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Delft University of Technology

Sustainable Urban Freight Transport: A Global Perspective

Delft University of Technology via edX


Life in the city relies on the smooth operation of urban logistics. Everything from retail to services, construction to waste collection rely on an efficient and reliable freight transport system. However, with the increasing pressures of urbanization, this has to be balanced with the environmental and social impacts caused by transport activity. In addition to this, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the urban freight transport has also been challenged over the last years with increased volumes, same-day deliveries and disruptions in logistics chains.

This is the challenge of City Logistics, a field of study that has significant practical implications for the world and the cities we live in. It is not merely a question of what is involved, but what can be done about urban freight transport to improve it for the sake of economic efficiency, quality of life, and sustainability.

From a systematic scientific foundation of the field, this course will take you on a journey to learn how city logistics is understood and practiced in cities around the world. Our instructors, members of a renowned global expert network, will teach you the basics of this highly complex social system. Using their experience in real-world projects, they will illustrate how the knowledge learnt in this course is applied across industry and the public sector.

This course caters primarily to university students or professionals working in urban transport infrastructure planning or logistics management. Whether you are simply curious about the topic or you intend to develop a career in these fields, this course will give you the tools you need to understand the complexities of urban freight transport systems.

The course emphasizes the theoretical foundation, the rigorous evaluation, and a multi-disciplinary approach to this complex area. Course participants will benefit from numerous case studies of best practice in selected cities around the world, in a variety of business settings. Our emphasis on the global perspective is particularly relevant, since an understanding of local culture and political climate is an important factor in the success of any city logistics intervention. The course will provide an avenue for students to learn through videos from their peers about the challenges faced in their respective cities, and how to apply the principles learned to the challenges faced in their own cities.


The course is organized in 6 weeks, though it is available as a self-paced course. A brief summary of each unit is presented below:

Week 1: Sustainable urban freight systems around the world

In this week, you’ll start off with familiarizing yourself with the course, the virtual learning environment and introducing yourself to your cohort. Then, we will go through the aims and vision of sustainable urban freight, the challenges that cities around the world face and how they respond to it. We end with a brief exercise to introduce your city and the challenges faced by its urban freight system.

Week 2: Systems approach to understand city logistics

In the second week, we introduce the concept of systems and how urban freight transport can be understood, evaluated and improved using the systems approach. To illustrate the approach, we introduce the case study of the loading dock booking system at a shopping center in Australia. You will receive your first graded quiz testing your understanding of the systems approach.

Week 3: City logistics solutions

In this week, we will provide you with an overview of the many different ways to improve the urban freight transport situation, as well as how they are typically implemented. There is a lot of content here on various topics, as well as links to other resources for further study. In order to test how much you were able to process the content you can join in the first topical discussion in the forum. In the end of the week there is a graded quiz to test your understanding.

Week 4: Evaluation of city logistics

In the fourth week, we introduce the key concepts and selected methods for evaluating the state of freight traffic in a city. We illustrate the approach and methods in a case study video on a case in Japan. The week ends with a graded quiz testing your understanding of all the concepts and lessons from Week 1 to Week 4.

Week 5: Research in city logistics

In the fifth week of the course, we introduce some commonly applied methods used to deepen our understanding of urban freight transport and support the implementation of the solutions. We end the week with an introduction to network theory and a small modelling assignment, which will count to your final grade.

Week 6: Updates in city logistics

In the final week of the course, we introduce the challenges that urban freight transport is currently facing. We deal with topics such as the effect of COVID-19 in urban logistics or innovative last-mile sharing economy concepts such as crowdshipping. We introduce these challenges, propose possible approaches for their solution and provide you with relevant materials. The week finishes with a graded quiz testing your understanding of these new challenges.

Taught by

Lóránt Tavasszy, Ron van Duin and Tharsis Teoh


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