Despite the challenges, however, there are also some important opportunities to improve urban logistics and deliver goods more effectively. First, the level of consumption in these cities is still low when compared to higher-income cities, although inequalities may result in large variations within the cities’ landscape. Second, some of the solutions, such as bicycle or on foot deliveries and pick-up points (the latter a common solution for slum areas), seem to be efficient alternatives for dense neighborhoods, and because of their lower costs are also attractive for lower-income cities. These solutions can be bundled with investments for non-motorized transport, such as improvements on sidewalks and bikeways facilities.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil, for example, recent investments in 400km of bikeways have boosted the growth of deliveries on bikes. (Read more about the study) The numbers are still small, with some 500 bike couriers compared to 200,000 motorcycle couriers. But bike deliveries are cheaper for trips under 10km, generate around 10 times less CO2 than motorized trips, even taking into account the additional dietary intake of a cyclist compared with that of a motorized user, and promote health benefits.
The Bank is currently working on initiatives to support urban logistics in middle and low-income countries, and because of the general data scarcity, has been working to lay down the basics first. At least two projects stand out: one in Casablanca, Morocco, and the other in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Casablanca is a city with traditional retail channels, where 80% are small or nano-stores. This project is a comprehensive initiative that developed a methodology and support tool to measure the effects of policies with limited data, and was undertaken by a group of World Bank colleagues in the Trade and Competitiveness group, the University of Eindhoven, and the Agence Marocaine de Développement de la Logistique (AMDL).
The World Bank has also supported a recent workshop with the private sector, public authorities and academics organized by a logistics laboratory (Cislog) from the University of Sao Paulo. The workshop focused on the next steps to deal with urban freight in Sao Paulo, and the results of a “Nighttime Freight Delivery Pilot” project were also presented. Participants worked in small groups to discuss specific initiatives such as large intermodal terminals, small urban freight terminals, green vehicles, night delivery and other innovative programs. The results of the Nighttime Delivery Pilot project showed average reductions in unloading time of 33% (12 minutes) and increase in speeds of 200% to 300% over the daytime peak congestion speeds. The specialists however indicated that the solution is not a silver bullet, and that there are costs and benefits that are not easy to redistribute. Some of the lessons learned from this pilot project were the opportunities for partnerships between public and private sectors, the need for government to take the lead in this area, and that it is crucial to have a third party (in this case academia) as the neutral body to technically evaluate a project’s impact.
All these initiatives aim to create tools that can be applied in other client cities from around the world. Are you also working with urban logistics initiatives? Please share your experiences with us.