News in the micro-mobility space often dazzles with statistics about the boom in urban bike share or e-scooters instead of mass transit.  Yet equally important for long term transport sustainability is the freight factor, specifically the Last Mile Delivery effect on the environment.

A panel at last fall’s Autonomy 2019 conference addressed potential strategies urban planners of the future, as well as some lessons learned from a case study in Colombia.

Organized by the Sustainable Mobility team of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, the panel was moderated by Tsu-Jui Cheng, ICLEI’s Program Manager of Sustainable Mobility, joined by Eugenio Prieto Soto of AMVA, Colombia, and Monika Zimmerman, an independent mobility expert, former Secretary General of ICLEI.

Case Study in Mobility Pollution

Using the 2017 case study based on Área Metropolitana del Valle de Aburrá (AMVA) the panel reviewed the challenges involved and some tentative solutions to poor air quality in this populous valley, anchored by the large city of Medellín. High levels of PM2.5 and PM10 pollutants in the air came predominantly (80%) from the transport sector, of which freight vehicles are the majority (64%).

Improvements were made by addressing needed changes in existing traffic patterns, delivery schedules, road safety and the movement of consumer goods, all ever important in the last mile.

Promoting Low-Emission Mobility Systems

AMVA put in place a Comprehensive Plan that set its sights on lowering pollution from both freight and passenger mobility.  It included renewal of cargo fleets, improving fuel quality standards, and increasing bio-fuel, as well car and motorcycle traffic management and expanding Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines.  E-bikes and e-cargo vehicles were not yet a factor at the time of the study, but could be in the near future.

Recognizing the Role of the Freight Sector

Current updates to the AMVA plan and other urban zones following ICLEI’s cue, acknowledge that they have to do more to address recent growth in general freight, e-commerce and growth of food delivery companies – all factors affecting air quality and sustainability in the last mile, and growing since the coronavirus pandemic.

Toward Decarbonisation – Winning Stakeholder Investment in Sustainability

For cities of the future to achieve mobility sustainability, winning strategies must speak to all stakeholders, passengers, and urban freight alike.  The panel recommended local governments invest in understanding the freight profile, and its related environmental and social impacts, they may win collaboration from the private sector to guide urban planning in the coming years.  From local to global, sustainable mobility can be the vision of the future, even to the last mile.