Freight and delivery services are crucial to continued life in New York City. Of the 365 million tons of cargo that enters, exits, and transits through NYC annually, 89% is carried by a truck. The freight industry brings in the materials we use to build and maintain our city as well as supply our stores, including clothes, household goods, hospital supplies, food and beverages, and countless other items essential to everyday life.
Our reliance on freight and delivery is so great that in 2019 44.9% of New Yorkers received a delivery at home multiple times a week. That trend is only expected to grow. Online shopping shows year-on-year increases, and total volume of goods moved by freight and delivery is expected to jump by 68%, up to 540 million tons, by 2045.
These figures raise valid questions about the impact delivery vehicles have on traffic congestion, which is a detriment to public health, safety, the environment, and overall quality of life.
Fortunately, we have a high-level understanding of the impact of freight and delivery on mobility in the city. In 2017, Council passed Local Law 189, which required the study of traffic congestion resulting from truck deliveries in Manhattan below 59th Street and in Downtown Brooklyn.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) found that trucks account for “a meaningful but relatively small percentage of the traffic stream” between 8% and 12%. The remaining 88-92% of traffic is comprised of private vehicles, taxis, for-hire vehicles, and buses. While trucks no doubt contribute to traffic, the DOT’s own report asserted that congestion from other vehicular traffic had a more adverse impact on trucking, with congestion in studied areas impeding the speed of truck mobility by as much as 50% during the day. The cost of congestion amounts to $4.9 billion annually on the trucking industry.
While not the primary cause of congestion, improving the operations of delivery trucks can certainly make improvements to mitigate traffic and all the risks that come with it. The DOT found that peak commercial vehicle activity is four times greater than off-peak hours. As a takeaway to its study, DOT recommended that freight and delivery try to coordinate more off-peak hour deliveries, which would come as a result of a conversation between businesses, the freight industry, BIDs, and other essential stakeholders.
To effectively reduce congestion and increase the health and safety of our streets, we need more thorough analyses like the DOT’s 2019 “Improving the Efficiency of Truck Deliveries in NYC.” Moreover, we need a holistic understanding of the transit universe, including the full range of vehicle usage given the number of privately-owned vehicles in NYC has steadily increased in the past two decades, with 8% growth in car ownership during the de Blasio administration’s first term alone.
There are 1.923 million privately-owned vehicles in the city, and, on average, 4.4 million moving around the five boroughs daily. If we are to make meaningful improvements to traffic congestion, we need a comprehensive and data-driven approach that address more than just 8-12% of vehicles. To find innovative and successful solutions, the City needs to account for the changing circumstances in car ownership and the rising demand for delivery. Furthermore, in 2023 NYC will be implementing congestion pricing in the central business district, an effort REBNY actively supported and played a key role in coordinating advocacy. The City should factor in the projected change in traffic patterns and congestion as part of any additional freight and delivery regulations.
It is important to underscore that the real estate industry is eager to meaningfully contribute towards alleviating delivery truck traffic. It is concerning that many of the mandates in this legislative package significantly impact property owners, managers, and building service workers, however, the City’s logistical challenges, the rise of e-commerce trends, and the operations of the freight and delivery industry are not within its control and may not lead to our shared goal. REBNY stands ready to help Council explore effective measures. What follows is more specific comments to the Introductions being heard today.