Research: understanding logistics sprawl

In the last few years, the issue of the location of logistics activities emerged in the literature, in Europe, and in the US, especially from the perspective of logistics spatial dynamics as logistics sprawl. These issues of spatial dynamics question urban policies because they underline the lack of interest in freight in the planning process.

One of the major issues in planning logistics facilities is the lack of a good understanding of the logistics sector. It is difficult to guide public action in the absence of detailed and precise data. The great heterogeneity of logistics facilities is often underestimated by public policies. The visibility of some sectors in public policies or academic literature, as parcel industry or e-commerce, hides other sides of logistics as an industry sector.

Logistics sprawl

In a new paper researchers from IFSTTAR/SPLOTT, University of Paris East underline differences in the location of facilities, which translates into a difficult implementation of public policies to regulate logistics sprawl in the case of the Paris region.
This paper studies the location of the warehouses and terminals, and their place in the spatial organization of logistics facilities in the Paris Region. In particular, the researchers compare the location of mass retail and wholesale trade facilities, logistics provider’s facilities, and parcel’s industrial facilities. The method developed to census logistics facilities could be reproduced in different regions or in different countries.

The researchers observe that 50% of logistics facilities are located in less than 10% of the Paris Region, so there is a significant concentration of small warehouses and logistics facilities in dense urban areas, located not in the city of Paris, but in its closest suburbs.

Policy impact

Logistics facilities are new in the urban landscape, from an urban planning perspective, the unawareness of their value and the essential part they play in the consumption system, make difficult their appropriation for public policies and people who perceive them as negative externalities generators. It could be possible to estimate a degree of negative externality depending on the type of logistics facilities to influence the location of logistics parks. It could be possible to evaluate the possibility of modal shift (e.g. trains, cargo-cycles, electric vehicles) regarding the type of logistics and charging infrastructure for zero-emission city logistics.

The typology provided in this paper could support developing models for a better estimation of freight flows, freight movements, energy demand, contributing to a comprehensive transportation planning of the metro areas.  Developing Smart citiesrelies on a collection of information and data intended for better planning and organizing cities. Based on technologies, data, ICT, this concept allows public authorities and private stakeholders to optimize efficiency and effectiveness in the pursuit of competitiveness and sustainability.

Source: Heitz, A., Launay, P., & Beziat, A. (2019). Heterogeneity of logistics facilities: an issue for a better understanding and planning of the location of logistics facilities. European Transport Research Review, 11(1), 5.

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