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DOT Seeks to Reduce Delivery Traffic and Package Theft with Lockers

DOT says that 90,000 packages every day are reported stolen or lost. Thieves are facilitated because many apartment buildings lack secure areas for holding packages. Could a locker system change that?

12:29 PM EDT on June 30, 2023

A locker system sure beats the current “system.” File photo: Gersh Kuntzman (inset DOT)

It's a package deal.

The city is about to launch a one-year test of a system for distributing deliveries: 15 package lockers where companies such as UPS would place boxes to later be picked up by the people who ordered the stuff.

The proposal is slated to be announced later today.

According to a draft of the proposal obtained by Streetsblog, the company GoLocker will place 6.5-foot by 3.5-foot by two-foot lockers on 15 city-owned sidewalks wide enough to accommodate the new furniture. The locations for the "LockerNYC" pilot will be chosen based on the concentration of buildings that likely don't have space for package rooms as well as the number of package thefts reported to NYPD, among other criteria, the agency said.

Graphic: DOT

DOT says that 90,000 packages every day are reported stolen or lost in transit. Thieves are facilitated because many apartment buildings lack secure areas for holding packages.

"The lockers will centralize drop-off points, allowing carriers to make fewer truck trips," DOT said in a statement. "This is expected to reduce the amount of time delivery vehicles are on our roads, which will lessen safety risks and cut down on harmful vehicle emissions."

A GoLocker. Photo: GoLocker

The deleterious effects of online shopping and real-world deliveries have been growing, with 80 percent of households now receiving at least one delivery per week and 20 percent receiving four or more deliveries, according to the city.

“As the number of at-home deliveries have surged in recent years, so have the number of large delivery trucks on our city streets,” DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said in a statement. “The LockerNYC initiative will help reduce the number of trips delivery trucks make each day while also providing a secure place for New Yorkers to receive packages.”

The pilot raises some questions that the DOT can't answer yet (hence the pilot). For instance, how many such 45.5-cubic-foot lockers would be needed all over the city to be truly game-changing — i.e. eliminating a vast portion of delivery truck trips through residential neighborhoods. Every single day, an average of 2.4 million packages are delivered citywide, according to Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. The renderings suggest that the lockers in question can hold about 30 packages at a time. Does that mean 80,000 lockers will one day be needed?

Another question: How much will these lockers eventually cost — and who will pay? In one scenario, taxpayers could be asked to pay because residents will benefit from safer streets, unstolen packages and less truck pollution and congestion. But delivery companies could also be expected to pay for the use of public space (much as Citi Bike pays the city for its parking stations) and for the savings they will achieve from less driving and theft reimbursements.

The pilot offers no insight into that question for the simple reason that GoLocker responded to DOT's request for proposals with an offer of a no-cost demonstration.

There will also be concerns from pedestrian advocates about losing more space on city sidewalks to benefit private companies or individual online shoppers.

For that reasons, initial reactions were conditional.

"This is a creative solution for reducing the number of trucks circling the block and idling at the curb, something we desperately need. It’s also great to see the city specifically recognize the way e-commerce has strained our streets and curbs," said Sara Lind, the co-executive director of Open Plans. "Since sidewalks are already very crowded, it’ll be important to get this right and ensure the lockers don’t make that worse. But done right, and alongside wider curb reform, this can be a tool to better adapt the city to modern lifestyles."

Other cities have been experimenting with these kinds of contracts with third-party package security companies. The city of Peachtree, Georgia, for example, is partnering with a different locker company, Smartmile, according to Gov Tech. It's too early to say how that pilot is going.

But a pilot in Seattle has already shown promise, with a 33-percent reduction in average delivery dwell time at curbs (or double-parked) and 96 percent of residents reported satisfaction with parcel locker usage and an improved e-commerce experience, according to a statement from the University of Washington.

This is a breaking story and will be updated later.

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