Thursday, August 7, 2008

Left Turns Suck

UPS doesn't make left turns. Yes, I know this sounds strange, but it's true. UPS has special software that maps out delivery routes and chooses courses that minimize left turns.
Sitting at stoplights waiting for lights to turn green, or waiting to cross opposing traffic when making a left turn, burns a lot of gas while the truck idles. This "no left turn" strategy, by UPS's calculations saves millions of dollars annually. The strategy may not save an individual driver a lot of gas, but with 90,000 trucks driving around every day it adds up to a lot of saved gas for UPS every year.
Why is this interesting? Because my town, Philadelphia, is one of the most un-green cities in the country. And while a "no left turn" strategy might not save an individual driver a lot of money and gas, it could save a large city municipality a lot of money with its bus, garbage truck and mail delivery routes.
Our recently elected mayor ran on a platform that heavily promoted across-the-board improvements in Philly's green-ness (more recycling, less pollution, lower energy consumption, etc.). In fact, he recently created a Green Director position within his cabinet to start overseeing implementation of these improvements. One of the programs they're not pursuing, however, is a "no left turn" strategy. How do I know this? Because I called the transportation authority and the waste management departments yesterday and after they realized I wasn't a "journalist" or a "reporter" but rather just a "concerned citizen" I had to endure three minutes of hysterical laughter, name calling, and suggestions I visit I psychiatrist, before they both hung up on me.
There is one big problem with implementing a "no left turn" strategy in a municipality and that's the initial cost of developing or buying the software. But what if UPS donated their systems to all the large municipalities in the country? UPS would receive tons of free publicity and good will for "doing the right thing" and the cities would save money, pollute less and create a better world for everyone to live in.
The only drawback for UPS is that competitors might steal their software, but the "no left turn" strategy can't be giving UPS that much of a competitive advantage anymore. Not only have FedEx and DHL implemented similar systems, but smaller delivery companies are also trying to avoid left turns. And if UPS is really concerned about losing their competitive edge, they could just "rent" the software out to the cities.
All in all, it seems like a pretty obvious and logical progam with benefits for UPS, the cities, and the world at large. Which means it's probably not going to happen anytime soon.

8 comments:

Storm Bunny said...

Hi. Me again. I understand this "no left turn" policy, but... wouldn't it just be better if the city tried to diminish somehow the number of cars? There would be no need to make the left turns a pain is there were less cars to wait for. Then again, that might not be a popular solution, but think of this: you could improve also the employment rates if people would open all kind of small businesses in the neighborhood, so people don't have to get the car to buy a can of coke. Improving public transportation and making jobs and homes closer would also be a good idea... and less cars would be used privately.

Parr said...

Not a bad call Bunny. You live in Costa Rica right? So do I in San Jose of all places. Traffic here is so bad (not to mention the exhaust...) and to such a beautiful country. Its a shame. The license plate policy (can only drive in the city on certain days), well I guess that has helped, but wayyy too man cars still.

Storm Bunny said...

Hy Parr! I live in Heredia, work in San José, so I suffer the car-plate-policy as well. I'm not sure it has really proven to be effective since the public transportation service has not been staffed for this. The same number of busses, for an increased demand, the train cars and schedules haven't been changed, and paired with the car sale promotions all it has provoked is that more and more people are buying two cars to work around the policy.

Parr said...

Wow, I didnt hear people are buying two cars. lol. Talk about increasing the problem.
I just moved back to Costa Rica after 2 years and in that time, the traffic has at a minimum doubled. The city can't handle it. I dont know if there is a solution.....If so someone smarter than me has to come up with it jajaja.

Storm Bunny said...

Dear Parr, I don't know you, but I can safely assure you won't find anyone smarter than you, or at least not among those who could do something about the problem. I think they shouls really TAX the cars, like double the Marchamo, insurance and RTV to those people owning two to more cars, and then make people sign up for a list to buy cars. I know it sounds like a very socialist solution, but this is going out of hand and something must be done. The idea of some of allowing only new cars because these contaminate less ain't available either, because the country has no safe plan to get rido of old cars, recycle them or something. Hey, I tried to check your blog.... but there ain't any.

Nicole Brewer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jerald said...

Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u

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