In 2019, a record $7.9 billion was spent on Cyber Monday, and that followed an Amazon sales record over the traditional Thanksgiving weekend shopping period. Online shopping that year reached $126 billion, a record at the time.
The result of that was a 5% increase in e-commerce deliveries year-over-year, according to professor José Holguín-Veras, director of the Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Freight Systems at New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The professor told Curbed that urban freight traffic had doubled between 2009 and 2018.
Pre-pandemic, the World Economic Forum predicted a 17% annual growth rate in e-commerce from 2019 through 2023 and a 36% increase in delivery vehicles in the top 100 cities globally.
Since then, it’s only gotten worse.
Solving the growing problem of delivery vehicles clogging streets has perplexed some city planners for years, but technology is providing hope. Coord, which uses technology to create “Smart Zones” for delivery and passenger pickup, has been running a pilot of its technology with the city of Aspen, Colorado.
The initial test has been extended from three months to seven months and the city plans to add 45% more Smart Zones to the program in the next stage.
“The data we have collected has been enlightening. A few of the data points are what we expected, but a lot of data is different than what we anticipated,” Mitch Osur, director of parking and downtown services for the city of Aspen, said in a case study released by Coord Wednesday morning. “I can see Aspen making a variety of changes … which will make our loading zones work more efficiently and provide a safer environment for Aspen.”
Coord offers a mobile app for fleets and delivery drivers to use. With it, parking spaces can be reserved in a Smart Zone loading area during designated times, enabling drivers to find parking for their vehicles and not resort to double parking and clogging streets.
For the initial pilot, Aspen converted 11 popular loading zones – seven curbside and four in alleyways – into Smart Zones. It also added a Smart Zone fee of $2 per hour for use of the spaces, prorated based on the time the vehicle is in the designated spot. The city and Coord worked with local businesses, fleets and drivers to educate them about the Smart Zones and how to effectively utilize them.
According to Coord, in the first 100 days of the program, Aspen was able to sign up 38 fleets for the program – including Sysco, FedEx Ground, Coca-Cola, US Foods and Frito-Lay. A total of 118 drivers participated, including 47% working as independent commercial drivers, completing 1,020 loading sessions.
For every 100 loading sessions, there were only three reports by drivers of their Smart Zone space being occupied when they arrived. The app navigates drivers to the correct Smart Zone.
Aspen found that alleys were a popular location for Smart Zones, with 35% of the loading sessions taking place in alleyways. The city reported vehicles picking up or dropping off passengers spent between 80% and 90% less time in a Smart Zone than they do in a regular loading zone, increasing capacity in that loading zone for commercial operations.
Coord said that cities need to find solutions to this growing problem, but traditional methods are lagging technology. Time limits can be difficult to enforce, regulatory tools such as permits are fraught with their own issues and the scope of the problem can be difficult to assess without proper data – which many cities lack. Coord believes using Smart Zones alleviates many of these issues, improves congestion, gathers critical data so cities can manage the problem more effectively and opens up a revenue source for cities through fee-based reservations.
According to the company, drivers learn the locations, rules and prices for Smart Zones from the Coord Driver mobile app. Before beginning a trip, the driver enters the destination address and taps on a Smart Zone near that destination. Once the driver is about a half-mile away from the destination, the system holds the available Smart Zone nearest to that destination. As the driver routes directly to that zone, the Smart Zone system then shows that space as unavailable to other drivers so they are not simultaneously navigating to the same zone. The Smart Zone system knows whether the space is likely to be available based on the booking system.
In Aspen’s pilot, the city designated 80% of its curbside commercial loading zones and 13% of its downtown alleys as Smart Zones. Signage was placed in each location to indicate it was a paid parking location.
The current program will run through May 31, at which time a more formal evaluation of the results will be undertaken, Coord said.