Logistics is crucial for a liveable city but should not lead to excessive cars and emissions. Hubs for (de)clustering goods at the neighbourhood level may provide a solution. However, what is the added value of such sites if logistical, economic and social functions are combined? The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) explores these questions in the Neighbourhood hubs for liveable cities project.
Logistics hubs at the neighbourhood level make it possible to (de)bundle goods and deliver them with light electric vehicles to a destination elsewhere in the city. But space is both scarce and expensive, and the local community may not necessarily welcome the arrival of a hub.
The aim of the Neighbourhood hubs for liveable cities project is to examine whether logistics functions can be combined with social and economic functions within a hub. A hub could, for example, provide storage space for nearby shops, a repair cafe for old or damaged clothing, a drop-off point for packages, shared transport and workplaces. “That is an efficient use of space and increases the added value of such a place for residents, businesses and other parties,” says Susanne Balm, project manager for Sustainable City Logistics at AUAS. “The neighbourhood becomes more attractive, and the amount of traffic in the area decreases”.
Two case studies
The Neighbourhood hubs for liveable cities project focuses on two case studies: a shopping area in Groningen and a city street in Amsterdam. First, through observations, interviews and workshops, the researchers map out who the potential users of a neighbourhood hub are. These users could be restaurants, cultural institutions, property owners, logistics service providers, recycling companies, residents and/or tourists. Next, they list several combinations of users and functions and examine which business models would fit them. The researchers also determine the criteria that future neighbourhood hubs must meet. Finally, they put the Groningen and Amsterdam cases side by side to get an idea of what kind of hub would be promising under what circumstances.
The project’s findings offer pointers for the development of multifunctional hubs in Amsterdam, Groningen and elsewhere in The Netherlands. With the help of students, the researchers managed to identify 13 potential user groups for the Amsterdam site. They presented their findings to consortium partners in November 2021. During that work session, it was decided that the following research phases would focus on five user groups: residents, employees, logistics service providers, non-food suppliers and technical service providers. Research into business models, design criteria and the steps necessary to set up a hub will follow in the first half of 2022. Fourth-year students from the Logistics and Business Administration programmes at the AUAS are working on sub-questions in the project and thus gaining research experience in a multidisciplinary context.
In Neighbourhood hubs for liveable cities, the AUAS is working together with project coordinator TNO (Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research), the City of Groningen, Bedrijvenvereniging WEST (a Groningen-based business association), BedrijvenInvesteringsZone (BIZ) Knowledge Mile (an Amsterdam-based business association) and Bureau 8080 (an Amsterdam-based consultancy). Together with BIZ Knowledge Mile and Bureau 8080, the AUAS will explore the Amsterdam case study, whilst the City of Groningen and Bedrijvenvereniging WEST will work on the Groningen case study. The consortium is subsidised by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) under their ‘Accelerator 2020’ programme.
Neighbourhood hubs for liveable cities is one of the projects within the AUAS’s Lectorate of City Logistics. This lectorate focuses on research into more efficient and cleaner organisation of logistics in cities. Neighbourhood hubs for liveable cities is linked to the CILOLAB project, which is devoted to improving facility logistics. In addition, there are projects dedicated to waste, construction, hospitality and service logistics.