Lessons and Resources for planning Urban Logistics Hubs from the Eurocities Mobility Forum

On-demand services are transforming the way we receive goods and services in our cities. How can public authorities manage the logistics of these increasing volumes of goods to reduce the negative impacts on our cities?

Together with other researchers, practitioners and city representatives, Bax & Company consultant, Lorena Axinte, attended the Eurocities Mobility Forum in Antwerp to exchange lessons and resources on tools and solutions for sustainable logistics.

Sights like these are becoming more common in areas where urban logistics have not been planned to cope with additional demand from on-demand deliveries

The dramatic rise in on-demand services, intensified following the pandemic, has led urban planners and policymakers to rethink the way we organise logistics in our cities. The expansion of on-demand services and home deliveries has made life more convenient for many of us. But the growing number of vehicles serving this demand is having a severe impact on cities’ quality of life.

Although freight vehicles are only responsible for 15%-25% of all vehicle kilometres travelled, they produce a significant amount of air pollution: 30% of all transport-related CO2 emissions from fuel combustion (International Transport Forum), and 30%-50% of the main air pollutants – PM and NOx (Smart Freight Centre).

And though these problems have long since been recognised, local authorities often lack the resources, time or guidance to understand the impact of urban logistics and act to reduce their negative impacts. So how can cities benefit from novel, shared and zero-emission solutions for the on-demand economy?

The Eurocities Mobility Forum – Eurocities’ annual event on mobility assembling political representatives, the European Commission, local policy makers, mobility experts and practitioners – took place in Antwerp earlier this November addressed this question.

The agenda included workshops, interactive sessions, high-level panels, site visits showcasing some of the city’s most innovative initiatives (e.g., Blue Gate Antwerp), workshops and interactive sessions.

Supporting Public Authorities in understanding Urban Logistics Hubs

As partners in the Urban Logistics as an On-Demand Service (ULaaDS), Eurocities and Bax & Company co-organised a training session to help urban planners and practitioners understand the potential for urban logistics hubs.

The organisers chose this topic following a scan of the learning needs of the ULaaDS lighthouse and satellite cities. Among other topics, such as SULP development and sustainable business models for logistics solutions, public authorities expressed the need to better understand the role of logistics hubs and the best practices for planning them.

To support city authorities, the workshop:

  • Discussed the various steps of an integrated planning process for urban logistics hubs
  • Illustrated how to define appropriate targets and objectives for hubs
  • Provided a summary of the diversity of urban logistics hubs and their characteristics
  • Discussed location requirements and tools to find appropriate spaces for logistic hubs
  • Offered an overview of the evaluation methods of urban logistics hubs

The training session brought together practitioners from across Europe to better understand Urban Logistics Hubs

The spectrum of urban logistics hubs, based on ULaaDS D3.1 Benchmarking and state of the art

The training materials for planning logistics hubs are available below. The slides include a presentation of the planning process for urban logistics hubs, as well as a typology of different hubs with various examples. 

Training for Urban Logistics Hub

Produced by Dr Tom Assmann from Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg

Planning Chart for Hubs

Produced by Dr Tom Assmann from Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg

Understanding Logistics Hubs

Produced by Dr Lorena Axinte from Bax & Company and Dr. ir. Paul Buijs from University of Groningen

5 lessons for public authorities when planning urban logistics Hubs

Session participants shared five important lessons for planning effective logistics hubs:


  1. Logistics Hubs are no longer exclusive to out of town areas

Logistics have previously been relegated to outer or industrial area. But the development of a wide variety of typologies means hubs are now visible in both city centres and beyond.

The scale of a hub is often linked to its location, resulting in distinct requirements needed for its functioning. For example, large hubs in outer areas require good connections to highways, railways infrastructures and waterways, while microhubs in city centres need to be connected to safe cycling infrastructure to enable deliveries with cargo bikes.

In fact, several potential locations for logistics hubs exist, among which parking lots and garages, empty retail stores, brownfield areas, and public transport depots. Besides, existing buildings can be expanded vertically, helping to increase density and reduce soil sealing.


  1. B2B and B2C logistics flows have distinct needs that hubs must integrate

As well as the diversity in hub typologies, the variety in B2B and B2C logistics flows also determines the requirements for effective planning of hubs. Urban logistics flows include besides parcel and HoReCa (hotel, restaurant and catering) deliveries, also construction logistics, waste management, and service logistics (e.g., cleaning).


  1. The size and number of logistics hubs depends on the urban area and context

The most robust business case for exists for low-density carriers, who traditionally have only one or two stops in a city (e.g., HoReCa or medium-sized retailers). These carriers lack the necessary volumes for efficient deliveries, but make up the largest share of the total driven kilometres. Concerning the number of hubs, a one-tier consolidation system suffices in most municipalities. Only in larger cities, a two-tier system that combines an urban consolidation centre with microhubs at the neighbourhood level makes sense from an economic point of view.


  1. Cities have multiple methods to support the development of logistics hub…

Cities can introduce both supportive (e.g., financial incentives) and restrictive (e.g., low-emission zones) policies to guide the development of urban logistics hubs, influencing their location and other characteristics.

In terms of project evaluation, cities can support urban logistics hubs by evaluating them based on potential for improvement and/or scaling up. Some of the methods include traffic flow simulation, air pollution simulation, air pollution measurements, vehicle counting, noise measurement or public surveys. The method chosen depends on the situation and the focus of the evaluation.


  1. … if they fully understand the nature of their urban logistics flows

The workshop highlighted the increasing need for cities to understand the different types of urban logistics activities and flows before launching an urban logistics strategy. Only with this knowledge can authorities design suitable interventions towards sustainable urban logistics, including supportive and restrictive policies.

Learn more about the potential for Urban Logistics Hubs in your city

Our consultants Lorena, Nacho, Ignacio, and Rosa are available to share further lessons with public authorities who want to get a better understanding of urban logistics.

The ULaaDS workshop took place on the 17th November 2022 and was facilitated by Arianna Americo (Eurocities), led by Dr. Tom Assmann (Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg), and had contributions from Dr. Lorena Axinte (Bax & Company) and Prof. Joris Beckers (University of Antwerp).

The content was based on findings from:

The next training will take place during the Eurocities Mobility Forum 2023, in Porto. Follow the ULaaDS website and social media to stay updated.

Bax & Company attended the Eurocities Mobility Forum as part of the ULaaDS project, which focuses on urban logistics, aiming to accelerate the integration of novel, shared and zero-emission solutions to deal with the impact of the on-demand economy. Knowledge sharing has been embedded in the project via replication activities, study visits and trainings.

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