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Keywords:

  • urban freight transport;
  • sustainability;
  • time windows;
  • data envelopment analysis

Urban freight contributes significantly to pollution, noise disturbance, traffic congestion, and safety problems in city centers. In many cities, local governments have introduced policy measures, in particular time-access restrictions, to alleviate these problems. However, setting time windows is very challenging due to the conflicting interests and objectives of the stakeholders involved. In this article, we examine whether it is possible to develop time-window policies that enhance environmental sustainability and distribution efficiencies, while meeting the objectives of the municipalities. We develop a framework for balancing retailer (costs), municipality (satisfaction), and environmental (emissions) objectives, using data envelopment analysis, under different urban time-window policies. The approach is illustrated by a case study of three Dutch retail organizations, with a large number of stores affected by such time windows. On the basis of an evaluation of 99 different time-window policies, our results show that harmonizing time windows between neighboring cities leads to the best overall performance. The currently used time-window policy appears to perform reasonably well, but can be improved on all dimensions. However, harmonizing time-window policies may be difficult to realize in practice.