How USA cities can decarbonize delivery in the era of online orders

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The National League of Cities (NLC) presents insights on addressing the challenges posed by the escalating demand for delivery services, emphasizing the need for sustainable solutions to decarbonize delivery and mitigate air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and traffic congestion. The NLC advocates for the adoption of innovative policies and technologies by municipalities to tackle these issues effectively. Examples include the implementation of zero-emission delivery zones in Santa Monica and Pittsburgh’s utilization of smart loading zones to optimize parking for delivery vehicles. Additionally, initiatives such as the introduction of cargo e-bikes and rental programs for electric delivery vehicles aim to provide cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives for businesses. However, the successful implementation of these measures hinges on the development of supportive infrastructure, such as secure bike lanes for cargo e-bikes and regulations for emerging technologies like flying drones. The NLC emphasizes the importance of community engagement in refining and achieving the goals of delivery decarbonization, stressing the need for safety, equity, and efficiency in municipal decision-making processes.

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Pioneering Sustainable Delivery Solutions: NLC’s Call for Zero-Emission Zones and Smart Loading Strategies

According to the NLC, while online shopping can improve consumers safety, accessibility, and convenience, the rising demand for delivery is causing issues in cities across the country, including increased air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, traffic congestion. According to the new action guide, these effects are anticipated to worsen over the next few years. By 2030, it is anticipated that congestion from delivery traffic will add 11 minutes of commute time per person across the world’s 100 largest cities, and that emissions from local delivery alone will rise by 32 %.

To lessen the burden on communities, some municipalities have now tested or adopted policies and technologies. In Santa Monica, California, zero emission delivery zones—areas where access is restricted to zero-emission delivery vehicles —have been tested and will immediately be implemented in Portland, Oregon.

Instead of using the 30-minute blocks that are too much for delivery vehicle needs, Pittsburgh is implementing smart loading zones, which use data collection, sensors, and cameras to charge vehicles for by-the-minute parking. According to the NLC action guide,” Data is one of the best management tools for designing an effective curb policy.”

Companies are also attempting to alter the delivery landscape. For example, bikeshare provider Gotcha Mobility launched a program in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, allowing companies to rent e-bikes for$ 15 per day as opposed to the per-minute or hourly rates that are typically charged by bicycleshare providers. According to the NLC action guide,” for businesses with smaller deliveries, this program enables them to easily access electric delivery vehicles at a reduced cost, so that businesses can conduct their own deliveries rather than having to outsource this service.”

Navigating the Path to Sustainable Delivery: NLC’s Guide on Infrastructure, Safety, and Community Engagement

But, the guide notes that in order to support new modes of delivery, cities must have the necessary infrastructure. For instance, cargo e-bikes require a secure bike lane network because they can carry significantly less than trucks and vans while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to the NLC action guide, some local and state governments are now advancing new infrastructure for flying drones, an emerging delivery technology that faces regulation challenges.

The NLC action guide asks important questions like:” How should municipalities carefully consider the best options for their community?”

  • How will safety be put first for delivery drivers and pedestrians who are n’t riding in big cars?
  • Which areas of the city are most frequently affected by vehicle air pollution? Do these geographical areas correspond to low-income households or historically impoverished neighborhoods?
  • In what areas should there be a certain amount of parking? How much of the total will be used for deliveries?

According to the action guide,” Communicating first and frequently with local businesses, delivery companies, and residents will help municipalities refine and achieve their goals.”


  • As more consumers switch to e-commerce, municipalities have a variety of options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from delivery vehicles, according to the National League of Cities (NLC)’ fresh action guide.
  • According to the guide, local leaders can implement delivery-decarbonizing policies like the requirement that deliveries take place during off-peak traffic hours, congestion pricing, and zero-emissions delivery zones, which is” the latest, most optimistic approach to inciting the electrification of corporate fleets.”
  • There are other delivery vehicles, but each has advantages and disadvantages, according to the guide. Robots that deliver pedestrians, for instance, do n’t add to traffic on the sidewalk and require little labor, but they might not function well everywhere because of complicated regulations and the need for sturdy pedestrian infrastructure

Viktor Musil

Victor Musil, pen name for Edouard Py, advocates for inclusive, people-centered city development. His work underscores the importance of ethical considerations and equitable access, shaping the discourse on urban innovation worldwide.

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