Public Package Lockers Are Coming to New York City’s Sidewalks

New Yorkers who do not have a doorman or friendly neighbor to sign for their package deliveries will soon have a new option: sidewalk lockers for the public.

The electronic lockers, which city officials announced on Friday, will be free to use 24 hours a day. Once a shipping company delivers a person’s package to a designated locker site, the customer will receive a PIN or QR code to open a compartment to pick it up. The lockers will be monitored by surveillance cameras to deter theft.

Starting this summer, the so-called smart lockers will be placed at 15 sites around the city that have not been finalized. GoLocker, a New York City company, will install and operate the units under a one-year pilot program overseen by the Department of Transportation.

The package lockers — called LockerNYC — will be set back from curbs, close to buildings and placed on wider sidewalks to avoid blocking foot traffic, transportation officials said. Dense neighborhoods with older buildings, which are less likely to have secure mailrooms, will receive priority.

The banks of modular steel lockers — in white, gray or black — will be about 7 feet high, range from 8 to 10 feet in width and have an average of 53 compartments. Overhead canopies will shield the lockers from the sun and rain.

GoLocker will pay about $500,000 to install the 15 locker sites on sidewalks and to put 15 more inside retail stores. The company, which already operates indoor package lockers around the city — including at laundromats, a bagel shop and a plant nursery — plans to charge shipping carriers to use the lockers.

The locker program is the city’s latest effort to address the growing number of delivery trucks choking New York’s streets, especially after pandemic-fueled boom in online shopping. The increase in truck traffic has worsened gridlock and air pollution, raised costs for businesses and made the streets less safe for pedestrians and cyclists, according to traffic and freight experts.

City transportation officials have significantly expanded loading zones and are creating neighborhood microhubs where packages can be unloaded from trucks onto cargo bikes and hand carts. The new sidewalk lockers will create a network of centralized delivery sites for packages, allowing trucks to make fewer stops instead of going door-to-door.

“The LockerNYC initiative will help reduce the number of trips delivery trucks make each day while also providing a secure place for New Yorkers to receive packages,” Ydanis Rodriguez, the city’s transportation commissioner, said in a statement.

While package lockers are not new, they have typically been used by private companies like Amazon and shipping carriers to serve their own customers. But a growing number of shared public package lockers are sprouting up in cities like London, Paris, and Tokyo as a more efficient, sustainable alternative to home deliveries.

One locker operator, Quadient, has thousands of locker sites at transit stations, supermarkets, pharmacies and other public spaces. The company has 7,000 sites in Japan, 4,500 of them in Tokyo. The company has a combined 1,500 public locker sites in France and the United Kingdom and is adding 5,000 more in the United Kingdom.

“We want to make it so easy to pick up packages or drop off packages from the locker that you choose it even over and above home delivery,” Gary Winter, vice president of Quadient’s package-locker solutions team.

The company’s lockers have been shown to withstand vandalism, rain and even tornadoes, Mr. Winter added.

As public package lockers have proliferated, one challenge has been finding room for them on crowded sidewalks.

After Amazon delivery lockers were placed on sidewalks in Chicago parks in 2021, residents complained that the units were ugly and blocked foot traffic. Some of the lockers were later removed. There are currently 25 locker sites that handle 4,000 to 7,000 packages a month, according to the Chicago Park District.

Pedestrians in New York must already navigate a number of obstacles, including new curbside compost drop-off bins, 5G antenna towers and electric vehicle chargers.

“All these new technologies are based on the sidewalk and you need space for them,” said José Holguín-Veras, an engineering professor and the director of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Freight Systems.

But Sarah Kaufman, the interim executive director of New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation, said package lockers would not only accelerate the delivery process for shipping companies and their customers but would also free up parking spots and reduce double parking by trucks making deliveries.

“It’s actually an interesting way to reduce congestion and provide traffic movement,” she said.

NYT > New York