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Ditch the trucks: Paris seeks to transport retail goods via tram

Ditch the trucks: Paris seeks to transport retail goods via tram

Posting in Cities

Why use trucks when you can use a tram? Paris-based businesses seek a better way to move goods from distribution center to city.

Is there a smarter way to move manufactured goods from massive distribution facilities in the country to the city stores that sell them?

Today, whether New York or London or Shanghai, that job is accomplished by a steady stream of trucks that inadvertently clog the highways and byways that encircle each city. When business is good, traffic gets even worse -- and there's nothing smart about a bunch of emissions-spewing vehicles lined up at the tollbooth.

In Paris, city officials are searching for another answer: a tram. Called the TramFret, the proposal could "transform the way cities think about moving goods from place to place," Yonah Freemark writes on the Transport Politic blog.

Experimentation will begin next month, with full implementation possible by 2014; positive results could show that rail can play an important role in moving freight not just at the intercity scale but also within regions, a market now completely dominated by trucks. But the success of the project will require significant coordination between competing stores and it will need to be carefully planned to as to avoid conflicts with passenger transit routes.

Currently, 90 percent of deliveries in the greater Paris metropolitan area are made by road. (It should be no surprise that this activity is responsible for 25 percent of the region's greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention 20 percent of the congestion.)

Paris is hardly alone in the search for a better way of doing business. Amsterdam, Zurich and Dresden have also looked at such a system but scaled back their ambitions after the global economic downtown halted any anticipated financing for such projects. (One added benefit of the rail system: better web-based mobile tracking of goods.)

Is there a better way to move groceries and other goods? It's entirely possible. (I'm sure the folks at Capgemini Consulting, who are working on the Paris project, have crafted a good argument.) If Paris can get industry giants Casino, Carrefour, Monoprix and Franprix on board, a world in which fewer camions are on les autoroutes is just over the horizon.

Opportunities Abound for Transporting Goods by Tram — If Properly Coordinated [Transport Politic]

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure