Making Urban Freight Transport More Sustainable in a Medium Sized City: the Case of Mechelen

Making Urban Freight Transport More Sustainable in a Medium Sized City: the Case of Mechelen


Tom Van Lier, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Dries Meers, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Cathy Macharis, Vrije Universiteit Brussel


Different options for improving the sustainability of freight deliveries in a medium-sized city are evaluated using a multi-actor multi-criteria analysis (MAMCA), with specific focus on external transport cost reductions


Freight mobility poses an increasingly complex challenge for cities. Rising volumes of e-commerce lead to growing numbers of small delivery vans in urban traffic, while on the other hand larger trucks are still required to supply retail chains. Finding a balance between improving the liveability of city centres by creating pedestrian areas and low traffic zones while simultaneously aiming to promote the city centre as on open air shopping centre requires innovative solutions to get freight and passenger flows in and out in a sustainable manner.
Mechelen in Belgium is a medium sized city of some 83.000 inhabitants, aiming to improve energy efficiency and CO2 reduction by lowering the emission factors of local freight transport and bundling of freight flows. In order to determine which solutions are most feasible to implement in the short run, an evaluation framework that has been developed in a Flemish research project (IWT-SBO ULM) will be tested.
In this paper, first the policy evaluation framework will be described. Four basic conditions guide this framework. First, the triple bottom line (TBL) concept of sustainability, which classifies the variables in economic, environmental and social or societal concerns. The second condition is stakeholder visibility, which highlights the fact that the level of success is low when solutions are implemented without stakeholder discussion. The third condition comprises practicability for the policy-maker. The fourth condition refers to the participatory possibilities, which are enabled by the various opportunities that new data-gathering options provide, as well as by the use of the multi-actor multi-criteria analysis methodology or MAMCA, an evaluation method that focuses specifically on the inclusion of qualitative and quantitative criteria, defined by multiple stakeholders.
Secondly, the paper will describe the testing of the evaluation framework for the particular case in Mechelen. First, potential feasible solutions for improving urban freight distribution will be identified in consultation with city officials. These will be classified according to four categories: Awareness, Avoidance, Act and shift and Anticipation. BAU (business-as-usual) scenario will be described that includes all existing and planned initiatives with regards to urban distribution (such as bike parcel deliveries and the development of an UCC (Urban Consolidation Centre)). Proposed solutions will include parcel locker boxes, open data monitoring, off-peak deliveries, flexible time windows, support measures for UCC's, clean vehicle accessibility, ICT-platform for free capacity (bundling), etc. A stakeholder analysis will be performed in order to identify all parties affected by the proposed solutions. This includes identifying the criteria and their relative importance for all stakeholders. The MAMCA exercise will be carried out during a workshop where alle relevant stakeholders will participate.
Thirdly, the paper will describe how the results of the MAMCA can lead to the identification of a pilot project for Mechelen. In order to evaluate the pilot, indicators for the different criteria will be derived, where possible, from an indicator set developed within the IWT-SBO ULM project. This indicator set occupies a central position in the policy evaluation framework and is currently composed of 42 indicators that monitor the sustainability of mobility and logistics in urban environments. These indicators in turn feed the external cost calculation (ECC) tool, which converts externalities caused by transportation into monetary values. As enabling the usage of the indicators requires multiple competent datasets to provide input, an analysis of required data availabilities will be executed. For the particular case of Mechelen, e.g. the usage of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras can be employed to deliver information on vehicle movements entering and leaving the city. However, as this information is commonly implemented for other objectives than mobility management, privacy and usability are important issues to solve. Also other participative data-collection tools will be investigated as the possibility of improving and completing data-sets for freight transport with applications and sensors increases with increasing technological innovations.
The paper will end with conclusions and some recommendations for improving the assessment of urban freight policies.


Association for European Transport