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Moving Cargo in the Car-Free City

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  • Chris Bradshaw
    ... This is often the Achilles Heel of car-free visions, as is simply forgotten in the work. Many cities have great public transit systems, but none
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 2, 2002
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      Louis-Luc wrote:

      > We would still need to find a solution to freight transport: how to get
      > merchandises to the many businesses and shops. There could be a dedicated
      > railed avenue to move freight as close as possible, then it could be
      > transported to destination by carts or cargo bikes.

      This is often the "Achilles Heel" of car-free visions, as is simply
      forgotten in the work. Many cities have great public transit systems,
      but none consider freight, which, of course is more of a challenge,
      since it cannot move itself to transit stops. Federal governments
      provide mail delivery monopolies, but they never were much good for
      other than the smallest of parcels, and now they have lost their
      monopoly on that too.

      The city of 50 years ago had a three-scale freight movement arrangement:
      a) rail into the city to rail-side warehouses, b) transport trucks to
      stores, and c) delivery service provided by the store for larger items
      (with stores much closer to people, customers could carry smaller items
      by hand). No car was needed by consumers.

      The shift has been from a three-scale system to a one-scale one. Rail
      is eliminated at one end, and delivery at the other is assigned to the
      customers. Stores, as a result are far and few between, now that the
      customer has a car, or more likely a van or SUV (our carsharing fleet
      has just added a van, partly in recognition of this reality).

      My Walk'n'roll vision calls for a transit system that accommodates
      freight. The gravitram runs underground, but surfaces at stations. It
      accepts freight "skids" of 4x4x8. At the destination station, these
      would be opened and the items assigned to either the nearby stores (who
      would "pick up) or to delivery people, who would move very large items
      to the indivdiual residences with electric "sleds," what I call
      "brighies," (on rails imbedded in all roads, but flush to the surface,
      in ped-friendly way). Where the skid is composed of the contents of a
      household (when a family moves), it would not be opened, but moved on
      these sleds to the front yard area for carrying inside. Middle-sized to
      smaller items would be delivered to corners stores, DePoTs ("Delivery
      and Points of Transfer") where the recipient would pick it up (or, at
      their own expense, have a neighbourhood "gopher" bring it to their
      place. Each DePoT would have carts available for loan (the cart, on its
      return trip, would probably carry garbage and recyclables, which would
      be sorted and readied for pick up or be refurbished for local resale).

      DePoTs would also be part of what I call ASIA ("as seen in
      advertising"), a system by which items could be ordered on-line, but
      picked up a block or two away. The DePoT would have an area to try out
      items received in that way, so that it would not be accepted -- or paid
      for -- unless it passed must. It is is to be returned, the DePoT staff
      would ensure it is repacked properly (or would have the option of trying
      to sell it to another party nearby).

      In this way, the three-scale transportation system -- not just for
      frieght, but for people -- is restored (the people system: a) inter-city
      common carriers, b) local transit, made up of trolleys and gravitrams,
      and c) walking at the neighbourhood scale). But to get this to work --
      and to overcome the greater amount of effort involved in moving items
      between the three scales -- the various governments would need to get
      into the transfer business, and to support the invention of various
      automated handling/moving devices (technology has caught up nicely in
      this regard).

      Chris Bradshaw
      Ottawa
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