The Future of City Logsitics


 In Brief

“City Logistics” is the urban life line that satisfies customer and business needs through efficient transport. The following 4 trends are shaping key transit systems over the next 20 years.!!


Urban mobility has evolved slowly over time through technology, from the horse carriages and row boats we see in period movies to locomotives, railcars and self-propelled vehicles roaming the streets today and even self-driving ones tomorrow. When it comes to modern transport, however, people often think of 4-wheeled vehicles, first, as it has been popularized over the centuries. Transport to-date thus can be recognized in 3 main categories:

  • The mass transit system is a collection of public transportation that are put in place from the outset to facilitate urban commuters with basic mobility over municipal distances in strategic areas. With urbanisation gaining momentum, it now serves the purpose of reducing traffic congestion and optimizing urban transportation as well. The system is usually administered by either the government, a private organization or a combined enterprise. Service is available for a relatively small fee where efficiency hinges on an economy of scale, i.e., the more straphangers the more solvent the balance sheet. Examples of mass transit include public diesel-electric locomotive, routine bus, boat and ferry systems. Both sedans and motorcycle taxis are regarded as somewhat part of the mass transit system in Thailand. A modern transit system, however, typically adds networks of advance subways, skytrains and terminal parking-connection hubs to the mix, as well.
  • Private transportation is the travelling through privately owned vehicles. The most popular form, by far, being automobiles, followed closely by motorcycles. Also popular but currently limited to much smaller  demographics is cycling which is typically combined with mode hopping expeditions, including lacing it up for traffic jam. As most people travel by themselves, 88% of the people in Tokyo, Japan, for instance, travel by foot, in contrast to Los Angeles’s 3% in the USA.  The latter, understandably as many large cities stretch over such vast landscape that makes it nearly impossible to not drive without a dependable transit system. Blessed with an spider web-like interconnected backtrails that cover the entire municipality and also links up with regional passages that stretch thousands of miles into bordering states, the Arlington Metro area, on the other hand, ranks as a top US destination for cycling. The average person can bike from home to work and back covering distances in the range of 10 to 50+ miles each way. Of course, when it comes to biking as the mode of transportation, no one outshines China and India as millions take self-propelling two wheelers to the streets, dilly-daily, as the entire operation runs on 100% clean energy. No pollution is caused on behalf of the green champions except for natural gas. In terms of logistics, as big cities transform into trade hubs, uberised cycling services are becoming more popular by the day across the globe for small-medium transports in congested metro areas. Aside from the adverted dabbawalla-listic six-sigma efficiency, it is also favored for its lean nature of operation.
  • Freight transportation: when cities become the center of production and consumption, most activities that take place involves cargo. Transportation thus is usually carried out from-to factories, distribution centers and retail stores as well as ports, train stations and airports. Topped off with e-commerce growth, the volume of goods that require transportation increases in noticeable ways.

To no surprise, technological advancements have always led to next-gen innovations that change the world. As breakthroughs becomes new normals, so does visionary transport modes that come to life in shapes and forms that changes the way we live. Years back, the pioneer and business tycoon Elon Musk, the founder and leader of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, sparked the idea of a high-speed transport system we now know as the Hyperloop and a space rocket that could actually travel to Mars by 2022. (as previous article “Anywhere On Earth Under An Hour”). Today, major automakers including Tesla are all working to perfect an autonomous feature for their fleet to take to the roads, safely, along with other, immature, superintended units. Such automation is setting 4 major trends to shape the way we live:

1. Cars: less but more.

More cars will be on the road, but smaller: Although sales of SUVs and trucks have ballooned worldwide, the trend is due mostly to the initial post Paris 2015 oil price drop. As nearly 200 nations pledged to the climate accord; France, The UK and China are now leading the way on reducing fossil-fuel based vehicles, i.e., a ban altogether by the 2020-2030 time frame. Many nations are expected to follow suit. The US stance on the climate accord, however, depends almost entirely on the 2020 presidential election outcome. Democrats resuming the helm could set the last climate pillar in place and send energy trends on a forceful trajectory, once and for all, marking paybacks for champions and setbacks for defenders of the old order in significant ways. Oil price may remain low for a while until the supply starts to shrink as a direct result of cutback drilling and switch in consumption sentiment to e-powertrains following the same timeframe. Ownership of private vehicles in urban areas today, nonetheless, remains the largest portion of urban transportation, helplessly, as 99% of newly purchased vehicles remain ICEs (internal combustible engines) albeit smaller sizes on the average, already.

Toyota to the rescue, again: In 2015, the auto giant experimented with a 3-wheel electric vehicle named i-Road that combines characteristics of a personal car with a motorcycle perfectly. This project is expanding throughout Japan, where electric car charging stations have become an even more common feature than conventional fuel stations. Japan’s government has thus set the standard for charging international electric cars by aiming to become the first country with an effective intelligent transportation system.

