8 min read

Freight Parking Is Getting Less Efficient at Serving Manhattan’s Economy

New data from Replica and Geotab ITS reveals how efficiently freight vehicles support economic activity in Manhattan’s neighborhoods.

Published on
September 13, 2022

As New York City grapples with an influx of freight vehicles, new data shows that commercial activity in Manhattan now relies on more truck parking for the same levels of economic activity compared to 2019.

Borough-wide, block groups in Manhattan with heavy truck activity saw an increase of over 25% in truck parking activity for every $100,000 spent in retail from 2019 to 2021 according to data from Replica and Geotab ITS.

At the local level, we see that it’s not the same story everywhere. Here is where the most and least efficient census block groups are located in Manhattan:

Retail vs. Freight Activity in Manhattan

Replica’s weekly economic activity data shows that retail spending in Manhattan in August 2022 was nearing its 2019 summer levels: In-person retail spending in August 2022 reached about 92% of what was seen in August 2019.

Each week Replica updates its Trends product with new economic activity data that shows how consumer spending is changing across multiple spending categories.

Geotab ITS helps companies manage fleet efficiency by employing over 3 million unique fleet telematics devices and processing over 55 billion data points daily. This aggregated dataset can be used to understand freight activity over time, including truck parking and idling events. Using this data alongside Replica’s helps illuminate the change in freight activity in Manhattan as it relates to consumer retail spending.

By normalizing freight parking events by retail consumer spending, we can visualize the number of trucks that serve each neighborhood per $100,000 of retail spending. Replica aggregated the data to the block group level and looked at a typical weekday in October 2019 as compared to one in April 2021, eliminating block groups with too few data points.

The results demonstrate that neighborhoods are remarkably varied in the number of trucks their local retail economies require. In these maps, darker areas see more freight truck parking events per $100,000 in retail spending. Hudson Yards (in the upper left side of the map) is more efficient than the Financial District (lower left) in freight activity. The East Village (middle right) is noticeably less efficient than nearby SoHo.

In other words, these less efficient areas require more freight parking per dollar of retail spending than more efficient areas — a dynamic that can have a noticeable impact on safety, emissions, congestion, and quality of life for residents.

Where Freight Parking Is On the Rise

While the number of trucks per $100,000 of retail spend is varied across neighborhoods, it has also changed over time.

Here, we visualize how freight parking events per $100,000 of retail spending have changed from October 2019 to April 2021 by neighborhood. The change is visualized as a percent of pre-pandemic levels: red represents an increase in freight activity from October 2019 to April 2021, green represents a decrease.

On the whole, despite the relative drop in retail spending over the period, retail now requires more freight vehicle parking than prior to the pandemic in Manhattan.

Despite this trend, some neighborhoods have decreased in truck activity per retail spending. For example, Hudson Square (middle left) is more efficient, as are block groups in the East Village and the Lower East Side. While Hudson Yards is more efficient than the Financial District pre- and post-pandemic, it has declined the most in efficiency over the period.

One hypothesis for the change in retail freight activity is that the pandemic brought an increase in online retail spending. However, Replica data suggests this isn’t the case in Manhattan. Replica’s consumer spending data captures both online and in-person spending by resident home location. For Manhattan residents, pre-pandemic spending was higher in both categories compared to April 2021.

As cities look to manage their economic recovery and post-pandemic “new normal” mobility patterns, they can look to Replica and Geotab ITS to identify where freight activity has gotten less efficient and ask what’s working in neighborhoods like Battery Park City and the East Village. Products like Replica’s Trends and Geotab ITS’s freight activity can also be used to keep track of neighborhoods like Hudson Yards in near real-time, to make sure retail delivery efficiency is not getting worse.

If you’re interested in working with Replica to explore spending and freight activity trends in your area, or learn how our unique parking data can help augment this analysis, please get in touch.

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Replica Editorial
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