Montréal is working to make urban delivery greener as part of its ecological transition. This mission is at the core of the Colibri project, which has shown that decarbonized delivery improves the quality of living environments and is more effective in densely populated areas.
What are urban logistics? This concept refers to all merchandise transportation activity in the city, which includes sending and delivering packages and merchandise as well as garbage pickup. As online shopping becomes more and more common and the number of delivery trucks on Montréal streets increases, a solution is needed to reduce traffic and promote green mobility.
“Each year, online shopping in the area increases by 15 per cent, and the city has said that things just couldn’t go on the way they were,” said Mickael Brard, who was until recently the head of sustainable mobility practice at Jalon, an organization that aims to promote sustainable mobility in Montréal.
In 2018, the city tasked Jalon with consulting Montréal businesses to learn more about their needs with respect to sustainable logistics. In collaboration with several delivery companies, particularly Purolator, and together with the Ville-Marie borough, Jalon launched the Colibri project. With this new, experimental system, data could be collected and the use of cargo bikes for delivery could be documented down to the last kilometre.
Instead of using a fleet of trucks to deliver packages directly to residents’ doorsteps, companies like Purolator use one big truck to deliver a larger number of packages to a neighbourhood distribution mini-centre. Cargo-bikes deliver packages to their final destination.
An effective and economical system
After several months, the project has been able to confirm that this system is better for the environment. In numbers, that means that one truck is sufficient, where before five trucks were needed. What’s more, cargo bikes can deliver “while reducing operating costs by 30 to 40 per cent,” said Khelil Khelil, business development and research chief at Purolator. By collaborating with the Colibri project, Purolator was able to rent a distribution space at a more affordable price than what is available on the private market.
“We showed that it makes sense to change the delivery system by replacing a motor vehicle with a sustainable method of transportation,” said Patrick Kilfoil, an economic development commissioner for the city. “It’s not even a question of ecological transition or sustainable development. It’s purely economical. We have figures to show that the model can easily be adapted to all areas.”
Benefits for everyone, even in the wintertime
There are many benefits to this delivery method on a small scale for residents, companies and the city itself. The fewer trucks using the road network, the less traffic, pollution (sound, visual and atmospheric) and risks of accidents there are. It also helps keep roads in better condition for longer.
For Purolator, the pilot project has brought a number of advantages to light. “Cargo bikes and reduced-speed vehicles were used for deliveries,” explained Khelil Khelil. “Partners helping each other, learning and information exchange were also interesting facets of the project’s success.” This collaboration helped the project gain notoriety beyond the networks of the organizations that were involved.
Despite expectations to the contrary, the Colibri project also showed that cargo bikes are more efficient than trucks for delivery in the wintertime. “It’s fantastic!” said Khelil Khelil.
A larger-scale decarbonized delivery service
Following the success of the experimental project, Jalon and partner delivery services, including Purolator, are working to find two warehouses in order to offer the service in other boroughs. Other Canadian cities would also like to take the plunge. For the past two years, Jalon has been sharing the results of Colibri with the city of Vancouver.