Research Projects

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Research Projects

STATUS: In Progress YEAR: 2018 TOPIC AREA: Sustainability, energy, and health CENTER: MetroFreight

Delivery Workers? City Life: A Short-Film on Deliveries in New York City

Project Summary

Although cities are the major receptacles of last-mile deliveries, urban logistics are still hardly visible in the city iconic representations. In New York City, deliveries to commercial properties have quadrupled in 30 years and home deliveries are booming. The increase in delivery demand, the rise in passenger transport services like Uber and same-day/instant deliveries of e-commerce, the widespread use of remote communication tools, generate an unprecedented context. This context impacts the professional environment and the working conditions of urban delivery people.
The objective of this project is to consider the concrete terms and conditions of work experienced by delivery persons. At the end of the supply chain, they are the ones who every day, in a highly moving environment, have to cope with the many constraints to finalize the service, the ones who take a series of micro-decisions for the order to be honored.
Yet little is known about the concrete conditions of the execution of the delivery. Existing surveys on the practice of the trade were most often carried out on long-distance truck drivers and studies on urban delivery-persons have primarily been conducted on the basis of interviews. Visual observation, which has developed more recently, is most often carried out at a fixed location. The succession of action sequences that lead from the storage warehouse to the final place of delivery is not observed.
The project aims to explore, by a visual approach, this cog of the urban machine – delivery jobs, by presenting a portrait of today’s delivery messengers. It focuses on the ordinary tasks, practical organization and conditions of this daily performance; the know-how of the delivery person and the characteristics of its professional and urban environment in the dense area of New York. What are the conditions and content of the work? How do the new trends permeate the practice of the trade? How does the figure of the urban deliveryman absorb the economic and social evolutions?
The project proposes to carry out a field study by direct observation on the concrete practice of the daily delivery job. The deliverable will consist of a short or medium-length documentary film.

Project phases and funding

The project unfolds in two stages:
– Field study and filming (2017)
Contact making, field study and shooting in New York City took place between June 12 and August 31, 2017. The investigative work benefited from cooperation with colleagues Laetitia Dablanc (IFSTTAR), José Holguin-Veras (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Jeffrey Wojtowicz (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) and Jean-Paul Rodrigue (Hofstra University). Dr. Wenglenski has surveyed and filmed three deliverymen’s tours and two doormen’s work, interviewing them, observing and filming the different tasks and sequences of their operations.
– Film editing (2018)
Due to Dr. Wenglenski's academic teaching in the Fall and Winter of 2017-2018, the post-production work (editing, mixing, calibration) is scheduled from February 1, 2018 to July 15, 2018 on a part-time basis.
The work in New York City (field study and filming) and future film editing benefited from two sources of funding:
– VREF funded IFSTTAR MetroFreight budget has financed a 6-week training in The Edit Center (Brooklyn).
– UPEM (University of Paris-East at Marne la Vallee), with LVMT’s funding (Laboratory “City Mobility Transport”), have supported travel expenses and, with the Campus Numérique’s future support (audiovisual unit), will also contribute to the post-production of the film.


Sandrine Wenglenski
Assistant Professor
[email protected]


Laetitia Dablanc
Director of Research, IFSTTAR, French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport, Development and Networks - University of Paris-East
14-20 boulevard Newton, Cite Descartes
Marne la Vallee cedex 2, 77447
[email protected]