Op-Ed | LockerNYC: Reimagining package delivery

Scanning parcel barcode before shipment
Photo via Getty Images

The pandemic changed a lot about our daily lives, but one of the most enduring has been the explosion in at-home deliveries. Over 80% of New Yorkers now receive at least one at-home delivery each week, and 20% receive four or more. In fact, a growing number of us now only rarely set foot in a supermarket, drug store, or hardware store – because we know that items from those places can be at our doors in a matter of days, sometimes hours.

At the same time, with the growth of deliveries has come the unfortunate and escalating issue of package theft, a national trend that saw an alarming estimated daily average of 90,000 stolen or lost packages in New York City alone in 2021. The surge in at-home deliveries has also increased truck volume and double parking – resulting in greater delays as well as aggravation and street safety concerns for everyone else on the roads, including the pedestrians and cyclists who are our most vulnerable road users.

This is why the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) has been rolling out a series of new programs designed to make receiving deliveries easier for New Yorkers and improving safety and the environment by reducing truck miles on our streets. As part of Mayor Eric Adams’ ambitious climate and public safety agenda, we last month unveiled our newest groundbreaking initiative, LockerNYC, which squarely aims to address package theft as well as other serious concerns caused by excessive truck deliveries. Over the next year, this pilot program will introduce secure lockers on public sidewalks, enabling New Yorkers to conveniently send and receive packages. With 24/7 access, the pilot promises to provide enormous benefits to residents who depend on deliveries – and to the city as a whole.

One of the primary objectives of LockerNYC is to combat theft by providing a secure place for packages to be delivered. Most New Yorkers, like me, do not have a doorman or mail room, so packages often sit for hours unattended next to mailboxes or apartment doors. Accessible to multiple delivery carriers, such as UPS, DHL, and Pitney-Bowes, these new lockers will be safe until recipients retrieve their package.  

LockerNYC will prioritize the safety of its users. Locations will be equipped with state-of-the-art security features, including at least two security cameras, LED lighting, and anti-theft mechanisms on locker compartments. These measures ensure that packages remain secure throughout the delivery process. But delivery customers are not the only beneficiaries; the LockerNYC program addresses the adverse effects of delivery trucks, the majority of which unfortunately still use higher-polluting diesel fuel. With fewer overall stops during the pilot, carriers will need fewer trips, which in turn will reduce the number of delivery vehicles on the roads and improve their productivity. This reduction in truck traffic not only decreases truck emissions but can mitigate the risk of crashes.  Fewer delivery vehicles on the road also means less congestion, resulting in improved traffic flow — and reduced hazards for everyone.

Luckily, we are not starting from scratch with this pilot. Shared-use locker programs have already demonstrated their effectiveness in other cities worldwide. A similar pilot program in Seattle reported significant reductions in delivery vehicle travel distances, dwell time, failed deliveries, emissions, and congestion. Studies revealed that carrier lockers can reduce the amount of time delivery trucks spend at curbs by up to 33% and decrease delivery times by as much as 78%.

Starting later this summer, the pilot program will be implemented for one year, providing an opportunity for the NYC DOT to assess the effectiveness of this innovative delivery model across all seasons. DOT will collect anonymous data on locker usage, allowing us to evaluate the program’s success — and possible challenges, including increased sidewalk congestion — and explore the potential for expansion.

We are not stopping there.  At NYC DOT we are undertaking a broader effort to reimagine freight delivery in the city, including with new loading zones, as well as a push to increase off-hour deliveries, and the expanded use of near & zero-emission trucks and cargo bikes.  Shared lockers, which have been privately available from individual carriers like Amazon, are the newest piece of this larger delivery puzzle. Partnering with delivery carriers and an experienced vendor, GoLocker, we will create a culture that prioritizes safety, efficiency, and environmental sustainability. And by putting lockers in public places, we will be able to equitably fill gaps in service — ensuring that these services are available to all New Yorkers.

As a former Councilmember who regularly heard complaints from constituents about their stolen packages, I cannot wait to cut the ribbon on these new lockers. LockerNYC represents a significant step to address the challenges posed by home deliveries. A safe and sustainable solution with a potential to reduce package thefts, these lockers will be a win-win for all of us.

Ydanis Rodriguez is New York City’s Transportation Commissioner.