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Latest New York City freight blueprint focuses on final mile

Cargo bikes, local distribution centers, and a new push on barges and rail are part of Cargo bikes, local distribution centers, and a new push on barges and rail are part of ‘Discovering Green’‘Discovering Green’

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In its latest plan to reduce congestion created by trucks on its highways and crowded streets, New York City has laid out a plan directed at final-mile deliveries.

The blueprint from the city’s Economic Development Corporation is titled “Delivering Green.” And while many of the recommendations it touts are for activities that are not clearly directed at the final mile, reducing the traffic and environmental impact from those deliveries is the focus of the EDC report.

Under the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city has announced several initiatives aimed at moving freight around New York more easily. A program released in 2018 spelled out a number of capital investment projects and other initiatives to simplify freight movement around the city by rail or barge.

The city went with a rebuild of the troubled stretch of Interstate 278, also known as the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, that was far less sweeping than some of the earlier proposals. 

A more comprehensive report, Delivering New York, was released in May of this year. At roughly 100 pages, it covered a wider scope of initiatives than those in Delivering Green. 

The Delivering Green report has five key goals: Make the last mile more efficient; “green” the last mile; create a culture of compliance; shift freight from road to water; and shift freight from road to rail.


The city appears to be counting on a significant amount of funding for its goals to be coming through the infrastructure spending bill recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden. “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the City of New York to compete for federal funding on a size and scale that could have transformational impacts on how goods are moved  into, out of and around the five boroughs,” the report said.

The last mile is featured in several of the more notable initiatives proposed:

— Cargo bikes are seen as a key factor in making last-mile deliveries. There already is a pilot program in place in the city, and the New York Department of Transportation is creating what it says will be a permanent bike cargo program that would issue necessary permits, rising from 350 bikes in 2021 to 2,500 by 2,026. Federal funding is envisioned to grow the program, to “promote and incentivize the switch to cargo bikes for deliveries.” The goal is that 25% of last-mile freight can be moved from trucks to “small, sustainable delivery methods,” like a cargo bicycle, by 2040. Part of the plan would be to create dock capabilities that would better allow transfers directly to cargo bikes.

— Off-street consolidation will be promoted. Among the steps under that definition are “urban consolidation centers,” where final-mile deliveries are brought to a site where there are multiple lockers or other ways for a parcel or package to be held and picked up by its recipient. That could include what the program referred to as “voluntary vendor programs.” Federal funding will be sought to promote urban consolidation, which the project says has been utilized in Europe and has cut deliveries to the final point of delivery by 70%.

— New York would expand its Clean Trucks program. The report says the Clean Trucks program has “replaced, retrofitted or scrapped 649 older heavy polluting diesel trucks,” all of them servicing the Hunts Point produce market in the Bronx. The goal is to add another 1,000 EV trucks to the program by 2030, again, aided by federal funding. The latest proposal also sees the installation of EV charging stations at Hunts Point.

— In what might turn out to be one of the more controversial parts of the proposal, the city is calling for “legislative reforms” to the divisible overweight exemption. Under that, a system of permits that allowed some trucks to exceed weight limits has a grandfather clause that allows the permits to have stayed alive since the ’80s, though no new permits are being issued. The number of trucks that have a grandfather clause permit is believed to be in the thousands statewide. That provision, while not impacting final-mile directly, is under the goal of “creating a culture of compliance.” “By seeking legislative reforms to level the playing field and then increasing enforcement of overweight rules, the City will be better able to protect our infrastructure and make our streets safer.” the report says. 

— The goal to “create a culture of compliance” notes that law enforcement “cannot catch all violations of truck rules and New York City’s highway network presents operational challenges to law enforcement personnel.” One recommendation is for the city to build out a network of weigh-in motion sensors to catch trucks that violate weight limits. It also will seek state approval for more camera surveillance and a less specific call to “install technology to enable more detailed and continuous data collection.”

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.