Deals on Wheels (Including Meals) Make Lower Manhattan’s Arteries Harder
Lower Manhattan residents ordered 1,197,020 food deliveries in the last quarter of 2021, according to new analysis by Streetsblog (an online news source focused on how to reduce dependence on private automobiles, while improving conditions for walking, biking, and transit). For the eight residential zip codes below Canal Street and the Brooklyn Bridge, this comes to an average of slightly more than 13,000 deliveries per day.
The data, which Streetsblog obtained from the City’s Department of Consumer and Work Protection (DCWP) via a freedom of information request, also shows that during the same period, residents of New York City as whole placed 30,377,126 orders for deliveries. This translates into Lower Manhattan (which is home to slightly less than one percent of the City’s overall population) ordering almost four percent of New York’s deliveries.
Streetsblog focused its analysis on DCWP data for Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash, and Relay, “which are responsible for 99 percent of the city’s food deliveries,” the newsletter explains. This data excludes deliveries from e-commerce outlets, such as Amazon, which likely account for many hundreds of thousands of additional deliveries to Lower Manhattan each month.
In December, Community Board 1 enacted a resolution about “Improving Last Mile, E-Commerce Freight Delivery.” This is a reference to the “last mile” logistics challenge in supply-chain management, transportation planning, and distribution networks, for which the final leg is often the most complicated, expensive, difficult and time-consuming segment of the journey. That resolution embraced a broad range of solutions, including “taking delivery sorting and staging off local streets and sidewalks” and “repurposing enclosed accessory and commercial parking facilities that have available capacity to add e-commerce fulfillment activities.” Also worthy of consideration, according to CB1: “increasing the use of electric cargo bikes (rather than delivery trucks) and using electric-powered marine vessels to make deliveries to piers on the Lower Manhattan waterfront.”
In April, the City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that it will launch this summer a pilot program to test the feasibility of delivery “microhubs”—designated curbside or off-street locations for delivery trucks to unload items onto smaller, low-emissions vehicles or human-powered modes of transportation (such as cargo bikes and hand carts) for the final leg of deliveries.
Although no locations have been announced, Lower Manhattan would appear to be a likely contender for one or more of these facilities, commended not only by the density of deliveries, but also by available infrastructure, such as space beneath the FDR Drive viaduct alongside the East River, which closely resembles one of the renderings in the DOT announcement.
Meanwhile, two days ago at the Waterfront Conference (an annual event hosted by the Waterfront Alliance that takes place in Lower Manhattan), a team from Connecticut-based First Harvest Navigation was promoting its new hybrid/electric cargo vessel. The family-run company is developing a regional marine transportation system, using the waterways to open up new markets and reduce air pollution and truck traffic. Pick-ups and deliveries are made by water from farms and businesses between upstate New York and New England. Complete with its own small crane for cargo transfer to and from the dock, and drawing a draft of only three feet, eight inches, First Harvest Navigation is looking for dock space in New York City. “We could just about go anywhere,” says First Harvest’s Bob Kunkel.