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Cities are affected by the transportation that operate within them. Both urban freight transportation and passenger transport have economic, environmental and social impacts in city areas.

What are city logistics?

In 1999, Taniguchi et al. defined city logistics as “the process for totally optimizing the logistics and transport activities by private companies in urban areas while considering the traffic environment, the traffic congestion and energy consumption within the framework of a market economy”.

The impact of city logistics

Because big cities are areas of big business, there are more vehicles going in and around the town and city centres. This results in traffic, which causes commuters to be late for work, deliveries to be delayed. As well as this, all of these (often big trucks and vans) produce huge emissions and are a large contributor to city pollution.

Many argue that it is difficult to cut down on these negative effects without seeing the city suffer economically. However, some cities have implemented strategies that may force those who have adopted this “it’s too difficult” stance to rethink.

Pioneers in congestion combat

In the 1970s, computer programmers and traffic engineers in Sydney, Australia created SCATS (the Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System). Using cameras or induction loops in pavements, the programme is able to calculate the number of vehicles at a given intersection and adapt the traffic light timing accordingly. The system recently developed a new feature called PTIPS, which prioritises late buses in order to keep traffic flow steady & aides commuters with getting to work on time. A major study that compared SCATS to a non-adaptive system revealed the following data:

  • 37% decrease in total travel time
  • 21% decrease in total stops
  • 6% decrease in total CO2 emissions
  • 5% decrease in total NO emissions
  • 10% decrease in total PM10 emissions


Amsterdam’s Zero Emissions project is working towards an optimal electric freight vehicle. LEVV-Logic & the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences are running several research projects around how light, electric vehicles can be used for city distribution. They are replacing vans going into the city with cargo bikes in order to reduce their carbon footprint and to cut down the emissions within the city. Cargo bikes are emission free, as well as reducing sound pollution by being fast and quiet, and on top of that, cycling a cargo bike is healthier for you than driving a van!

While vans are restricted to time windows when entering the city, cargo bikes experience no such restriction and have no problem entering any of the small city streets. So rather than congest the city streets with various vans, distributors go to a hub where their products are distributed to cargo bikes. These cargo bikes then make the journey into the city.

A little closer to home

Birmingham has introduced buses that shut down when they aren’t moving in an attempt at greener public transport. The Platinum system boasts more leg room, free WiFi, USB charging ports, next stop announcements and greener emissions! 

Have you been on one of the national express Platinum buses yet?