Shopping vs. Shipping

Eric Roper in the Star Tribune writes “Consumers wrestle with deluge of cardboard boxes from delivery services, online shopping“.

And what about traffic from all the deliveries?

The Minnesota Department of Transportation estimates that e-commerce will be responsible for about 5 to 10 percent more freight traffic between now and 2030, said spokesman Kevin Gutknecht.

But Twin Cities residents are also making fewer trips to the store than they did in 2001, based on travel behavior data. University of Minnesota professor David Levinson said that, coupled with the logistics efficiency of professional delivery services, likely means there are fewer trips overall.

“There will be different patterns as a result,” he said. “So there might be more traffic on some streets and less traffic on other streets.”

He said further changes will accompany new delivery technologies, such as drones or robots.

“Every science fiction movie you’ve ever seen has robots doing delivery,” Levinson said.


We have seen a drop in shopping trips from 2001 to 2011 in the Twin Cities based on data from the Travel Behavior Inventory.

Time at shopping (doing the activity out-of-home, not travel) for male workers dropped from 7 min/day in 1990 to 5 min/day in 2010, and from 15 min/day for female workers to 9 min/day.
For female non-wokers it held steady at 41 min/day from 1990 – 2010. (the sample size for male non-workers in the right age category is too small to draw conclusions). These are of course daily averages, with very wide variation. The time spent per trip is of course much higher since some days there is no shopping.
Shopping trips now (2011) comprise fewer than 9% of all trips, down from 12.5% in 2000

Unfortunately, the travel behavior inventory is not (yet?) an annual survey, though the Met Council is talking about it.

It is unlikely that the number of additional delivery vehicles can be measured in traffic in the Twin Cities (yet), they are just too few. Maybe a residential street goes from 4 to 6 delivery trucks per day, but still has hundreds of car trips. So think about UPS. If UPS is smart, it still only sends one truck down a street per day, it just has more deliveries on that street. So there are more trucks dispatched, and more total deliveries, but the number of trucks on most streets is unchanged. Of course Amazon might now have its own truck, but that is still only 1 truck per street per day, maybe 2 (I don’t think Amazon Now is a big deal yet).
So there are fewer personal shopping trips, more truck trips, but this should net out as fewer total trips, since each personal trips is less efficient than a logistics supply chain.