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Concentration and decentralization: The new geography of freight distribution in US metropolitan areas
This paper examines the suburbanization of warehousing and trucking activity within US metropolitan areas between the 1980s and the present using Gini indices as a measure of concentration. While historical work exists on the relocation of transportation and warehousing activity to suburban locations, there has been little to document the most recent shifts in warehousing and logistics. This research does so via spatial analysis of Economic Census data, finding that while most US metropolitan areas have experienced decentralization in the spatial distribution of freight-related activity, there is also some growth in core counties, indicating that a more complex process is going on than simple suburbanization.
Mapping the location of freight establishments per capita for fifty of the largest US cities confirms that there is a shift in the last twenty years towards concentrating freight activity in the Ohio and Missouri River valleys.
As containerization and high levels of throughput have led to the need for single-story distribution centers spread over hundreds of thousands of square feet, freight distribution activity has moved out from its traditional central city location to suburban sites.
On the other hand, in many metropolitan areas, the largest number of freight establishments was actually added in the central county. Furthermore, metropolitan areas with fast-growing populations, many miles of interstate highway, and large numbers of freight establishments per capita are more likely to have those establishments concentrated in their central county.
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