When you think of the curb, what comes to mind first? Maybe it’s the bump you feel when you’re trying to parallel park and your back tire goes over it. Maybe it’s the bags of trash that accumulate on top of snow piles after a huge blizzard. Maybe it’s the weeks of frustration you spent teaching Fido to relieve himself properly.
We are releasing a Curbside Management blog series over the coming weeks. (Make sure you subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of this page to not miss out on the rest of the series.) Here are some of the high level topics our readers can expect to read more about:
The value of curbside real estate (this post)
Why cities should care about curb data
How curb data can support policy changes
When better curb data exits, cities run more efficiently & why
Why curb data benefits companies and individuals
The curb represents arguably the largest amount of government managed real estate in any given city, and out of necessity, cities have taken such a piecemeal approach to the curbside management. Only recently has the lowly curb become embraced as one of the most important—and overlooked—aspects of urban planning. And only more recently has technology progressed to a point where cities can actually have a holistic approach to their curbside management.
A major challenge is that many city agencies and utilities have an interest in the curb. These assets are much more than just parking signs: the Fire Department needs to know the location of hydrants; Sanitation has to pick up trash and maintain sewers; Parks might be responsible for trees; the electric company and water works have pipes beneath. Many of these agencies still rely on paper tracking, and even when they do have their assets mapped in electronic form, they usually aren’t interconnected with the maps of other stakeholders.
Much of this sudden awareness of the value of the curb is the result of simple supply and demand. In the early part of this century, if you wanted to get somewhere within a city, you had only a few options: taking public transit, hailing a taxi, owning a bike or dealing with a private car. Since then, the opportunities have expanded significantly, mostly driven by the proliferation of smartphones, including ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft, docked bike-share systems like New York’s Citi Bike, and dockless scooters and bikes.
It’s not just travel for individuals, either. Increased expectations of convenience have given rise to on-demand delivery systems like Amazon Prime Now and FreshDirect, which further compete for curb space. And as cities have begun to rethink options for mobility, they’ve devoted an increasing proportion of asphalt to non-car uses, like bike lanes and bus-only lanes.
But one thing has not changed, for the most part: the amount of curb space available. In fact, it’s effectively a fixed amount, since even if you were to widen existing roads—an approach that wouldn’t by itself address traffic issues, by the way—it would be difficult to add more curb space.
Because of this increased competition over the same amount of space, the value of curb space has risen. Unfortunately, most cities lack the ability to take advantage of this fact, whether it’s to increase parking revenue or to determine the best use for the curb. Looking at the demand for curb access, means that the curbs should serve more functions to more people at various times of the day, making the curbside more dynamic to the needs of everyone.
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