Research: Hidden and in Plain Sight—Impacts of E-Commerce in Massachusetts

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) is the regional planning agency for the 101 cities and towns of Greater Boston. Our mission is to promote smart growth and regional collaboration.

Today, the Commonwealth is seeing rising numbers of delivery trucks and vans on the roadway network as people increasingly ordering online for goods, meals, and groceries. For these deliveries to arrive timely each day, a sophisticated logistics network of warehouses, distribution centers, and delivery vehicles needs to be in place. While the effects of this growing form of retail on the roadway network
may be noticeable, e-commerce is also having effects on land use, traditional retail, and employment
which are not as directly apparent.

MAPC has undertaken Hidden and in Plain Sight: Impacts of E-Commerce in Massachusetts to better understand how e-commerce affects the region’s communities, and to provide a resource for municipalities and policy makers grappling with the rapid growth and multiplying impacts of this expanding form of retail.

This report concentrates primarily on the transportation and land use effects of increasing online shopping, highlighting key trends both nationally and in Massachusetts. We suggest directions for further research, and we put forward potential policies that could help communities sustainably manage the growth in warehousing and distribution centers and its associated delivery traffic.

MAPC intends to serve as a resource for continued information sharing and findings from e-commerce surveys and pilot programs and conduct research on how municipalities in Massachusetts are currently mitigating and managing the impacts of warehouse and distribution centers. As a follow up to this report, MAPC plans to collaborate with municipalities to develop a playbook on the management of
e-commerce warehouse and distribution centers as a resource for other municipalities. Please e-mail with relevant information or to be informed of future initiatives.

Read report!