How Online Shopping is Worsening Your Commute

The U.S. Postal Service will deliver 900 million packages between now and New Year’s.

online shopping
your online shopping could be responsible for a terrible traffic problem.
Getty Images

If you hate traffic as much as you love the ease and convenience of online shopping, you might want to reconsider that “one-click” buy option.

The major boom in e-commerce over the past decade is wreaking havoc on urban congestion and pollution rates, according to recent research by McKinsey. The consulting firm estimates that delivery trucks — like the ones used by FedEx and UPS which will deliver 1.2 packages globally before the year is over — will be responsible for $34 billion a year in American urban congestion costs by 2020, up 20 percent since 2014, according to Wired.

“Right now, yes, absolutely: More traffic is induced on net by the online purchasing behavior that we’re seeing,” civil and environmental engineer Anne Goodchild told the tech mag.

In other words, delivery systems that are convenient for online customers are not easy on the planet or any city’s transportation system. A simple fix? Less shopping.

While that might not be very realistic, another way to ease these problems is by not making a trip to the store before buying online to price compare — those dual trips add to the larger issue. Another means of lightening the load might be to have lower expectations of the businesses we order from. Instead of expecting two-day shipping on almost anything purchased, if more time was allotted for each delivery then trucks wouldn’t have to make so many singular round trips and could, instead, take one longer route to drop off more packages.

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