New report from SSTI discusses freight transportation demand management strategies

By Chris Spahr

A new report, funded by SSTI with a matching grant from the Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education, identifies and evaluates freight transportation demand management strategies to improve transportation efficiency by reducing the social costs associated with goods movement in urban areas. While TDM strategies are a cost-effective alternative to increasing capacity on congested highways and roads, they are often an afterthought when discussing solutions to freight challenges.  SSTI’s report, “Getting the Goods without the Bads: Freight Transportation Demand Management Strategies to Reduce Urban Impacts,” identifies nine freight TDM strategies and compares these strategies based on their costs, benefits, and implementation difficulty.

The Government Accountability Office estimates that for each million ton-miles of freight transported, trucking generates over $58,000 in social costs compared to around $9,000 in social costs for rail freight. Social costs are defined as public infrastructure costs as well as the monetized impacts of emissions, accidents, and congestion.

TDM strategies identified in the report include anti-idling policies, truck route designations, modal shift, off-peak pickup and delivery, nighttime delivery restrictions, Intelligent Transportation Systems, land use strategies, parking policies, and planning information strategies. Case studies demonstrated that the first step in reducing freight transportation costs and impacts is to understand how and where freight is moving and the policies affecting it. By doing this, decision makers can preserve freight intensive land uses and work across jurisdictions to eliminate gaps in the truck route network linkages.

While most freight TDM strategies currently in use have significant potential to improve efficiency for businesses and reduce social costs associated with urban freight transportation, two of the strategies may create more problems than they solve:

  • Restrictions on nighttime freight delivery are likely to exacerbate regional congestion and increase transportation costs.
  • Efforts to affect modal shift from truck to rail may face strong community opposition and end up generating more truck trips than they eliminate.

Tom Murtha, Senior Planner at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, as well as Bill Holloway and Chris Spahr from SSTI will discuss these findings in a webinar on October 28 at 2:00 PM CDT.

Chris Spahr is a Graduate Assistant with SSTI.