RIPPL #23: Consolidation Down Under: Sydney’s CBD cycle logistics hub

Major infrastructure upgrades in Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD) have prompted State and Municipal authorities there to begin experimenting with promoting cycle logistics. Construction of a light rail line, upgrades and work on Central Station and the main ferry hub, and several large construction projects in central areas are causing disruption and changes to normal traffic flows. Perhaps traffic ‘flow’ isn’t the best term to describe traffic conditions which are, even at the best of times in this car-addicted city, congested to say the least. The average speed of vehicles in Sydney is said to be the worst in Australasia, and that was before the current disruption in the CBD.

In response, authorities have set up a cycle-logistics consolidation hub in a car park on the southern edge of the CBD. The project is a collaboration between Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW)(the State Government transport authority) and the City of Sydney (CoS)(the municipal authority covering the centre of Sydney). CoS owns the car park and TfNSW provided the cages and infrastructure. Several logistics companies are participating in the scheme, which began in early 2016.

The consolidation hub is located on the southern edge of the CBD.
Map: OpenStreetMap

The rationale behind the hub’s location is that it will allow last-mile deliveries to be made by bike, eliminating at least a portion of the CBD vehicle movements which would otherwise occur. Goods destined for the CBD are delivered by van to the hub and then loaded from off-street parking bays into secure cages. Bike couriers are then able to access these cages to collect and then deliver the goods to their final destinations. TfNSW estimates that at full capacity, the hub could reduce pressure on central loading bays by 4,600 hours (dwell time) per year and that 26,000 fewer kms would need to be driven in the CBD as a result.

Delivery vans unload goods into the cages from off street parking bays.
Photo credit: TfNSW

It’s worth noting that this consolidation hub is different from those we’ve covered before in RIPPL; although it is on the edge of the CBD, it is still well within the city and in fact occupies a very central location. Outspoken in Cambridge or Foodlogica in Amsterdam, for example, are on the fringes of their respective cities and prevent vehicles from needing to enter urban centres altogether. In a sprawl city such as Sydney it could be argued that this is less practical, and in any case this project aims to have an impact on the CBD alone.

In order to test out the efficacy of the system, TfNSW ran side-by-side tests of delivery vans and bikes as they carried out 10 deliveries. The results were clear. Because bikes could travel via more direct routes, they travelled a third fewer kilometres than the vans. Bikes also took less than half the time to complete their rounds. Meanwhile, vans spent three times as long parked up compared to bikes. What’s more, whilst bike couriers hardly needed to walk at all, van drivers found themselves walking approximately a third of their total distance, all whilst their vehicle was parked up – it’s easier than driving around looking for a space.
Several logistics companies are using the facility. Photo credit: TfNSW
The scheme is an example of public-sector involvement in encouraging cycle-logistics, a trend we’ve covered before in RIPPL articles. It’s a rare and welcome positive development for a NSW State Government which is not exactly renowned for cooperation with the progressive cycling policies of it’s municipal City of Sydney counterparts. The Goulburn Street hub is not alone in Australia; a recent redevelopment of the Queen Victoria marketplaces in Melbourne set aside space for consolidation of last kilometre freight.

Innovations: Consolidation, Public Sector Involvement

Organisation: Transport for New South Wales / City of Sydney
Sector: State and Municipal Government
City: Sydney
Country: Australia
Basis: Permanent