It’s an all-too-familiar scene in America’s urban communities: bustling city blocks are paralyzed by bumper-to-bumper traffic, as frustrated commuters and commercial vehicles try to navigate gridlocked intersections. Congestion is not only a growing problem; it’s also a costly one—robbing us of time and productivity, harming the environment, and hurting the bottom lines of businesses.
There is no better example of this issue than in New York City. A thriving urban center and American icon of the global marketplace, NYC’s economy and quality of life is threatened by growing, pervasive congestion.
However, a pioneering project called the Off Hour Delivery Program has shown tremendous potential for getting New York moving again. Developed through a DOT-sponsored collaboration between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rutgers University, ALK Technologies, and New York University, this program explored the impact of commercial trucks making their deliveries during off-peak hours.
In Manhattan alone, there are over 100,000 freight deliveries each day. Much of those are wholesale, retail, and food shipments, which may not require daytime delivery. So an off-hours delivery solution that reduces truck idling and frees up curb space makes sense for many shippers and businesses.
And the results have been very promising: the data indicate that this schedule change is already easing gridlock along some of the most congested corridors in NYC. It's also helping businesses reduce costs. The Epoch Times reported that, "In some instances, the nighttime delivery trucks experienced an improvement in speed by as much as 75% as well as a significant reduction in parking fines."
Earlier this month, I attended a ceremony held by the NYC Department of Transportation, recognizing DOT, and others for “Leadership in Sustainability” in this groundbreaking project. Thus far, 25 businesses, including Foot Locker, Sysco, Whole Foods Market, and eight trucking companies, have participated. But the event also launched a campaign to encourage more businesses to sign on and see improved bottom lines.
This pilot effort is supported by years of research from the Research and Innovative Technologies Administration’s Remote Sensing Program, which looks at ways of using remote sensing technology to attack various transportation problems from freight congestion to road maintenance to clogged border crossings.
The off-hours delivery program seeks to create a self-sustaining urban freight management system that fights congestion by combining cutting-edge GPS technology with innovative traffic management. Participating businesses allowed GPS-equipped vehicles--or GPS-enabled devices in their vehicles--to capture data about how these off-peak--usually nighttime--deliveries impacted traffic patterns and saved businesses time and money.
We have made a major effort to ensure that DOT-sponsored projects that involve portable electronic devices such as smart phones do not promote the viewing or handling of the device by the driver while driving. The devices used in this program send data completely independent of any prompting or viewing by the driver. And they can be safely positioned well outside the reach or sight line of the driver.
So this is a great example of how available technology can be applied safely to solve transportation challenges.
This project is an innovative, cost-effective approach showing that 21st Century technology and collaboration between transportation agencies and businesses can be a win-win solution. New Yorkers and visitors to the city will spend less time in traffic, and businesses will spend less money on fuel and lost time.
Plus, everyone benefits from the environmental gains--lower fuel use and fewer emissions--we get when we reduce traffic congestion.
Yes, the Off-Hour Delivery Program is showing how research using remote sensing and spatial information technologies can achieve positive results for New York City. But, more importantly, it can also serve as a model for urban communities across America.