Urban Freight

VREF started the FUT thematic program Urban Freight in order to consider the challenges and opportunities for cities and the many actors involved in delivery of goods and services in urban areas.

The Urban Freight program involves leading universities, industry partners and cities in more than 10 countries in Europe, Asia, North- and South America. Local and international meeting places and publications will support the wider outreach of research findings and conclusions.

The Urban Freight Program focus on three main aspects of central importance to the future development of urban freight transport:

  • Partnerships and leadership
  • Efficiency and low-carbon solutions in urban freight systems
  • Sharing the urban space: Multi-level interaction and trade-offs

VREF supports targeted research and outreach with the goal of creating a strong international professional network that can influence government and industry decision-making. The initiative was launched with a symposium held in 2012, Urban Freight for Liveable Cities, and has since developed into a much broader effort.

About Urban Freight

Urban logistics is a challenge today, and it will be far more challenging in the future, with growing demand for the delivery of goods and services, and intense competition for street space amongst cars, vans, public transport, pedestrians and cyclists. Making better use of the capacity available for urban freight and finding smarter solutions for sharing space in cities is becoming increasingly important.

Freight transport in cities tends to respond effectively to economic requirements, but is a major contributor to social and environmental impacts, particularly to local air quality and noise. Urban freight activities often result in conflicts between economic and social/environmental priorities. Addressing such conflicts and trade-offs in urban freight transport requires change and innovation in the public and private sectors.

Unlike passenger transportation, research in the area of goods movement is in its infancy. The problems experienced by those providing logistics services in urban areas are not well understood. Transportation professionals, urban planners and policy-makers lack comprehensive understanding, robust data and common terminologies, all of which have major implications for the management of individual urban freight systems as well as the larger global freight network. The VREF theme Urban Freight is playing a key role in addressing this critical knowledge gap and leading efforts to raise the profile of goods movement in planning and policy arenas.

Ongoing Projects:

In 2013 VREF launched two international Centres of Excellence (CoEs): MetroFreight (MF) and Sustainable Urban Freight Systems (SUFS). Both CoEs work with a number of global partners to further their research and professional networks. An additional research and communication platform, the Gothenburg Urban Freight Platform (UFP) was established in 2014. Under the VREF Theme Urban Freight a global network comprised of scholars, and public and private practitioners has been created, communication between urban freight experts has been fostered, and extensive educational materials have been produced and distributed. 

  • CoE MetroFreight (MF) – is led by METRANS Transportation Center in Los Angeles and Long Beach, with Professor Genevieve Giuliano as Project Leader. MF has three core partners: the University Transportation Research Center (UTRC) Consortium, City College of New York; the French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport Development and Networks (IFSTTAR), University of Paris-Est, and; the Korea Transport Institute (KOTI), Seoul. MF also partners with non-academic industry and government representatives in these four key cities, as well as UPS Corporation, which provides a global perspective.
  • CoE Sustainable Urban Freight Systems (SUFS)– is led by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York, with Professor José Holguin-Veras as Project Leader. SUFS has six core partners: the University of Westminster, the University of Gothenburg, Pennsylvania State University, Kyoto University, TNO-Delft University of Technology and the University of Melbourne. The work of the core research partners is complemented by input from numerous associate research centres, core industry partners and core city partners worldwide.
  • Gothenburg Urban Freight Platform (UFP) – is hosted jointly by the University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology, with Professor Michael Browne as Project Leader.
    The UFP fosters networking opportunities and provides a platform for collaborative research, educational and outreach activities. The UFP organizes the biennial VREF Urban Freight Conference, a major international event in the field of urban freight.