9 Ways Curb Data Can Help Enhance The Parking and Mobility Experience

July 21, 2021
By Ralf Quellmalz

For a long time, cities have devoted their curbside to private vehicle parking. However, it’s no longer enough for curbsides to be directed towards private vehicles only. Today’s evolving society requires cities to adapt their curbside to meet the needs of the community better. The reality is that cities’ curbsides have the potential to make both people and businesses’ lives easier, safer, and more sustainable. 

Mobility, especially around urban landscapes, requires curbsides to be dynamic. They need to be flexible enough to meet the community’s needs in real-time. For this to happen, cities need to gather curb data to then make decisions based on what the circumstances actually require.

Suppose big events such as concerts, sports games, conferences, or rallies are taking place in cities. In that case, the curbside should adapt to ease traffic congestion around the area and mobilize drivers and ride-sharing apps accordingly. Yet, how would any of these be possible without first having a precise inventory of curb data, a transparent visual guide to direct drivers, and an integrated communication system?

How Curb Data can enhance the parking and mobility experience, curb management

Current Challenges of the Curbside

When curbsides are inflexible and remain the same regardless of what’s happening in the community around them or regardless of what the current needs for them are, both pedestrians, drivers, and businesses suffer from it.

It’s not uncommon today to see the following issues due to people’s lack of understanding of how to interact with the curb appropriately:

Double Parking: It’s common to see drivers illegally park next to a legally parked vehicle. When this happens, it’s doesn’t only make it impossible for the legally parked vehicle to leave, but it also leads to congestion within its surrounding area. At the same time, the illegally parked vehicle might receive a parking fine or see their vehicle be towed. 

Unsafe Drop-off: Every driver looking to drop off a passenger has the same goal: to drop the passenger off as near as possible to the passenger’s desired final destination. Yet, by doing so, drivers often end up stopping their cars in either illegal or unsafe stopping areas. All of which can lead to traffic accidents as well as personal accidents to the person being dropped off. Unsafe drop-offs can easily be prevented through a better understanding of the curb. 

Unsafe Package/Freight Deliveries: It’s not only drivers that tend to drop passengers off in unsafe or illegal areas - the same happens every day with freight and package delivery drivers. When delivery truck drivers stop in restricted or unsafe areas, they are not only causing congestion around the curb, they are also putting delivery workers at risk. As the e-commerce industry continues to boom, this issue will only worsen unless curb data is gathered.  

Ride-sharing apps struggling: Have you ever been to a big event, whether that’s a sports game, concert, or simply to a highly congested area, and tried ordering an Uber from it? How easy was it? And how happy or unhappy you were with the experience? It probably happened to you too that not even the app could guide you to a proper pick-up place due to the event. It’s not only pedestrians and businesses that struggle when there’s a lack of curbside data interpretation; it’s also ride-sharing apps, their customers, and drivers. 

Pollution: When curbsides remain analog, static, and inflexible, what ends up happening is that drivers spend an unnecessary amount of time cruising in search of parking and pick-up/drop-off spots. It’s not only that curbside supply doesn’t meet people’s demand for it, but it also makes people waste their time - all of which leads to unnecessary pollution created from the extra driving hours that keep on accumulating. If the public could know what their parking options are in real-time, before arriving at their destination, this could all easily be avoided.    

Parking Fines: All of the examples mentioned above have one thing in common: they can all lead to drivers, delivery trucks, and ride-sharing companies being fined for their actions that, in most cases, they aren’t even aware of their wrongdoing. It’s a lack of visibility and understanding of the curbside that’s having a domino effect on them all. Maybe, maybe city officials have an understanding of how their curbside works, but what about the rest of us?

A parking fine due to double parking, unsafe passenger drop off, and unsafe package delivery
A lack of understanding of the curb typically leads to parking fines that leave people and businesses feeling confused about.

The Curb is Prime Real Estate: It’s Time to Take it Seriously 

The curb is a precious resource in practically every city and town worldwide, with several competing uses. Ride-hailing services, buses, trucks, taxis, private shuttles, personal automobiles, walkers, bikers, micro-mobility sharing services, delivery services, restaurants, shops, workplaces, and residences all want a piece of the curb. 

