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Urbanization of America; Planning to Fail

Written by Peter Friberg.

Okay, this is a GREAT article. FleetOwner.com’s Sean Kilcarr hit a home run here. In this article Kilcarr highlights an overlooked relationship between transportation/freight and the increasing shift towards an urban lifestyle. I highly recommend that you read my article and the linked one by Kilcarr.

According to the 2010 census, the United States is 80.7% urban; 80.7% of us live cities and/or urban areas. California (95%) and New Jersey (94.7%) are the two most urbanized states according to U.S. data. All those numbers are up from 2010 census data. And as those upward trends continue and cities continue to develop more and more housing, retail space, office space, etc. to handle growing populations the city planners/developers are missing a key component; transportation/freight.

So what do we typically think of when we think about sharing the road with big trucks? They get in the way. They tower over us; scaring us. When they stop to unload they block traffic and/or parking. They slow us down. Do any of those complaints ring home to you? That was me before I got into the industry.

Kilcarr (what a fabulously ironic name for someone who writes about trucking) points out that,

…80 buildings in Manhattan produce 4% to 8% of New York City’s total freight traffic. In other words, they produce more traffic (Ed.: not street traffic but freight volume) than the Port of New York and New Jersey, noted Professor José Holguín-Veras with the Volvo Research and Educational Foundations (VREF) Center of Excellence on Sustainable Urban Freight Systems at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

So if we want urban living; condominiums, retail space, downtown eateries, office buildings, etc. we need urban planners to plan accordingly because none of those things are possible without providing freight conduits to supply those buildings, those entities, with the goods they need.

It is frequently stated that an army marches on its stomach. No army can succeed without a viable sustainable supply chain. If an army cannot feed its soldiers, if it cannot provide fuel for their trucks and tanks, if it cannot provide munitions for their guns and artillery then any advances will be followed by quick retreats or defeats. An unequipped army is a losing army. Well the same philosophy works for those downtown/urban condos, restaurants, offices, etc. They need their supplies and it will be America’s trucking providers that will deliver those goods.

Another oft-quoted philosophy is, “failure to plan ahead is planning to fail.” Working within that philosophical framework, our city planners can either develop plans that provide adequate freight-delivery conduits or they can fail to plan and be surprised when city streets become choke points and traffic is at a standstill. That’s not the truck drivers’ fault, it is that of our city planners.

I hope as America becomes increasingly urban that her city planners plan accordingly.

Thanks for reading.

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