You will soon be able to catch a breath of fresh air in downtown Portland. The city is planning to establish a zero-emission delivery zone to promote a safe and cleaner way of moving goods in the area. The project will be the first in the nation of its kind.

Oregon’s largest city, Portland, is home to over 650,000 people (with over 2.5 million in the metro area).

With plentiful parks, bike paths, and hiking trails, Portland is perhaps best known for its eco-friendliness and sustainable mindset. In 2020, the Portland City Council declared a climate emergency, setting a new goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

With transportation accounting for 40% of carbon emissions in the Portland area, city officials new something had to be done.

To advance its goal, Portland has announced it will test a new zero-emission delivery zone, becoming the first in the US to implement a project of sorts. Although trucks represent less than 5% of the city’s vehicle fleet, they generate 24% of all transportation related carbon emissions.

The proposed project spans 25 acres of downtown Portland where city and federal office buildings, county courthouse, commercial offices, and parks are present.

Portland reveals nations first zero-emission delivery zone

This spring, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) was awarded almost $2 million from the US Department of Transportation to fund the zero-emission delivery zone. With the new funding, PBOT will change some truck-loading zones to zero-emission vehicles only.

No passenger vehicles will be impacted by the changes. According to Portland-based KGW News, officials said part of the project’s plans is to:

Reduce traffic from heavy trucks in the downtown area and replace those trips with zero-emission vehicles, such as electric vans and trucks, cargo bikes, or hydrogen fueled vehicles.

In addition, Portland’s downtown area has been identified as one of the areas with the highest concentration of collisions involving trucks (2,2267 collisions betwen 2014 and 2018) according to the 2040 Portland Freight report. The move will cut down the number of trucks allowed in the area.

Dylan Rivera, a spokesperson from PBOT said “No one has done this, this way, in the US.” Although the final details are still being ironed out, Rivera said those who violate the new rules will be subject to a parking citation.

PBOT says it will incentivize the movement of “clean goods” through using an existing hub where big delivery trucks can transfer goods to smaller zero-emission vehicles, such as local fleets of EVs of electric bikes, for deliveries in the zone.

The project will kick off phase one this summer, running for 18 months through funded the SMART program, established under the Inflation Reduction Act. PBOT says it may then apply for phase two to build on its success.

Electrek’s Take

Like many US cities, deliveries in the city of Portland are skyrocketing due to the rise in home delivery and e-commerce. This means more frequent and shorter trips, often idling in between. Furthermore, these packages are also almost always delivered by big vans or trucks.

According to research from the World Economic Forum, by 2030, the number of delivery vehicles on the road in the top 100 global cities will rise by 36%. More importantly, the average diesel delivery truck emits 18.7 tons of CO2 each year with frequent stops making it worse on communities.

A zero-emission delivery zone, such as the one Portland will test this summer, will begin to reduce emissions that lead to health conditions like cardiovascular damage, asthma, and more in cities.