New York Food Transportation System and Fuel Efficiency

Dominique C Miller

The New York food transportation system is quite intricate and there are so many contributors it can often times get a little messy, so this is why I chose to do an analysis of how food is transported into New York. The New York food transportation system is the most efficient way to distribute food to retailers and consumers in New York, and it is highly resilient so minor changes don’t interrupt the system. The resiliency of this food transportation system allows for the system to adapt to changes.
This transportation system supplies food to all of New York City and needs the cooperation of distributors and retailers to guarantee that the consumer will be satisfied. In this analysis, we have to keep in mind who the consumers are, such as schools, grocery stores, markets, universities within New York City, and etc. We also have to take into consideration the constantly changing dynamics of what consumers are demanding. Whether the food is grown locally or is transported from a larger more conventional distribution company, it is transported to retailers and distribution centers in New York. This brings us to the question of “Where does New York City’s food come from?” I would like to calculate the amount of energy being used to get food into the city of New York and how much fuel and energy is used during the transportation process and by the vehicles transporting the food. According to the Five Borough Food Flow, “The Hunts Point Food Distribution Center is the largest single geographic cluster of food distribution into New York City, measured by annual distribution volume (lbs.) to New York City customers.” I decided to start here and calculate the amount of energy being used to transport food into NYC. About 99 percent of transportation is done by trucks, according to the hunts point study. NYC.GOV has an estimate of 13,000 trucks a day distributing food all over New York to many different food points in New York. “Every day, almost 13,000 trucks travel into and out of the Hunts Point FDC alone—and, of course, those trucks are wholly reliant on the availability of liquid fuels.” (NYCEDC) There are so many vehicles already on the bustling and overcrowded streets of New York so this study left me wondering if there is an easier way to get food into the city of New York other than by car and if so, would it be more fuel efficient.

The study shows that most of the routes are only accessible by truck and that trains only contribute to the food transportation system when distributing to major points such as Hunts Point. Before going into further details as to how we can reduce the fuel used for travel across the city of New York to retailers, shown below are two images that represent where the food is being distributed to and from:

These findings show that Hunts Point distributes their food directly to warehouses and other major distribution centers in the city that provide to supermarkets, smaller neighborhood stores, and consumers. These larger distribution centers supply food to stores and markets more accessible to the average consumer such as family’s and they get their food from some of the retailers listed in the findings below:

In order to find out the fuel efficiency by truck or train, I am going to first take into consideration the mileage of 1 route from the Hunts point distribution center to 1 major distributors. Then I will calculate the difference in distance from this route by truck and train. Next, I will then calculate the amount of fuel required for the route by truck and train.
For example:
-Fuel required
-Distance traveled (20 miles)
1 ton of food per truck
1 ton of food per train
In this example I am going to look at the fuel efficiency of a tractor trailer and the fuel efficiency of a train. These measurements can be done in calculations of miles or kilometers,

As mentioned earlier, this is an analysis of New York’s food transportation system. I am calculating ways to make New York’s food transportation system more fuel efficient. Studies on the transportation of food throughout the city of New York has shown that almost 99 percent of food distribution in New York City’s is done on land by truck. So this brought me to the idea of food distribution to retailers and wholesalers by train. Would it be more fuel efficient to distribute food by train or by truck? Can my calculations prove that it is more fuel efficient to distribute food to New York City retailers by rail, and if so why isn’t it being done? Below are my calculations and the steps I took to find out if it is more fuel efficient to distribute food by rail or truck.
Jen Tina Food Distributors Inc is a wholesaler that Hunts Point delivers to and I chose this 1 route just to show the fuel efficiency of the same route by two different transportations systems.
-Fuel required
-Distance traveled
Start: Hunts Point Cooperative Market 355 Food Center Dr, Bronx, NY 10474
Finish: Jen Tina Food Distributors Inc 29 Atlas Ave Malverne, NY 11565
1 ton of food per truck
1 ton of food per train
In this example I am going to look at the fuel efficiency of a tractor trailer and the fuel efficiency of a train. These measurements can be done in calculations of miles or kilometers,

In conclusion, this analysis has proved that it is more fuel efficient to distribute food to New York City but it is not possible because there are not enough railways to these wholesalers.


http://NYCEDC, editor. “Five Borough Food Flow.” Five Borough Food Flow, pp. 1–14 .,

http://NYC.GOV, editor. “Other Critical Networks .” Food Supply, pp. 1–16.,

http://MPA, editor. “Understanding New York City’s Food Supply.” Understanding New York City’s Food Supply,

http://RUEB, EMILY S. “How New York Is Turning Food Waste Into Compost and Gas.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 June 2017,

http://“Energy Efficiency in Transport.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Oct. 2017,


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7 Responses to New York Food Transportation System and Fuel Efficiency

  1. Margaret Claire Cochran says:

    Hi Dominique. I just read your analysis on the transportation of food in New York involving the energy efficiency with cars and trains. I think this is an extremely interesting viewpoint because I feel that most people focus on the energy it takes to make or grow the food, not how it’s distributed. So, is it more efficient to transport food by train instead of truck? I saw in your last comment there are not enough railroads. It seems like trains would be a better system, not just because of energy, but because they take one railroad path that does not cross with the continuous traffic of New York and they are much larger, therefore they could transport more food. In your final calculation I see that it is more fuel efficient to use the train, which I found surprising, because trains seem to use more gasoline considering their size and lengths they travel. I like how you include tractor trailers as well because that’s not something most people would consider. Overall, this is a super interesting topic that I have never really though about, so I enjoyed reading this!

