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Peer-to-Peer Exchange Program: Logistics Sprawl: Spatial Patterns of Logistics Facilities

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Peer-to-Peer Exchange Program is designed to share global best practice cases and real world examples of sustainable urban freight systems. This program is open to anyone with a professional or a personal interest in freight transportation issues.

This presentation looks at spatial patterns of freight and logistics activities and the impacts associated with them. It focuses on a phenomenon known as logistics sprawl, which is the tendency of warehouses to move away from urban regions towards more suburban and exurban areas. The warehousing industry has experienced a period of rapid growth since the end of the 1990s, in the US as well as in other world regions. This is a response to an economy largely dependent upon efficient and increasingly globalized networks of goods distribution and just-in-time operations. It has led to a reduction in large inventories of intermediate and final products, but also to a concomitant rise in hub distribution centers: global supply chains require more logistics facilities, and the way these facilities are spatially organized has become a key feature of an efficient goods distribution network. The rise and characteristics of today’s freight facilities are directly responsible for logistics sprawl and the polarization of freight facilities in large conurbations. Logistics sprawl generates economies of scale for the logistics industry but has massive impact on urban landscapes and has an environmental cost. The first consequence of terminals’ deconcentration is the increase in distances traveled by trucks and vans to deliver commodities to urban areas where jobs and businesses remain relatively more concentrated. It contributes to the unsustainable character of large metropolitan areas by generating vehicle-miles, congestion, CO2 emissions and local atmospheric pollution.

After presenting the global issues and main data, the presentation compares how the geographic distribution of warehouses changed in several specific cities that are among the country’s fastest growing locations for logistics hubs and that we could document: Los Angeles, Atlanta and Seattle in the US, Paris in France.

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