Miles and Miles and Miles

By Casey Jones, CAPP

I’m sorry, but I just don’t love holiday shopping. Don’t get me wrong–I love nearly everything else about the season from finding and decorating a tree to celebrating with family and friends. It’s just that the shopping thing seems to get crazier each year and I dread fighting through mobs of fellow shoppers who are just as possessed as I am in their search for the perfect gift. Thankfully I am able to do much of my shopping online and I set out each year to complete all of my purchases that way.

E-commerce offers many benefits and retailers and their shippers are responding to our collective demand for immediate and ultra-convenient customer service. The cost of this convenience is additional congestion and miles traveled by shippers. Indeed, a recent study by KPMG projects e-commerce to displace between 30 and 50 percent of total shopping trips by 2040. This shift will result in between 23 and 78 billion more delivery vehicle miles traveled (VMT), representing between .7 and 2.4 percent of total current VMT. The increase in shipper VMT might be okay if shoppers forgo any travel and take advantage of home delivery. But the recent decade-long trend in VMT suggests that while we might be driving less to shop, we are driving more for other reasons. U.S. VMT in 2017 stood at 3.2 trillion miles–up 200 billion from 2007.

As with any innovation, there are bound to be unintended consequences, and additional miles traveled and associated traffic congestion that appear to be byproducts of an e-commerce era are worth addressing.

Casey Jones, CAPP, is senior parking & mobility planner with DESMAN.