Traffic: we all hate it. But we’re stuck with – and in – it. Or are we?

A new initiative from Dublin City Council (DCC) and delivery firm UPS is aiming to reduce the number of vehicles on the city’s roads. It uses what UPS call an “Eco Hub” container on Wolfe Tone Street. The Eco Hub acts as a small distribution hub from which deliveries can be made by bike or on foot.

“It came about when we were approached by UPS, who had piloted the same project in London, Paris and Hamburg,” explains Colm Ennis, Senior Executive Engineer with DCC. “We are developing a strategy for city centre goods deliveries and are trying to reduce congestion in Dublin, so we saw the benefits immediately.”

So far, four UPS vehicles have been taken off the streets every day. But this figure is set to rise. “There are environmental benefits in reducing noise and air pollution, but reducing traffic from delivery trucks also make the streets safer and easier and more pleasant to walk in. There’s also an economic benefit of making deliveries easier and more efficient.”

Our overall strategy for transport in the city is to prioritise pedestrians, followed by cycling and public transport

Nearly half a million commuters, visitors and residents travel within the city centre every day, and this is forecast to grow by 2023, so it’s vital that congestion is tackled. While larger items will still have to rely on vans and trucks, much of the commercial traffic in the city is from small vans and light goods vehicles, so this model could potentially be scaled out to more delivery firms in a carefully managed way.

“Our overall strategy for transport in the city is to prioritise pedestrians, followed by cycling and public transport,” says Ennis. “But we are very mindful of listening to businesses, who are telling us that they don’t want anything that will increase their delivery costs. At the moment, our engineering division is starting public grounds projects to make areas like College Green and Temple Bar a more pleasant streetscape for everyone.”

UPS Eco Hub, Artwork by Dearbhla Ní Fhaoilleacháin Ryan.

UPS Eco Hub container on Dublin’s Wolfe Tone Street.  Artwork by Dearbhla Ní Fhaoilleacháin Ryan.

The artwork for the project was designed by Dearbhla Ní Fhaoilleacháin Ryan, a recent graduate of the National College of Art and Design on Thomas Street in Dublin. Her graphic represents the heart of the city, and the beauty of Ireland’s countryside brought together.

Andy Smith, country manager for UPS in Ireland, says that the Eco Hub acts as the central meeting point for alternative delivery by walkers, bicycles, assisted cargo cruisers and tricycles. “The system allows us to deliver approximately 500 packages a day, all of which have had their carbon footprint significantly reduced. The method also allows us to reduce stop-start vehicle movements by over 200 per day and avoids the use of additional loading bays and parking areas. We believe that the Eco Hub model is a significant contributing factor to UPS having one of the most sustainable delivery fleets in the world.”

This system makes it much more certain for delivery firms and businesses alike

Improving the efficiency of “last mile deliveries” is a very live issue in Dublin at the moment – the city council is currently involved in another initiative which seeks to reduce the number of goods vehicles on the streets and improve air quality and noise pollution. In partnership with Enterprise Ireland‘s small business innovation research fund, it’s asking the business community as a whole to submit other ideas to improve the efficiency of “last mile deliveries”.

The Eco Hub project was first trialled in Hamburg back in 2012, and it saw a reduction of between seven and ten vehicles in the city centre every day, reducing carbon emissions by 70 metric tons. Other projects are being rolled out in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and the UK.

For delivery firms, initiatives such as this can hugely improve efficiencies. “Traffic is unpredictable,” says Ennis. “It can be heavy on a Monday, light on a Wednesday, and chaotic on a Thursday. This system makes it much more certain for delivery firms and businesses alike.”

Peter McGuire is a freelance features and news journalist. He also works a researcher and editor. He is a regular contributor to The Irish Times and the Huffington Post, and has also written for the Irish Examiner, Sunday Business Post and Irish Independent.

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