Both public and private transit services require a safe waiting area on the curb for passengers waiting for the bus, and curb access for those with disabilities. According to the public works department, the curb is also needed for street lighting, utility conduits, signs, traffic signal controllers, stormwater drainage, and temporary snow storage. Emergency responders (police, fire, and ambulance), for instance, require a location to securely enforce the car code and get entry to homes and businesses.

City roads meet their full potential when stakeholders who work with curbs have the necessary tools and information. 

More productive curbsides, in other words, make communities more livable for people. If cities start focusing on bettering the curbside, there are endless opportunities! We’ve compiled the ten most powerful ways curb data can enhance the parking and mobility experience. 

1. Curb data can help ease traffic congestion.

Consider the following event that you see every day in a large city: a ride-share user wants to be picked up where they are standing, they don’t care (or most likely, realize) that they are standing in a bus zone. 

Their driver seeks out curb space as close as possible to the pick-up/drop-off location. The driver stops in the street and turns on their warning lights. Drivers behind attempt to move around the stopped vehicle; some larger vehicles, such as delivery trucks, cannot do this and slam on the horn, believing that this will magically clear the barrier. (If the roadway is two-way, vehicles may aggressively cut into the other lane to pass the car before incoming traffic blocks off their opportunity, posing an even greater risk.) To get to or from the vehicle, passengers must enter the street.

Delivery trucks are frequently the culprits in this case since they obstruct traffic for the duration of their drop-off period—putting their employees at risk. These challenges can compound when they occur on busy or congested streets, slowing traffic and posing possible safety concerns in all directions. Many delivery firms now incorporate the cost of tickets in their budgets as a result of this. 

A simple yet powerful solution would be to gather, analyze, and publicly share curb data. Ride-share and delivery vehicles would always have a place to pull over close to the curb, allowing passengers to exit straight onto the sidewalk and preventing delivery employees from pushing their dollies into flowing traffic. Knowledge of curb data can assist cities in addressing safety issues, as it would enable municipalities to allocate curb assets more efficiently.

Overlaying curb data with occupancy data (how long and where vehicles have been stopped or parked) is also a decisive step. Overcrowded areas already face parking battles from the myriad of cars cruising the area. City planners may use both these types of curb data to distribute the appropriate number of parking spaces for cars, scooters, freight, and bicycles and build a dynamic curb that reflects curbside supply and demand throughout the day, making mobility more accessible and efficient

It is a simple way that curb data can help enhance the parking experience. Even more so, if drivers knew where their parking options were (both restrictions and occupancy), they would not need to circle the streets looking for their spot.

Traffic congestion can be avoided through the use of curbside data
We've all been there - and we know how it feels. Curb data can help smooth traffic.

2. For businesses, curb data can increase on-time deliveries and prevent parking fines.

In this day of e-commerce and fast deliveries, it’s critical to have suitable loading and delivery zones in place to ensure on-time deliveries. Delivery route optimization can help businesses differentiate themselves by providing faster delivery times while reducing parking infractions. 

With quick access to curb data, delivery drivers would be able to easily distinguish between loading zones, which would reduce the chances of a fine.

Regardless of the type of vehicle involved, double-parking poses a safety risk, especially when the user must exit the car. Rideshare apps and taxi drivers can use curb data to find safe places to pull over to the curb or, in some areas, dedicated drop-off spots. 

Not only would this lessen responsibility for drivers and their employers, but it will also make it easier and safer for passengers to identify and verify their rides.

3. Access to curb data keeps constituents informed.

Curb data can help all constituents interested in the curb gain support when city planners must make curbside modifications due to special events, construction, or other things taking place around cities. 

By enabling clear communication among local constituents such as businesses, residents, and visitors, city planners would be able to serve their community better. Everyone must be on the same page to coordinate mobility and curbside changes that would affect the neighborhood or surrounding area. 

4. Curb data can empower urban planning.

On a basic level, city officials often have to physically visit a site to check what the restrictions are at the site of proposed changes. A digital twin of the curb restriction data solves this problem and saves countless hours for city officials. 

Cities and private organizations can benefit from open access to curb data by making smarter decisions and utilizing shared resources more effectively. Improving parking space and the flow of traffic could be two of the potential outcomes. People circling around searching for parking can account for approximately 30% of congestion in cities, which causes unnecessary emissions.

Furthermore, data about curb assets can assist cities in more accurately estimating the potential revenue coming from parking and determining whether and how to price individual curbs. The ultimate goal for cities is for their curbs to become dynamic, responding in real-time to the community's requirements.

