It’s online shopping season, so you might find yourself stuck behind delivery vans blocking the lane more often than usual. But transportation officials envision a better future, where delivery drivers glide smoothly into loading space reserved ahead of time. The city will test the idea in a pilot this spring.
“I think we need a new model of loading zones in the city,” said Christopher Puchalsky, director of policy and strategic initiatives at Philadelphia’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability (OTIS). “That’s what the Smart Loading Zone pilot is trying to do.”
The Philadelphia Parking Authority issued more than $2 million worth of tickets to package delivery vehicles in 2020 and is on track to issue roughly the same this year. But e-commerce is still clogging city streets with double-parked trucks and vans.
Philly currently sees more than 600,000 total residential deliveries per year, according to estimates by José Holguín-Veras of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Freight Systems. That number is likely to grow, as the World Economic Forum estimates e-commerce demand will bring 36% more delivery vehicles to inner-cities by 2030.
When these vehicles park illegally, they put pedestrians at risk by blocking sight lines, endanger cyclists by obstructing bike lanes and slow down transit. It all comes down to a conflict over precious curb space — which is as useful for the ever-growing online shopping — and delivery-based economy as it is for pedestrians, Uber passengers or even diners eating outdoors.