2. More sidewalks and bike lanes

Over the next 10 years, popularity will return to man’s greatest invention to-date since the stone age – bicycles. And, as new mechanisms transpire to shorten travelling in big cities, scooters and segway vehicles, a two-wheeled self-balancing electric vehicle, ridden while standing up, will be used for more personalised comfort. It does not require parking space and steering wheels. For example, pedestrians can use Honda’s Uni-Cub in lieu of a ho-hum noisy walk. It is a compact mobile device developed by Honda’s unique technology, Balance Control and Honda Omni Traction Drive System. The omni-directional driving wheel system is the world’s first 2-wheel drive system to rotate freely forward, reverse, and diagonal, which makes the ride more enjoyable for the passenger. The Uni-Cub has been tested in airports, department stores, museums and other indoor facilities in Japan. Honda’s intelligent mobile device is designed to allow users to interact with each other at approximate eye level while the hands are left free to engage in other activities as there is no steering handle to control like scooters or motorbikes. Uni-Cub thus may be the device that has all the answers to humanistic movement requirements in an unlimiting way, which makes it another eye-catching tool to be looked for in the future. The jury is still out though weather the e-little guys will ever surpass the good old self-paddling bicycles in popularity.

3. Transport is not just about moving people but about moving things, also.

Today, we use personal cars because we want to be able to carry stuff around with us, it be work-private gadgets or groceries. But in the future, we will use automatic wheel robots to carry our loads for us, everywhere. Gita, for example, is a robot in the test phase developed by Piaggio, an automotive manufacturer from Italy. Gita act as a transit service provider where users can program it to send / receive items or follow users wherever they go. Gita is built with the hope of using public roads and areas more efficiently.

4. Self-driving technology to jumpstart a data economy.

The biggest obstacle to groundbreaking advancement is often the legacy system itself. Thus, for the dream public transport, legacy infrastructure and discombobulated municipal-level data management appears to be an insurmountable roadblock, unless something changes.

Today, over a thousand automated cars and drones have been used. In the future, the number will easily surpass a million across the globe. As technology advances, they will be able to communicate with each other through mobile or home devices empowered by 5G Super WiFi networks, massive antennas and millimeter-wave technology that are sturdy and reliable enough to handle speed of extremely high frequency and conceivably even bigger data, in today’s most optimistic terms. No country in the world today does such an infrastructure exist. Advanced networks are being developed, such as Qualcomm Nokia and Samsung, which are expected to be available by 2030, where the feasibility in the way things are ran, particularly logistics and urban mobility, will be raised to levels most could never imagine possible.

As urban economy, and therefore urbanization, is expected to develop rapidly, urban mobility remains a major challenge for big cities as space becomes limited and congested. Production, distribution and consumption of goods will be abundant in limited areas while small towns around the city see scarce are resources, insufficient transport routes and parking areas. City logistics thus will become an urban strategic planning development requirement to ensure effective movement of items small and large. It must be an innovation that satisfies congested urban population and expands with business as the economy continues to grow and as sales and inventory levels vary seasonally throughout the year. Logistics will have to be able to adjust to express transports in real time. Moreover,  the concentration of urban distribution that depends on economic characteristics and local culture in each region will lead to differentiation of urban distribution. Let’s take a look at what some great cities around the world are doing.

Paris:  According to a historic summon, every generation has its own “rendezvous with destiny” as each era comes unique changing conditions that affects the lives and defines the purpose of that generation. For this generation, now, the rendezvous took place in Paris 2015. When nearly 200 nations voted for the climate accord, earth came together. Destiny couldn’t have picked a better place. The capital city of France, with a population of around 2.17 million, is widely respected for a long steadfast commitment to the climate accord and thus a municipality focus on a better quality of life for citizens and tourists alike, mainly, through environmental preservation and limited carbon footprint. Conservative and monastic, yet, following a progressive middle path between advancement and sustainability; or, a community’s present time prosperity that doesn’t undermine the same capacity in posterity. In other words, they have found the ability to progress in an ecological-economical co-evolutionary way. There with comes the reputation as a world class center for civilisation and a temperance of living. They are now leading the world with an optimized strategy that hinges on reliable Green Logistics; a transport system that caters a world class image.

Chicago: Also known as Windy City, located in Illinois, USA, is a major city third in population after New York and Los Angeles. As Chicago aims to maintain its role as a rail and distribution hub in North America, large amounts of trade and production activities have been channeled through. Although ​​Chicago sees a convergence of the railroad and Class I transport, the terminus however is separated and disconnected. Congestion of cargo trucks and containers has to be distributed to other locations as a result thereof. While the second largest US city, Los Angeles, is experiencing environmental problems, through both air and noise pollution, there are conflicting issues as a trade gateway for East Asia and other functions related to tourism and culture. Issues remain to be considered for transporting trucks to the main port and the city’s distribution-importation center.

Shanghai: Shanghai is the largest and the most densely populated city in China. In the past, however, it was only a fishing village. Today it is also the world’s largest shipping hub that handles China’s exports thus most shipping is linked to the global distribution process through this big city. It is the busiest port in the world.

Istanbul:The most populous city in Turkey located in Bosphorus Strait, Istanbul is the only city in the world that sits on two different continents: Europe, Thrace side of Bosphorus, and Asia on the Anatoly a side. Istanbul is experiencing rapid economic growth and urbanization. Unique geographic restrictions,  however,  have resulted in scared plains and land divisions by the Bosporus Strait itself. Istanbul plays an important role in commerce as it connects trade from the East, Europe and the Black Sea. Restrictions on distribution in the area remains. The solution, Istanbul is now developing a large infrastructure, a new airport and relocating production facilities to offshore areas.

The​ four trends are expected to take place over the next 20 years. All will affect urban living and mobility in life changing ways. With such change on the way, businesses must not forget to follow the situation, SWOT analyze and look for favorable developments to get involved. With every conundrum comes a hidden opportunity. Think objectively, positively and grab the one you see.

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