Cover Page

Series Editor

Jean-Paul Bourrières

Sustainable Urban Logistics

Planning and Evaluation

Jesus Gonzalez-Feliu



Nowadays, urban logistics is a topical subject. This is evidenced by the large quantity of articles (both scientific and specialized press), events, as well as the various actions at play to support training and mentoring (there are four training and research Chairs1 in France, two VREF centers of excellence and an international platform, the Urban Freight Platform, which together advance this subject, assembling more than 300 researchers and practitioners for this subject). Nevertheless, the subject remains difficult to address due to a lack of a consensus on the proposed definitions and methods, and by continuation, those components which make it so rich: the wide diversity of stakeholders and the multidisciplinarity of available methods and techniques.

The subject of urban logistics is not new: it was already a consideration for the leaders of ancient Rome (as shown by several of the writings of Julius Caesar, but also during the early Empire), and has continued to evolve throughout history, both in terms of governance and organization. Many of the actions that are nowadays considered “innovative”, such as off-hour deliveries, inland river transport or urban consolidation centers (UCCs), were already deployed and operating throughout several historical eras. The same can be said for aspects pertaining to the governance and regulation of urban logistics: under Imperial Rome, public action was strong and was responsible for the procurement planning of major cities; in the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, this public planning gave rise to the guilds and assemblies of merchants and craftsmen; it was not until the 20th century that regulation and public policy by public authorities became predominant.

The subject of urban goods transport was only addressed by researchers in the 1970s, where for the first time a focus was made on the last mile transportation of commercial and/or industrial activities, which extended incrementally to other economic activities [WAT 75, SON 85, OGD 92, ERI 97]. However, the approach that identifies urban logistics to last kilometer delivery continues to be the most common [WOU 01], but it is not the only one. The uptake of the term city logistics occurred in the 1990s [RUS 94, KOH 97] and was later popularized by Taniguchi et al. [TAN 01] through an approach that was very much focused on private actors. In France, the national program “Marchandises en Ville” (for the transportation of goods within cities) also studied this question, but in the context of public stakeholder’s regulation capabilities2. Nevertheless, some of those works have demonstrated an interest in considering urban logistics as a set of flows greater than those of the last kilometer, and in particular the flows for the transportation of goods at the place of consumption and those linked to the management of the city [SÉG 04].

It is only recently, despite longstanding opposition, that several authors have begun to develop a viewpoint of urban logistics which not only considers the relationships between different stakeholders (already emphasized in the 2000s by [BOU 02, GER 05]), but also considers them in an equal manner, i.e. outside of a system of classification that favors one over the others [ALL 10, GON 14i].

In addition to these different perspectives, the flows involved, and the relation between the different stakeholders involved, are the added challenges of quantification, qualification, planning and the evaluation of urban logistics through a unified methodology, as well as the challenge of communicating unification. Indeed, since the works completed on urban logistics are so varied in nature, they do not give the impression of having successfully reproduced standards as it occurs in other sectors of transport and logistics. This statement appeared to be evolving, at the very least up until the end of 2016, when at the third VREF Conference on Urban Freight that was held in Gothenburg (Sweden), showed that signs of the early development of unification are in fact beginning to take place.

Within this complexity we can observe that, on the one hand, France has fostered enormous efforts in providing knowledge on urban logistics, as is reflected by the great many works on this theme, which on the other hand, have a tendency to only cater for the French context, occasionally forgetting that some “good ideas” have already been put into practice under different contexts. Nevertheless, the internationalization of “French” urban logistics as well as its “globalization” has been accelerated in recent years which is a situation that has favored the homogenization of certain practices. It is also important to note that some French innovations, such as pickup points, are today a global reality (for example, UPS, who bought Kiala, have been deployed outside of France with great success).

It is evident that within the urban context, where space is less and less easy to find, and congestion, pollution and noise are commonplace, urban logistics needs to become more sustainable. This takes an important dimension considering that logistics is both a factor of economic development as well as a nuisance [CRA 08]. However, if the notion of urban logistics is not perceived in the same way by the various stakeholders involved, how can the notion of sustainable practices be assimilated in both a consensual and unified manner? This unification, which is difficult, but at the same time necessary, has been a constant theme in my work, and seems to me a critical point on which very little has been discussed, but nonetheless needs to be formalized.

