Colibri: Mini-hubs to decarbonize parcel delivery

Last updated November 7, 2022
Reading time: 2 min

Montréal wants to make its urban logistics greener. This objective is at the heart of the Colibri mini-hub project, which has shown that decarbonized delivery improves the quality of our living environments and is more effective in densely populated areas.

Rethinking deliveries

What is urban logistics? The concept denotes all activities related to the transportation of goods in the city (raw materials, goods in process, finished products, waste). Due to the growth of E-commerce, parcel deliveries account for an increasingly large proportion of these activities. 

What is decarbonized delivery? It is the delivery of parcels by vehicles that do not emit greenhouse gases (GHG), such as cargo bikes and small electric vehicles.

Last kilometre

How does it work? Instead of using a fleet of trucks to deliver each parcel directly to the recipient’s door, only one truck carries a large number of parcels to a local mini distribution centre (mini-hub). 

The final leg of the delivery route is then done by cargo bikes or small electric vehicles that are better adapted to the urban environment: That is what is referred to as the “last kilometre.”

A cost-effective, efficient and beneficial system

This delivery mode offers numerous benefits, both for companies and the public, and for the city itself.  

The fewer trucks and heavy vehicles there are driving through our neighbourhoods:

  • The less traffic, congestion and noise there is
  • The cleaner the air we breathe will be
  • The lower the risk of accidents will be
  • The longer our streets will remain in good condition

And, against all expectations, cargo bike delivery is more effective, even in winter!

This is what was revealed by the mini-hub pilot project deployed downtown by Coop Carbone in 2019, in collaboration with local delivery businesses, Purolator and Ville-Marie.

The project, which is called Colibri Maisonneuve, confirms that this system is a clear-cut winner, both for the environment and for the economy: 

  • Only 1 truck is required, rather than the 5 that were required previously
  • Cargo bikes help reduce operating costs by 30 to 40 per cent
  • Point-to-point delivery promotes the practice of buying local, thereby stimulating the local economy

Mini-hubs added throughout the city

After the success of Colibri Maisonneuve, a second local mini-hub, Colibri Iberville, was recently established in the eastern part of the Plateau Mont-Royal. Also deployed by Coop Carbone, it involves several delivery partners, including FedEx, Courant Plus and Machool, which share a 10,000-square-foot space.  

And the project is still in its infancy. The city intends to support industry so that other mini-hubs can be implemented where population density justifies it. This is one of the concrete means identified to meet our sustainable mobility objectives, notably in: 

  • The Climate Plan, which sets out a target of 25 per cent of deliveries made with no GHG emissions by 2030.
  • The Transportation Electrification Strategy 2021-2023, which calls for 500,000 parcels to be delivered annually by mini-hubs starting in 2023.
  • The 2021 Economic Recovery Plan, which calls for the permanent establishment of urban delivery activities. 
  • The City Vision and the Land Use and Mobility Plan, which calls for the establishment of a network of urban logistics infrastructures throughout the city.