“Rethinking City Logistics”

The Stuttgart Region Chamber of Industry and Commerce has published a study on innovative logistics concepts for urban planning in 2020. It is entitled “City logistics rethought – impetus for Stuttgart’s Rosenstein district”.
Reading time: approx. 3 minutes
Text: Joachim Geiger
Images: IHK Region Stuttgart, Bopp, Pesch Partner Architekten Stadtplaner GmbH

Until now, freight transport has often been a poor relation in urban planning. But how can city logistics function when the demand for transport is increasing and at the same time there is less and less space available? Stuttgart now wants to learn from past mistakes. Götz Bopp from the Stuttgart Region Chamber of Industry and Commerce explains what a new development quarter of the future could look like.

Does freight transport in city logistics have the status it deserves?
Götz Bopp: For many people, logistics is like electricity from a socket – you use it as a matter of course, but you don’t know what’s behind it, where it comes from and how it works. In fact, we often have a problem with space, especially in older existing districts. In the west of Stuttgart, for example, there is virtually no infrastructure for logistics. If an amendment to the road traffic regulations soon punishes obstruction by delivery vehicles in the second row with heavy fines, logistics companies will have a problem. In the worst case scenario, they will refrain from driving to the areas of the city that are problematic for them. But if residents and tradespeople no longer receive deliveries, the city has a problem too.
What approaches does the Stuttgart Region Chamber of Industry and Commerce see for the state capital?
We want to take care not only of the last mile, but also of the penultimate mile, which means the traffic from the suburbs to the core of the city centre. To do this, we need to think ahead with innovative solutions. Underground goods transport, for example, offers a lot of potential. This would allow some of the vehicles to be taken off the surface so that they no longer burden the access routes into the city. We could then free up a lane for other modes of transport.
Is sustainable city logistics today always also logistics with the cargo bike?
Cargo bike logistics is a building block, but by no means the panacea it is sometimes portrayed as. Cargo bike logistics can only take on a small proportion of the goods needed for transport. On the other hand, it hardly makes sense for the greengrocer to send a cargo bike on its way for two cucumbers and three tomatoes, and for the baker and the butcher to do the same with similarly small quantities. In this case, it would be a good approach to consolidate such deliveries intelligently. Ultimately, however, it is not just a matter of mass, but also of the volume of goods that are transported in the city. If a catering business orders several tons of drinks, they won’t get to their destination by cargo bike. We will therefore definitely need larger vehicles that are ideally climate-neutral on the road.
What could sustainable city logistics look like?
The Stuttgart Region Chamber of Industry and Commerce recently published a study on an integrated logistics concept for the planning of the Rosenstein district. This is an approximately 85-hectare railway site that will become vacant in the course of the Stuttgart 21 construction project. It was important for us not to repeat the mistakes of the past, but to think about logistics at a very early stage. We are relying on a wide range of approaches for the infrastructure. Delivery zones, cargo bikes and underground transport systems are among them, as well as multi-use parking garages, autonomous parcel deliveries and quiet logistics transshipment zones.

»Urban planners have a high level of competence for individual passenger transport and public transport. Freight transport, on the other hand, often still leads a shadowy existence.«

Götz Bopp, Department Head Urban Transport and Logisticsat the IHK Region Stuttgart

What would be a good approach to infrastructure in a new construction neighborhood?
In a sense, an efficient infrastructure is the operating system for freight transport. Let’s take a block of houses, for example, in which there is not only a purely residential use, but also a supermarket on the ground floor as well as rooms for service providers and tradespeople. Here it would be conceivable to develop a supply concept via the underground car park. If there are other residential blocks around it, clever architecture could make it possible to dock the other buildings onto a hub in the underground car park.
You would connect the different underground garages for this?
That would be a model that could easily reach four or five buildings. The parcel courier drives into the underground car park and supplies the residents in the area underground. Another model would be the use of conveyor technology. After all, Germany is the world champion when it comes to intralogistics, so a solution for apartment blocks would be quickly at hand. The parcel service provider then scans the parcels in the hub in the underground car park and places them on a conveyor belt that distributes them to the parcel boxes in the buildings.
Which logistical solution do you prefer?
We do not have a ranking list of priorities. Which approach comes into play always depends on the local circumstances and requirements. Incidentally, our study is not intended to relate only to the Rosenstein district. It is an offer to every municipality that is concerned with the design or redesign of neighbourhoods – in principle a construction kit from which everyone can help themselves according to their own needs.

»Freight transport is part of the whole transport system in the city centre. We therefore need solutions taht are fair to all modes of transport.«

Götz Bopp, Department Head Urban Transport and Logisticsat the IHK Region Stuttgart

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