Who Has Access to E-Commerce During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Sacramento Region? Implications for Future E-Commerce and Shopping Tripmaking

Research Team: Susan Shaheen (Lead), Edward “Teddy” Forscher, Elizabeth Deakin, and Joan Walker

UC Campus(es): UC Berkeley

Problem Statement: In the last decade, retail online shopping or e-commerce has increased remarkably. Such a precipitous change in global consumer habits can have a dramatic effect on the way cities operate, particularly with respect to the demand for goods delivery or on-demand services. As e- commerce has matured, consumers have begun demanding faster delivery speeds. Globally, private companies in the parcel, grocery, and hot food delivery sectors have developed last-mile supply chain innovations (e.g., mobile inventory/warehousing, pickup lockers, neighbor-to- neighbor delivery, etc.) to meet this new and growing demand. Little is known about the impacts of such on-demand service models on city functions such as: traffic curb management, congestion, and traffic-related emissions. These innovations have diversified the delivery fleet beyond commercial vehicles, blurring the lines between private and commercial vehicles. Information regarding these fleets is particularly hard to come by due to lack of data collection standards or mandates at the local, regional, or state level. Additionally, there is little reliable understanding of consumer motivations regarding online purchasing and delivery speeds, yielding a situation in which planners neither understand the supply nor the demand. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning in March 2020, many regions in the United States experienced rapid changes in travel patterns, with much of the populace staying at home for work and school and reducing out-of-home trips for shopping, entertainment, socializing, and personal business. This led to an increase in the use of retail purchase pick-up and delivery services, exacerbating concerns around curb management problems in large cities such as New York and San Francisco. However, do such concerns also apply in mid-sized cities? Does an increase in shopping from home lead to a proliferation of issues with pickups and deliveries?

Project Description: This research project is intended to help cities better understand the factors influencing the dramatic increase in on-demand deliveries on city streets and the demand-management strategies that cities might apply to mitigate congestion and emission impacts. To gather more information about mid-sized California cities, the researchers resampled participants from the 2018 Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) household travel survey (2018 HTS) of 8,191 individuals representing 3,956 households over a rolling six-week period from April to May 2018. This was the first region in the state to collect detailed information on e-commerce use, and use behavioral modeling to compare pre-pandemic shopping to pandemic-related shifts in consumer purchasing and receipt, for nine types of essential and non-essential commodities (including groceries, meals, clothing, paper products and cleaning supplies). The researchers collected responses from 327 individual respondents, representing 313 households, in May 2020. They present descriptive statistics to examine changes to weekly shopping trips and online ordering during the pandemic to assess likely traffic and curb use impacts. The respondents were also asked about their prospective behavior once the pandemic ends and we consider if and how current changes might persist in the future based on their responses.

Status: Completed

Budget: $80,000

Policy Brief(s):