In spring 2023, PBOT was awarded nearly $2 million as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grants program for a proposal to pilot a Zero-Emission Delivery Zone and test digital infrastructure tools. With this project, Portland will become the first U.S. city to pilot implementation of a regulated Zero-Emission Delivery Zone.
Funding for this Stage One SMART grant will allow PBOT to trial changing three truck loading zones into “Zero-Emission Delivery ” loading zones in downtown Portland. These delivery loading zones are located in an area anchored by public-sector institutions, including several city, county, and federal offices—all of which have strong commitments to taking climate action. The three loading zones are outside three government buildings — the Portland Building, the Mark Hatfield Federal Courthouse, and the Multnomah County Courthouse. At the same time, PBOT will also use federal grant funds to incentivize the movement of “clean goods” by partnering with an existing logistics company where diesel and gas-powered delivery trucks can opt-into transferring goods to smaller zero-emission delivery vehicles — such as local fleets of electric-assist cargo trikes, electric vehicles, or electric trucks — for deliveries at the “Zero-Emission Delivery” loading zones. While many freight companies have pledged to become carbon neutral in the coming decades, a high percentage of the commercial fleet still relies on fossil fuels at this time. Thus, delivery vehicles that still use fossil fuels will continue to be able to travel into and through the pilot project area, park in regular metered spaces, use on-site loading bays, or park nearby at existing truck loading zones outside of the pilot project area.
PBOT will then evaluate the impact of the Zero-Emission Delivery Zone from several data sources. This includes data from logistics companies, sensors, and third-party analytics companies. Next, PBOT will evaluate the pilot project to assess outcomes and, if desirable, apply for a Stage Two SMART grant for up to $15 million.
All of this work is in service to our city’s values around climate: a safer, cleaner, and more equitable system for delivering goods and services.
The project kicks off in summer/fall of 2023. The demonstration project, funded by the Stage One SMART grant, will run for 18 months.
In the initial steps of this federally funded project, PBOT staff and partners will engage stakeholders and may revise the proposed zero-emission delivery loading zone locations based on feedback from tenants and freight stakeholders. As of May 2023, PBOT anticipates that any changes to truck loading zones would occur in spring 2024. The “Zero-Emission Delivery” loading zones would be tested for six to nine months as the City collects data, prepares preliminary findings, and presents a pilot project report with any recommended next steps.
If desirable, PBOT may then apply for a Stage Two SMART grant for up to $15 million to build on pilot project success and lessons learned.
PBOT submitted this grant in collaboration with the Open Mobility Foundation (OMF) and a collective of eight cities and counties, all focused on using digital curb information to reduce congestion, enhance livability, and improve safety and equity on local streets. The members of the collaborative who all received SMART grants include the cities of Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and Miami-Dade County.
Local partners coming soon!
Through this pilot project to test a Zero-Emission Delivery Zone, PBOT staff aims to test strategies that may have positive outcomes on the environment, public health, traffic safety, and curb management.
In 2020, Portland City Council declared a climate emergency and set a goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Transportation accounts for nearly 40% of the carbon emissions in the Portland area. Although trucks represent less than 5% of the vehicle fleet, they generate 24% of all transportation-related carbon emissions. This project directly responds to the Climate Emergency Declaration and the subsequent Climate Emergency Workplan that named “make freight cleaner” as one of its nine transportation sector decarbonization priorities.
Nearly 40% of Portlanders who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color live within 1.2 miles of the city’s biggest sources of air pollution such as freeways and industrial facilities. This exposure increases vulnerability to chronic health conditions like cardiovascular damage, asthma, and more. An effective Zero-Emission Delivery Zone and other clean freight solutions begin to reduce nearby air pollution, bringing direct health benefits to those neighborhoods, while also providing economic opportunities for zero-emission carriers.
As with most cities in the U.S., urban deliveries in Portland are primarily done by vans and trucks. With an increase in demand for e-commerce (and same-day delivery), we’ve seen more frequent, shorter trips taken by vans and trucks. This means more delivery vehicles on streets not designed for the increase on commercial vehicle volume. It also means growing concerns for the environment, safety, and infrastructure maintenance. According to the 2040 Portland Freight report, there were 2,267 collisions involving trucks between 2014 and 2018 (4% of all Portland collisions) with 3.3% of those fatal or involving serious injuries. This study identified Portland’s downtown core as one of the areas with the highest concentration of collisions involving trucks. Although the absolute number of such crashes is much lower than for general motor vehicle traffic, truck-involved crashes are more likely to involve fatalities and serious injuries.
The increase on e-commerce deliveries has exacerbated the demand for parking, loading, and unloading of commercial vehicles that many municipalities are already experiencing. Parked and double-parked trucks are a major contributor to urban congestion and the obstruction of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, along with trucks and delivery vans idling and emitting pollutants and GHGs.
Improvements in the ability of commercial vehicles to find adequate parking, particularly in dense areas, could potentially yield significant pollution reduction benefits. Increased availability of commercial vehicle parking would reduce commercial vehicles circling to find a spot, or parking in a travel lane or illegal space and causing congestion and safety conflicts. Finally, incentivizing mode shift to smaller size commercial vehicles help reduce mode conflicts with vulnerable users during the loading, unloading and parking operations.