SubEx: Moving Small Package Freight through City Subways, not City Streets
Major cities’ subway systems move people efficiently through central business districts – why not freight? Starting in NYC, a pooled service would push surface small package freight underground into under-utilized subways and commuter buses. SubEx Freight Systems (SubEx) would operate franchises, as public-private partnerships with local transit authorities, for the major courier services. We complete “the last mile” of urban small package freight delivery cheaply and ecologically.
Describe the critical need your solution addresses.
Sub-Ex is a start-up.
Our timing is opportune as transit officials seek sustainability options generating creative revenues for fiscally-challenged cities like New York.
Over the next three years, SubEx would enter into conditional arrangements to establish four revenue streams:
• Courier services convenience fees for completing their package’s delivery (the “last mile”), to be recouped at a profit when eco-aware customers select SubEx services as their package’s route on the courier’s online shipping label generator.
• Corporate purchases of “carbon offsets” from SubEx, so as to further reduce their urban carbon footprints.
• Transit authorities annual fees for SubEx providing services at peak commuter hours to disabled persons on dual-use elevators at interchange stations, thereby enhancing equal access compliance under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates.
• SubEx advertising revenues from its website, cargo train exteriors, delivery labels, hybrid and bicycle delivery vehicles and other infrastructure.
We would use the Challenge’s $100,000 prize to create a three-dimensional model of New York City’s transit system with and without SubEx in place, and estimating the savings in traffic congestion, carbon footprint, urban air quality and other benefits. The model would also estimate and “stress test” the subway and bus systems’ potential for delaying small package freight or passenger average trip times, so as to iterate improvements in the hardware and software for SubEx.
Transportation is a mix of “modes”: street and highway, rail, air, water, bicycle, pedestrian and even Web. Preconceptions of modal “ridership” (i) focus myopically on how to “green” cars and (ii) obscure smart inter-modal innovations. Politically-fixed circles of lethargic government transportation funding favor vehicular traffic over rail service. Greener “trips” for small packages and people are synergistically profitable. We would use SubEx’s computer model to attract investment in greener small package freight service.
Explain your initiative in more depth and its stage of development.
• Comprehensive - SubEx leverages existing rail and bus mass transit passenger systems to add new revenues, improve safety, reduce traffic congestion and retrofit elevators for speedy freight and handicapped access.
• Anticipatory – In urbanizing regions, SubEx mitigates the transportation needs of city dwellers who increasingly order goods online for local delivery.
• Ecological - SubEx removes urban dependence on fossil-fueled delivery vans, reduces traffic congestion and improves rail transit for city neighborhoods.
• Feasibility - SubEx is a trimtab for transit infrastructure. As the last car on a daily commuter’s subway or as the cargo in the holds of empty commuter buses, SubEx makes today’s freight delivery services eco-friendly economically.
• Verifiable - SubEx’s impact is quantifiable: Our bar-coded packages map smaller carbon footprints, as compared to delivery by normal trucks/vans.
• Replicable - As an island where density demands functionality, Manhattan is a perfect setting for scaling SubEx.
How does your strategy and approach respond creatively and comprehensively to key issues?
Bruce Cahan is an Ashoka Fellow, project finance lawyer and banker. Bruce worked on such NYC urban infrastructure projects as the renewal of Times Square and the creation and financing of NYC’s geographic information utility. During the 1990s, Bruce instigated new data sharing arrangements with utilities based on his research of ancient street franchise rights long forgotten. As September 11th emergency responder, Bruce leveraged numerous public-private infrastructure partnerships to survey, protect and restore underground infrastructure. In 2002, the President’s Office of Management and Budget asked Bruce to present his knowledge of public-private partnerships options at OECD headquarters in Paris. Bruce’s conversations with the sustainability team at New York City’s mass transit agency validate the financing and other benefits of SubEx.