sustainability of logistics activity in terms of kilometers travelled and transport-related emissions. Indeed, the need to improve air quality and the health of urban dwellers are major issues in urban areas. In addition to air pollutants, urban freight transport is a source of noise pollution not only from the vehicles themselves, but also from the loading and unloading of the transported products. These flows are mainly at peak times of the day, increasing congestion and capacity problems in the city.

These factors challenge the efficiency of urban logistics and their impact on the environment.

A growing demand for logistics real estate in cities

The sectors of activity that are demanding in terms of freight transportation in the city are parcel posts, hotels and catering, building materials and waste. In recent years, e-commerce has grown strongly. A trend that is destined to continue. This sector contributes to reinforcing the need for land and buildings dedicated to logistics in urban areas but also to the explosion in demand for infrastructure known as “last mile” infrastructure (delivery to the end customer). The restoration of logistics land in the city center is therefore a strategic variable.

In the face of growing interest in urban logistics, developers and investors must be aware of these new assets, which are becoming increasingly important in local and national policies. Land becomes a lever for the reintroduction of urban logistics in vacant spaces, close to river or rail infrastructures that can satisfy urban logistics needs.

Multimodal urban logistics platforms: what are the advantages?

Multimodal logistics platforms in cities can help to relieve congestion on currently congested roads by using combined transport on inland waterways or railways.

For example, in France, the Chapelle International project of Sogaris is a multi-level, multimodal logistics hotel. Located at Porte de la Chapelle in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, the building is served by road and rail. This dual service is made possible thanks to a partnership with SNCF allowing the implementation of a massive flow of goods in a dense urban environment. The building’s programming includes offices, a data centre, shops, sports fields and an urban agricultural area managed by the City of Paris. Two major challenges were met by this urban logistics building. At the interface between the railway tracks and a future housing area, the project had to respond to the noise pollution caused by the logistics activity and the train tracks as well as its integration into the residential environment.

In Germany, northwest of Berlin, Behala operates a trimodal logistics centre combining road, rail and water. Inland waterway transport provides massive freight transport and is the traditional transport, although it currently represents only a small percentage of the modal share. This mode of transport is valued in a context where the road and rail axes are saturated.

In Antwerp, Belgium, the Blue Gate project located 5 kms away from the city centre on a decontaminated brownfield site will provide multimodal access (road, rail and water). The project aims to develop the “smart” logistics sector, in particular by promoting the coupling and integration of logistics processes. One of the platform’s objectives is to reduce traffic and pollution in the city of Antwerp, through distribution initiatives between the region and the city, and through green transport.

Several European projects are based on the Asian model, such as in the metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Seoul, Osaka and Singapore, where multi-level vertical warehouses are used to manage high population density and land prices.

The integration of urban logistics into tomorrow’s real estate programmes and into urban spatial planning appears to be a necessity for the sustainable development of city centres.

Article researched and written by Laura Mauger for Urban Chronicles™

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Green SoluceNew challenge: urban logistics to shape the sustainable city
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