News | MetroFreight Researchers Join ITDP and VREF in International Discussions via MOBILIZE

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by Jenny Benitez, CSULB

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), a global nonprofit focused on sustainability and improving social inclusion, has a reputation for supporting innovative and creative solutions during challenging times. In collaboration with the Volvo Research and Educational Foundations (VREF), ITDP hosted “MOBILIZE: Building Collective Action for the Next Decade," a virtual transportation summit with an eye toward problem solving and bringing together international guests to visualize solutions and pathways to bring about equitable and low-carbon sustainable transport systems. The summit has previously been hosted in an array of countries such as Brazil, Tanzania, Chile, and China—and went virtual this year, opening the door for even more diversity in speakers and attendees who took part from around the globe. Optimistic leaders from around the world view 2020 as a crucial opportunity to reimagine systems, cities, and policies, and to fix problems that have existed for years. This year has created an urgency that can be harnessed for action in some of the most pressing matters in transportation such as equity, sustainability, and public health. 


MetroFreight, the international urban freight research consortium led by METRANS, was an active participant in MOBILIZE. One element the pandemic has brought to light is the reliance on freight activities and goods movement, putting supply-chain operations in the spotlight like never before. MetroFreight researcher and Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at City College of New York Alison Conway moderated the deep-dive discussion, “Freight Frenzy: Ensuring Access to Goods while Managing Externalities,” and offered her insights on how to improve delivery systems and increase sustainability. Conway’s recent research focuses on the shifts occurring in transport as supply and demand needs fluctuate rapidly, noting the increases in personal, individual, and local deliveries as opposed to large-scale deliveries and its second-order effects. The discussion session included speakers from Namibia, Brazil, and Taiwan. The group discussed the role of freight and goods movement in various types of economies, addressing challenges such as air quality, road safety risks, and inequalities in access to goods. Other MetroFreight team members taking part in the Mobilize Conference as presenters and discussion leaders included Director Genevieve Giuliano and Director of Education and Outreach Tom O’Brien. Giuliano served as host for the associated VREF research meeting and led a round table discussion on the travel implications of working from home. O’Brien hosted a round table on the role of and future of transportation workers.


Different cities across the globe require different solutions, but leaders can undoubtedly inspire each other in discussing how they approach obstacles in their own community. Issues such as sustainability and air quality know no borders, and it is crucial to bring together thought leaders to combine research and resources that can accelerate outcomes.