Sustainable urban mobility

Car parks as urban logistics hubs


According to the most recent studies, the average inhabitant of Barcelona and Madrid receives some 13 packages a year as a result of e-commerce purchases. In absolute numbers, this means 22.6 million packages a year in Barcelona and almost 40 million in the capital of Spain. Most of these packages are delivered using polluting vans or trucks. In fact, only 1% of these packages are distributed by non-polluting vehicles and only 10% are collected by the customer in networks of delivery points or from the so-called lockers.

And the problem is clearer still if we consider failed deliveries, which generate so-called “absurd logistics” (a vehicle travelling to a delivery point without being able to complete it or a movement resulting from the return of an item delivered previously). In Barcelona and Madrid, these trips accounted for approximately 15% of total deliveries, or more than 9 million additional unsuccessful runs.

This absolutely unsustainable dynamic generates between 20 and 30% of the city’s carbon dioxide emissions and 40% of congestion. And there are no signs of this trend changing, rather the reverse, as on-line shopping has recorded sustained growth of 25% per year.

Saba is convinced it will be able to assist in management of more sustainable Last Mile Distribution (LMD). It proposes two lines of action to achieve this: the creation of micro-hubs for distribution of local goods and the mass deployment of lockers for collection and delivery of e-commerce products. How? Taking advantage of the unbeatable locations of Saba’s car parks in the city centre. This solution need not be considered a pilot test as the company has been collaborating with partners on both lines of action for years. It is a firm proposal that requires the commitment of municipal and supramunicipal institutions so that, together with private operators like Saba, but also many others, what has become the leading mobility problem in modern cities can be reversed.

The “absurd logistics” account for 15% of total deliveries in Barcelona and Madrid, more than 9 million runs

Smart last mile distribution

  • Micro-warehouses where packages are unloaded at off-peak times
  • Electric vans transporting the packages to the car park
  • Home delivery using sustainable means in neighbouring areas and in time slots to suit the customer
  • Integrated lockers for package collection and delivery

Saba is in this venture because its car parks serve as micro-hubs from which distribution of e-commerce packages is carried out on foot or with electric vehicles adapted for personal mobility. The packages preferably arrive at the micro-hubs at night time to reduce road congestion. The company takes its variety of experiences in this line in Spain (Barcelona) and Italy (Rome) into account, which have demonstrated high efficiency. It needs to be borne in mind that a city like Barcelona receives over 135,000 vehicles every day (from its metropolitan region) to transport goods at peak times, with these being responsible not only for numerous traffic jams, but also for a significant portion of carbon dioxide emissions.

The authorities need to face up to a situation that is getting worse by the day, with the growth in e-commerce, by taking advantage of existing city infrastructures, such as car parks. Their location in dense areas, along with their 24 hour/365 day opening gives them a relevant role in tackling the pollution and congestion caused.

Micro-distribution in Saba

6 operating locations in Spain and Italy

The Geever experience

In Barcelona, Saba has been hosting Geever, a logistics operator specialising in last mile distribution, in five of its car parks since 2018. With their innovative distribution methods, based on micro-hubs, which have now been expanded with four additional locations, they have reduced failed deliveries by half. Fewer failed deliveries means less pollution, therefore reducing the impact of absurd logistics.

  • Pilot test (starting in 2018)

  • 5 Micro-warehouses in car parks in Barcelona*
    * Expected to be 9 in 2021.

  • Failed deliveries reduced by half (traditional delivery versus Geever)

  • Future expansion taking advantage of Saba’s capillarity

Looking at these figures, the authorities should consider regulation of last mile distribution that is not detrimental to citizens, and even apply a tariff that benefits smart logistics – with sustainable means and at off-peak times – and penalises models that generate congestion and pollution.

An even more ambitious approach could turn the hubs, now for people and goods, into warehouses for small-scale local trade and make this a way for them to enter the e-commerce sector itself.

An even more ambitious approach could turn the hubs, now for people and goods, into warehouses for small-scale local trade