Smart growth aims to improve the quality of life in communities, with a strong sustainability emphasis, aiming to conserve energy and protect environmental quality.
A key smart growth theme is efficiency – reducing the socio-economic cost per-capita of infrastructure and services.
This requires transport and planning professionals to plan future land use patterns which are compact and provide a range of transport options, to reduce the need to travel, the number and length of trips and car dependance.
While freight transport is vital to regional economies, smart growth approaches usually neglect it, or only consider significant negative controls over freight activities.
Key areas of concern by planners and local communities are freight trip generators and surrounding land uses and limits freight transport by road and rail in and around residential areas.
Planning controls and regulations involve providing buffers in time and space and locating freight activities in outlying areas away from residences. This usually means increased number of vehicles and travel distance for freight, with trucks caught up in congestion.
There are also challenges with transport system design and management – moving people by road and rail has priority. Accessibility and street connectivity for freight vehicles is neglected, making it difficult to access terminals, loading bays and distribution centres.
Controls on number, size and location of loading bays and parking for freight vehicles is limited as a control on activity. Communities express concern about intrusion, congestion, noise, air quality and safety of large freight vehicles and freight rail in their ‘backyard’.
Encouraging less car dependence results in conflicts between freight and the non-car modes – walking, cycling and public transport friendly facilities restricts freight movements.
The first step in planning for freight is to articulate the contribution of freight transport to the local economy and that careful consideration of freight in smart growth developments can assist in achieving the desired outcomes.
Providing adequate freight access, and priority routes are key considerations. Planning for the logistics of goods movement should consider available options to determine the most appropriate means. Much research has been conducted on strategies for the ‘last mile’, such as incentivising delivery in off-peak periods and use of technology to optimise deliveries.
Land-use planning should also consider the most appropriate locations for warehouses and distribution facilities in close proximity to urban centres.