Your friendly neighbourhood freight forum

Blog - April 20, 2017 - By Dianne Zimmerman

Electric cargo vans. Photo: FREVUE

It’s getting easier and easier to have goods delivered quickly and conveniently: anything from late-night food deliveries to diapers can come to our doors with a click of a button. But this increased movement of goods is driving up greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Online shopping, along with other factors like growing urban populations - and in turn, more businesses - are driving up freight sector emissions. The transportation sector is the second largest source of emissions in Canada, and is the highest Ontario. Freight (which includes trucks and vans moving goods) alone is 10 per cent of the province’s emissions.

At the same time, freight-intensive industries make up 40 per cent of Ontario’s economy. Considering this, it is in everyone’s best interest, economically and environmentally, that decision-makers and industry work to make the freight sector more efficient.

Freight faces a number of challenges — traffic congestion, lack of legal loading/unloading areas and limited parking options. These challenges can result in parking tickets and decreased fuel efficiency, as drivers are stuck in traffic, or circle the block looking for parking spaces. These factors drive up costs for businesses and consumers. The good news is that there are proven, on-the-ground solutions to these issues.

Global best practices

We’ve started studying these solutions, and have highlighted best practices in our recent report, Improving Urban Freight Efficiency. While there has been relatively little public attention paid to the impacts from freight, we found that cities and regions have been testing solutions for improving freight management for years, especially in European cities that often have dense populations and narrow streets.

Solutions and initiatives include convening stakeholder forums with governments and industry, improving safety around construction sites, implementing lower carbon technologies or testing solutions to reduce traffic congestion like off-hour deliveries — which was tested here in Toronto during the 2015 Pan Am & Parapan Am Games and has been done with great success in New York City. At the Pembina Institute, we’re excited to learn more about these solutions, and how they can be implemented.

Toronto's first neighbourhood-driven Freight Forum

To kick off this kind of thinking, we’re piloting a Neighbourhood Freight Forum (NFF), in the DUKE Heights Business Improvement Area (BIA) in northwest Toronto. This area has a high number of industrial, retail and manufacturing businesses and a large fuel terminal. With the large amount of freight (in this case, meaning trucks and vans moving goods) in the neighbourhood, it’s a perfect area to start identifying and testing solutions to make freight more efficient and reduce its impact on the community, resulting in costs savings for businesses and consumers. Improved freight efficiency also reduces congestion, resulting in cleaner air and less carbon pollution.

The Pembina Institute and the DUKE Heights BIA are bringing local businesses, government representatives and industry together to discuss their concerns with goods movement, identify possible solutions and start to test them out in pilot projects. Ultimately, we will bring the learnings from the forum to the rest of Toronto, and other urban centres across the country.

Our first meeting is next week, and we’re looking forward to sharing our findings with you — follow us on social media and sign up for our newsletter to receive updates. 


Dianne Zimmerman

Dianne is director of the Pembina Institute’s transportation and urban solutions program. She is based in Toronto.


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