  2. Kevin McInerney says:


    Really interesting topic. I chose to write about a similar topic regarding whether or not the state of New York would be able to sustain itself in terms of food supply by taking into consideration the overall population and the amount of farmable land. In terms of your topic, the New York transportation system and fuel efficiency, there are certainly a lot of moving parts and things to consider, which I think you do an exceptional job highlighting. The calculation of the amount of energy/fuel consumption necessary in order to transport food into New York City is certainly an important one which can serve a variety of different purposes moving forward. I think you choose a good starting point in analyzing the usage of trucks throughout the distribution process, considering that roughly 13,000 comprise 99% of food transportation daily. I found your information to be insightful and the usage of illustrations and graphs certainly helped depict the nature of the New York City food supply chain (destination of foods, types of distributors, etc). I thought you made an interesting decision in analyzing the fuel efficiency of trucks compared to the fuel efficiency of trains. I was also a little confused with some of your calculations. Your first calculation explains that the distance traveled which you were going to analyze was 20 miles, however, in the calculation itself, it appears as though you used 200 miles. Also, in the introduction to the calculation, you said you were going to compare efficiency of trucks versus the efficiency of trains, but don’t provide a label or specify which mode of transportation your first calculation is for. Your second set of calculations are more spot on, but I’m unsure if using one calculation is sufficient enough to come to a conclusion regarding this question. Could the train be more fuel efficient over long distances? After looking into trains in general, it seems as though there’s a debate about them regarding whether diesel powered trains or electrically powered trains are better. I came across a New York Times article from 2008 stating that “Amtrak trains in the Northeast Corridor are electric, those in most of the rest of the country are fuel driven.” Considering your calculations used fuel consumption of trains, perhaps the result of electrically powered trains could yield a different answer. Perhaps truck efficiency would increase if the weight of the load was adjusted to maximize it’s efficiency? Maybe more trucks transporting less weight, or less trucks carrying more weight? More fuel efficient trucks? These were all questions that came to mind throughout reading your response. Overall, I think you did a good job analyzing the fuel efficiency of both trucks and trains and came to a reasonable conclusion.

  3. Rose Gerber says:

    Hi Dominique-
    I really like the topic you chose as I have been to New York City many times and have wondered the same things about how food gets distributed. I like your idea of a train system to transport food rather than trucks. I see why the lack of railways (especially inside of the city) makes it hard for this option to become a reality. I am curious as to how subways can possibly play a role in food distribution. Being that NYC is one of the only cities to have that complex of a subway system I am curious as to how the city can find ways to utizlize them for food/ how much it would cost and the effects on the environment!

  4. zwl5178 says:

    Well done. I never thought about how food is transported until I read this post. I didn’t know how much energy and money it costs to move food supplies from one place to another. I like the idea of using train instead of trucks. Based on your research and calculations, it indeed is more cost efficient. But we probably don’t have enough trains to transport enough food for an entire city. On the contrast, we have more than enough truck companies to do the job. Not just food, a lot of other transportation services are conducted by trucks instead of trains. I wonder why companies don’t choose railroads over trucks. Maybe there is hidden cost we didn’t know about?
    Sidenote: I wish the bar graphics are a little bigger.

  5. Anthony Carr says:

    This post is very interesting. Coincidentally I just came from New York and it was very busy. There was so much traffic in the street but also on the sidewalks. I think your idea of transporting the food on the subway would be smart because you could move more food and it would be faster and more efficient. At first it may be difficult to do because people are used to trucks but if train companies dedicate a certain amount of trains and get certain lines that are specifically designed for food transportation, than I believe it will work. Looking at your math I was a bit confused but when I looked at the final numbers it all made sense. The calculating of how much fuel the trucks and trains use also helped with you proposal. The numbers put everything into perspective and allowed readers to understand why action needs to be taken.

  6. Kelsey Carroll says:

    I enjoyed reading this because it was something I’ve never really thought about before. So, reading an in-depth analysis that explained things was really cool. Overall, your calculations show that using trains to transport food would be more beneficial. It’s a shame that there aren’t enough railways to distribute the food. I understand why that is though because New York is already such a crowded place. For example, the buildings, so many people, trains that bring people into the city etc. It would be difficult, very difficult, to have trains that were only for food transportation. Even though it’d be more beneficial, not just pertaining to costs, but also environmentally friendly.

  7. Liz Molek says:

    This is a very interesting topic. With New York City being one of the most populated cities in the world, most of us never even think about where all of the food comes from let alone how that food is transported. Trucks would be the best fit for efficient and fast delivery, simply because they can drive directly to the distributor/ sight, trains use less fossil fuels and should be used more, according to your write and respond draft. Trains would be a great alternative to reducing these emissions yet how could new york possibly set in place a system where a train could deliver all of the pounds of foods to the stores and restaurants per day. Overall this is a great article and really makes one think about the energy used to obtain our food.

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