Curb data would allow cities to make data-driven decisions to ensure their productivity is maximized - whether it’s adjusting permit allocations, assisting new mobility options, dynamic pricing, or even leveraging meter revenue for social causes or community improvements. 

City planners must understand supply to balance competing requests for curbside space along the roadway. They can then assess how they allocate this space to make the most of it - enhancing drivers’ and pedestrians’ parking and mobility experience. 

A delivery truck driver dropping packages off in an unsafe area
Delivery truck drivers often stop in unsafe areas to drop packages off due to their lack of understanding of the curb.

5. Curb data can help regulate parking.

As many cities are preparing to adapt their landscapes for micro-mobility services (shared bikes, scooters, and mopeds), parking options should also adapt to these changes. 

Having real-time access to curb data can allow city planners to make more dynamic, data-driven decisions concerning people’s parking needs based on changing supply, demand, and transit patterns. 

6. People themselves would benefit from open access to curb data. 

For navigation, ridesharing, and parking payment services, private companies can generate curb regulation data. In the future, Autonomous vehicles, for instance, may require information about potential loading and parking areas. Providers of micro-mobility services must know where scooters, bikes, and other devices can be parked.

As a result, people living in cities would see their mobility experience enhanced. For them, having transparent access to real-time information as to how they can navigate, how much parking will cost them, and what are their micro-mobility options would enable them to assess which transportation method to take. 

If parking is free around their desired destination, they might decide to take their car. On the other hand, if they find parking too expensive or unavailable around their destination, they might opt to walk, use micromobility, take the bus, or order a ride-share. Having real-time access to curb data can empower people to make more informed decisions about getting to their desired destination.

7. Cities become more efficient and inclusive, when they have better curb data.

Even minor roadway adjustments, such as adding a bike rack, can take months to complete due to a lack of coordination between local authorities. Citizens may believe their government is inept or, even worse, that local officials don't care about them due to the lack of progress being made. 

When effectively integrated, a city's curb data, especially in a centralized digital system, can improve public openness and trust in government by enhancing collaboration among constituents. 

Other less obvious (but still significant) benefits are available to cities that digitize their curbside assets. Having digital displays of curbside assets can also make a city more inclusive by having designated drop-off zones with access to a curb ramp. This would allow going from the automobile to the curb considerably more accessible and safer for individuals with accessibility requirements.

8. Curb data improves the distribution of shared mobility services in a more focused manner.

At the moment, scooter-sharing services face many challenges. When customers complete their journey, they often leave their scooters in inconvenient places. As a result, some cities have placed restrictions on the use of scooters or even outright banned them. Many cities in the US still haven’t approved scooter-sharing services because of this. 

Access to curb data may be able to alleviate some of these issues. The City of Santa Monica constructed dedicated scooter parking zones after facing similar issues. To do so, they’ve analyzed curb data to identify the way people traveled on scooters. 

While the occasional irresponsible rider may still leave a scooter in the path of pedestrians, scooters have become an integral part of the city’s urban landscape. These modifications have also made life easier for scooter operators in the city, who now know where to park newly charged scooters, enhancing the mobility experience.

9. Curb data can help cities better adapt to temporary changes 

Data curb can also empower cities to navigate better the challenges that come with events happening within their urban landscapes by providing up-to-date information on temporary changes to curbside restrictions for events. 

By having a digital representation of the entire curb, cities can allow rideshare companies, for instance, information on road closures and changes that have been made (perhaps dedicated pickup points, etc.) for that event. More enhanced supervision and management of events happening within cities can empower drivers, pedestrians, and businesses to plan their journeys accordingly - enhancing the mobility and parking experience of all constituents. 

Smart city models can be achieved through curbside optimization
Curbside data can empower smart city models.

Cities can collect more accurate data and better engage with companies, residents, and visitors to improve people’s parking and mobility experience. By leveraging innovative technologies and collaborating with new technology partners, cities will be able to manage and adapt to the ever-changing nature of today’s mobility industry.

At Spot, we are committed to creating more efficient and effective cities through the use of curb data. We specialize in gathering, analyzing, and interpreting entire curbs’ data to empower city planners to make data-based decisions that would facilitate mobility, parking, and life itself, around urban areas.  

If you believe your city or community can benefit from digitizing its curbsides, don’t hesitate to contact us! We’d be thrilled to help you and your community make better use of their curbside assets.

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