Automated systems enabling customers to pick-up e-purchased goods from designated 24/7 Parcel Locker pickup points are proliferating. While they offer the promise of improved access to goods and reduced travel for consumers and delivery vehicles, the integration of these systems in cities, and their impact on access, generally and by mode are understudied.
New research explores the development, site characteristics and regional location characteristics of Parcel Lockers in five South East Queensland (SEQ) cities, Australia, and discusses implications for urban and transport planning in a car-oriented city.
Micro-level site analyses for 45 locker locations provide information on facilities (e.g. access by modes and universal accessibility, ground level, tenure type, safety). Hierarchical cluster analysis helps identify categories of locations. Suburb-level census and land use data, as well as distance from transportation infrastructure and other Australia Post facilities, were gathered and used to compare regional suburbs with and without Parcel Lockers. Logistic regression identifies the suburb level characteristics associated with the presence of a Parcel Locker.
Parcel Lockers in Brisbane are generally located at Australia Post locations, on commercial streets, shopping centers, suburban arterials and industrial parks. Automobile access and nearby parking are nearly ubiquitous, whereas alternative transport access is limited. Though site locations are constrained by commercial decisions, proximity to highways, to public transport, population density, a good balance of jobs and population, and higher rates of household Internet access are associated with the presence of a Parcel Locker.
Documenting and assessing site characteristics and regional location of Parcel Lockers can help ensure its optimal and adequate integration and distribution across the region to satisfy city and transport planning goals. In its current state, Australia Post’s Parcel Lockers partially meet the objectives of a sustainable city.
There are seemingly more opportunities for lockers to support sustainable travel and reduce auto trips associated with parcel pick-ups. To complete and enhance their roles as a travel and emission reduction infrastructure, Parcel Locker managers should ensure that they are particularly useful for consumers that access them via non-motorized modes and public transit. Transit stations or busways stations in Brisbane would likely be important locations to develop but reported negotiations with transit operators had not led to developments at the time of writing.8 Furthermore, transit stations often have drop off points (kiss-and-ride) that can be useful locations to position lockers.
Such shortstops for collections may, however, be worrisome when the fluidity of a system is the most important preoccupation of public transport operators. Studies on generated footfall could help predict impacts. Integrating lockers to train stations may increase the value of public transit to users by making them a hub for other services such as parcel collection.
Finally, cities could envision enabling the location of Parcel Lockers on some public sites, including those already providing services to the population. Public sites can include parks, libraries, museums and health care centers or hospitals. While Australia Post is currently the sole player in this industry apart from owners of systems only used for their own transactions (Coles supermarkets and Mailman for Officeworks), the arrival of other distributors may further increase the rate of appearance of Parcel Lockers. Cities may need to develop policies and guidelines for the aesthetic, functional and non-disruptive integration of these technologies in the landscape. There is much space for added knowledge in this sphere
Lachapelle, U., Burke, M., Brotherton, A., & Leung, A. (2018). Parcel locker systems in a car dominant city: Location, characterization and potential impacts on city planning and consumer travel access. Journal of Transport Geography, 71, 1-14.