Purolator Launches ‘Mini-Hub’ Pilot Project in Downtown Toronto to Address High-Density Last-Mile Challenges [Interview]

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Purolator, a leading integrated freight, package and logistics solutions provider, has launched its Urban Quick Stop ‘mini hub’ pilot program in downtown Toronto with a second one to come in the near future. 

Laurie Weston, Senior Director, Retail at Purolator, said the two Urban Quick Stop mini hubs in Toronto will operate full retail services (for customers to drop off and pick up shipments) and a total of five electric cargo bikes (e-bikes) to deliver packages to the surrounding areas, decreasing traffic congestion and CO 2 emissions by 68 tonnes per year. 

She said the program aims to innovate last-mile delivery and provide consumers with a superior customer experience and improved convenience.

“Basically the whole concept behind this is getting a mini distribution hub in the heart of a city to be able to deliver packages via e-bike. Our goal is to remove the big, heavy trucks off the road, replace it with mini e-bikes, but what’s unique about this container . . . we’ve got a window popping open and full retail services – pickup, drop off,” said Weston.

Image: Purolator
Laurie Weston

“At the end of the day, we have aggressive goals to reducing carbon emissions and this is a unique way for us to be able to remove large vehicles off the road and it also helps with reducing congestion, traffic and allows us to be able to deliver to the customer faster simply because the e-bikes don’t have to worry about trying to find parking.

“It’s easier for us to deliver on our customers’ promises while at the same time it’s all about green. “

The first mini hub is a 40-foot shipping container located at the Green P parking lot at 19 Spadina Road (north of Bloor Street West). It has partnered with the Toronto Parking Authority on the project.

Weston said this is a six-month pilot. 

Image: Purolator

The second mini hub is launching in September at the University of Toronto campus on St. George Street. The mini hub will replace Purolator delivery trucks on the St. George campus with e-bikes deployed from an on-street container located near 60 St. George Street. This will mark the first time on-street parking in Toronto has been replaced with this type of use. On this project, Purolator has partnered with the City of Toronto’s Transportation Services division and the University of Toronto’s Transportation Research Institute.

Weston added that this mini hub is an 18-month pilot.

“Our goal is for it to be super successful and just extend the lease. Keep it in the community,” she added.

“Our goal is to bring awareness to this particular initiative. I’d love to get into the City of Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal. We’re going to do more in Toronto. We’re going to continue to roll out more with (Toronto Parking Authority). But I think it’s a unique way for us to get e-bikes into the city. It’s easier. The e-bikes will be parked in the containers at night-time. So the couriers show up, we bring the freight, we off-load the freight, the couriers load up their e-bikes and off they go.”

Weston said Purolator does a very detailed market analysis in the GTA. The analytics team is able to provide a heat map indicating where the highest and most dense deliveries exist. Also, where the company does not have a lot of access points where customers can go to pick up and drop off.

Image: Purolator

“We factor that in. It’s really where the gaps are for us in Toronto with high, high volumes and lower Purolator presence. So we combine that and find exactly where we want to put it,” she said.

The first location will have two e-bikes and the second location will have three e-bikes.

“We continue to grow in volume. What’s interesting is the growth of e-commerce for us, especially with the pandemic. We’re seeing more and more door-to-door residential deliveries. So that’s really changing the way we do business, trying to find unique opportunities to service the receiver,” said Weston. 

“We’ve implemented foot courier operations. That’s been going on for a while. We’ve hired more couriers. Kiosk self-service is very big as well.

“We’re going to be launching more. I’ve got an e-bike operation going live in Ottawa at the end of this year. Hopefully doing another e-bike with Metrolinx at Cooksville in Mississauga. So we have a lot on the go.”

Image: Purolator

“Purolator’s Urban Quick Stop is our innovative approach to solving the many challenges of delivering in a busy urban environment like Toronto,” said John Ferguson, President and CEO, Purolator, in a statement. “Our ambition is to be the greenest courier company in Canada, and this puts us one step closer to achieving that goal. This solution helps minimize traffic congestion and CO 2 emissions using e-bikes in a location that brings package delivery and pickup closer to the customer.”

“We are thrilled to partner with Purolator to expand the services we offer residents by innovating and unlocking value across our property footprint,” said Toronto Parking Authority President, Scott Collier. “Following the launch of our four-year Bike Share Toronto growth plan and multi-year electric vehicle charging initiative, this pilot is another example of how we can create a more convenient customer experience and meet customers’ changing needs, while supporting the city’s green initiatives.”

In November 2018, Purolator also introduced a new Mobile Quick Stop service – the first of its kind in Canada – to provide consumers, online retailers and businesses exceptional convenience and customer service when delivering to and picking up packages in city centres. Ten Mobile Quick Stop trucks took up residence in four of Canada’s busiest cities to serve as convenient package pickup spots for shipments that aren’t left on doorsteps. The Mobile Quick Stops are located close to residents’ homes and places of work and are open evenings, when consumers are more likely to have the time to pick up packages. 

Weston said the company now has a fleet of 29 Mobile Quick Stop trucks across Canada. Five of them are operational full-time. It has partnered with Metrolinx so they are at selected stations year-round. The others are used during peak times such as November and December where Purolator partners with companies like Lowe’s and Best Buy to support its peak volume.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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