Julia Komarek (Project Manager Wiener Linien) and Matthias Hayek (Fraunhofer Austria), Source: Robert Peres / Wiener Linien

2024: parcel deliveries by tram in Vienna

2024: parcel deliveries by tram in Vienna

New project developed by the city’s tram operator calls for a mixture of deposit boxes and commuters moving the parcels through the city

This week, Wiener Linen, Vienna’s public tram operator announced that it would start working on a project to decentralise package delivery throughout the city. The project itself envisions citizens taking parcels with them through the extensive tram network.

The project aims to decarbonise a new rising source of carbon emissions, last-leg delivery services. It would also alleviate traffic and help delivery companies do the least cost-effective part of their job – going door to door.

The rise of parcel delivery

Since the start of the pandemic, parcel delivery has been gaining momentum at a breakneck speed, as people around the world found themselves stuck at home and unable to go shopping.

Most shopping moved online and delivery companies started making billions of daily trips to bring packages right to our doorsteps. In Vienna alone, experts estimate that in 2021, there were 113 million ordered parcels.

This, however, creates a logistical issue, as well as an emissions issue for cities, bringing around the question: ‘How to decarbonise last-leg delivery?’ Two of the main solutions that authorities have started implementing revolve around replacing cargo vans with cargo bikes, and setting up parcel boxes in residential areas to minimise travel times from door-to-door trips or some combination of both.

Yet, Vienna is pondering a different approach, that wants to see if delivery within an urban area could be done via public transport and a voluntary citizen solidarity system. This means that regular people will be able to take parcels during their daily commutes and move them across the city.

How far off is the project?

Simply put, the project is ways off at the moment, as Wiener Linen officials say that they can start a test run in 2024 at the least. However, they have already carried out feasibility studies, as well as research on how willing the public is to participate in this initiative. After all, according to an official statement, people would carry strangers’ parcels on public transport, during their commute.

Here is how the system would work: Both final stops of a tram line should have larger deposit boxes that store the bulk of the parcels. People, who want to participate in the delivery system would be able to check out a box, using a QR code.

Then, with the help of an app, they will know where the box is supposed to be dropped off. Ideally, the app would plot a convenient location based on that person’s predetermined route. Then, when they reach the specific stop, people will be able to drop off the parcel at a smaller drop-box, located at the tram stop itself.

Moreover, the parcel boxes themselves will be powered by solar panels, meaning that they will not have to connect to the grid, making them very easy to deploy.

Additionally, transport authorities also specify that this would not necessarily cut into logistics companies’ business, as they put it: “Someone still needs to drop off the parcels at the starting off points.”

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