My first contact with the field of urban logistics was through the construction industry (as part of the framework of my training as a civil engineer and urban planner). Although, my interest turned to airports after that. The focus of my first research contributions to urban logistics were in development from 2005 to 2008, during the realization of my doctoral thesis at the Politecnico of Turin (Italy) that also included a stay of approximately six months in Montreal (Canada). Since this PhD was in computer and systems science, my methodology for addressing the topic was very much quantitative. Following on a brief position with an engineering consultancy, I embarked on a career with the Laboratory of Transport Economics in Lyon for approximately six years, where I was able to approach and understand the French vision of urban logistics and at the same time expand my own theoretical and methodical approach with a more applied viewpoint which combined statistical approaches with qualitative analyzes. It is from this context that the collective work behind my viewpoint of sustainable urban logistics comes, and upon which the work I seek to present here, not without difficulties, has been designed [GON 14i]. In 2014, I became assistant professor at the École des Mines of Saint-Étienne, switching discipline yet again and returning to the Engineering Sciences, wherein I initiated regular collaborations with institutions across Latin America (Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru), and which led me to discover other contexts, opportunities, as well as other innovations, in some cases yet unknown in Europe. To honor my six years in the human and social sciences, as well as ten years of research in urban logistics, my dissertation for Habilitation to supervise research (a French degree necessary to supervise PhD students) focused on supervising research in the field of Economic Sciences at the University of Paris-Est in 2016 [GON 16a]. Despite this multidisciplinary background, the two resulting documents (undoubtedly very academic) as well as several courses addressed mainly to a “research” audience, nevertheless succeeded in arousing the interest of many strategic professionals. With this as my motive I set about formulating my own vision, which would include a set of methods and techniques, to assist the planning and assessment of sustainable urban logistics as well as demonstrate that although a unified approach exists, it cannot be brought about through the waving of a “magic wand” (that I personally do not believe in), but rather through a methodological framework and set of methods, techniques, indicators and practices that allow for the easy comparison of different experiences, which can in turn be evaluated by a simple decision-making tool that is both systematic and efficient.

Nevertheless, it is not my wish that this book imposes that specific vision, or that it be used to advocate an “absolute truth”; on the contrary, it is written in the spirit of openness and a desire to share a common vision for urban logistics established with the experiences, disciplines and even the many different contexts, which can (and should) coexist in synergy.

This book draws on over ten years of personal research on the topic, together with my experiences with several teams wherein I contributed to many different projects. It intends to promote a unified approach (which is gaining popularity and is used at an international level) for the planning of sustainable urban logistics. It begins by presenting an overview on urban logistics, starting with its history, the main research contributions that occurred in France and abroad, and how this research has been applied and put into practice (Chapter 1). It then goes on to the description and definition of the main components of sustainable urban logistics (Chapter 2): flows, stakeholders, relations to sustainability, visions of urban logistics and key components (infrastructure, management issues, technology, regulation mechanisms and financing elements). A unified vision of those elements as well as a definition of sustainable urban logistics is proposed, in the most extensive vision of urban logistics (in terms of flow, stakeholders and issues considered).

Next, the book presents the basics for planning and managing sustainable urban logistics. Chapter 3 introduces the foundations of the general assessment approach, based on before–after analyses. Although this approach is traditionally used for evaluating pilots and experiences, this book proposes to systematize both the evaluation of physical systems and the assessment of scenarios. To achieve those types of analyses, two sets of methods are necessary: flow estimation frameworks and assessment indicators calculation methods. This book presents the dominant approaches for the estimation of flow within this broader approach. Chapter 4 focuses on inter-establishment flows, while Chapter 5 focuses on the other two categories (end-consumer and urban management flows). These methods are illustrated using several examples. The section on the estimation of flows concludes with a presentation of the approaches for estimating change and solution probleming - two complementary approaches that are at the center of the unified framework introduced in this book.

With regard to evaluation and assessment, this book first presents a framework for choosing sustainable indicators and dashboards (Chapter 7). Chapter 8 follows this up with the leading methods for evaluating the economic, environmental, social and accessibility aspects of the considered urban logistics system. These are accompanied by tables and figures necessary for a real-world application.

This book aims to be a practical guide for the implementation of key methods that are the result of much scientific research, and presents examples of real-world applications explained both quantitatively and qualitatively. It seeks to synthesize and present the principle methods of the unified approach to assist decision-makers in the execution, planning and management of urban logistics and the transportation of goods within the city context, not from a perspective of obligation, but rather towards consensus of an aperture, that is as much interdisciplinary as it is international.

December 2017