As recently as several years ago, managing the curb meant ensuring parking rules were followed, bus stops were clear for your mass transit system, and delivery trucks were in the proper loading and unloading zone. A municipal agency only had to coordinate with the transit agency on bus schedules, decide on parking fees and times, and coordinate with the police or the parking enforcement to ensure the rules were followed.
With the growth of ride share services, bike share, scooters, Amazon Prime delivery, and food delivery services, among other things, the demand for the curb has exploded. In addition, many municipalities have been working to implement more sustainable alternative transportation options with the introduction of mass transit, bus lanes, and bike lanes. This has created the need for tools and policies to better manage and allocate use of a valuable municipal asset — the curb.
What Exactly Is the Curb, And How Do You Manage It?
The curb can be defined as any typical street curb in a municipality where vehicular traffic mixes with stationary traffic and pedestrian traffic. It can also be a high traffic area such as an airport arrival and departure area or a stadium or theatre entrance/exit where lots of vehicles and people are transitioning in a small area.
Curb Management is the collection of operating concepts, techniques, and practices that enable a municipality, university, or any other entity to effectively allocate the use of their curbs and other high demand areas to users. While the curb has been managed for decades, in the last ten years it has become more crowded as new users and alternative transportation services require access to it.
This demand for access is overloading the curb. This increase in demand highlights several points municipalities need to consider regarding the curb, including:
- Not all curb uses are currently regulated.
- The curb has value, but the value is not always collected from all curb users.
- Validating authorized versus non-authorized access to the curb is a challenge.
- Operationally communicating and enforcing the regulations to the various curb users is important.
Addressing these points will identify conflicting policies that impact access to the curb and price differentials that create unintended consequences of use (and misuse) of the curb by specific users.
The ability to manage a resource effectively requires an understanding of the resource in the first place. In the case of the curb, understanding the resource means mapping the curb (or high demand area), inventorying the users, and identifying value and trade-off propositions.
Mapping the Curb
Mapping the curb is essential to launch any effort to manage it. An effective program starts with collecting an inventory of its curb (high demand areas) and understanding how the curb is currently being used. The inventory includes collecting the following information:
- Actual location of the curb areas
- Current regulations applied to the curb (no parking zone, loading zone, bus stop, fire hydrants, parking areas, etc.)
- Signage that exists and the message on each sign (no parking, parking restrictions, loading zone, delivery zone, no standing, etc.)
- Existing fixtures (meters, cameras, bus stops shelters, bike lanes, scooter corrals, etc.)
- Existing uses (bike stations, parklets, sidewalk cafe permits, etc.)
Inventory the Users
Just as a municipality needs to inventory its curb, it also needs to inventory its users. More specifically, the current users and the future desired users of the curb. Users can be categorized into several types as shown below:
Source: Institute of Transportation Engineers
As user types are identified, a municipality will want to understand how each user type impacts access to the curb. Does the user type need a large section of the curb (i.e. food truck vs. delivery zone)? Do they use the curb for a long time in each visit (i.e. park a car vs. passenger loading area)? When do they need access? Does their use create safety hazards for others?
Identifying Value and Trade-off Propositions
The goal of a curb management program is to effectively and efficiently provide access to the identified users, who access the specific curb areas using different modes of transportation. Identifying these combinations will help the program achieve its ultimate purpose, which is to distribute curb access while considering the value/trade-off for each combination of user/mode/area.
As an example, a delivery service that wants to use a specific curb on a busy street during rush hour may not be permitted to do so, as it will impede traffic flow. Or, if the delivery service were permitted to perform delivery services on the busy street, a specific area may be defined to minimize impact to traffic flow while charging the delivery service a premium fee for that access. However, if the delivery service were to use a side street, one block away from the busy street, the fees for access might be much less or eliminated altogether.
Similarly, a person parking all day in an area where high parking turnover is desired will likely have to consider the cost of staying too long at the risk of paying exorbitant fees, which could include a large increase in parking fees or violation fees. The intent of the high cost is to dissuade the person from staying longer than the desired parking objectives.