To say 2020 has been challenging for cities and communities would be an understatement. But these trying times have also highlighted our resilience. Cities and businesses across the country have demonstrated unparalleled creativity and energy. Public agencies and their partners are doing things differently to enable residents to get where they need to go safely and to connect businesses with their customers in new ways. Cities have pivoted quickly and made big impacts with limited resources. And it is in this context that we launch the second annual Digital Curb Challenge. Can we harness this moment to come back doing things even better than before? Can we do so even when budgets are limited?
Enter the Digital Curb Challenge 2021: Bounce Back Better Edition.
Today, we’re excited to announce the launch of our second annual Digital Curb Challenge and the opportunity for up to three cities or other curb managers across North America to partner with us to launch a free curb space management pilot program. As public agencies and their partners identify new ways to recover and make big impacts with limited resources and budgets, we are excited to partner with cities and other curb managers, such as universities, airports, private developments, health systems and conference centers, across North America to undertake a Smart Zone pilot program to digitally manage and operate curb space in their cities.
Building on the 2020 Digital Curb Challenge
As part of last year’s inaugural Digital Curb Challenge, we partnered with Aspen, Nashville, Omaha and West Palm Beach to launch the first-ever Smart Zone pilot programs in these cities to better manage commercial loading. For the uninitiated, Smart Zones are spaces along the curb cities digitally manage and operate. Today, they are dedicated to goods loading and unloading. Drivers use a mobile app to see real-time Smart Zone locations and availability. Drivers can hold a Smart Zone in advance of arrival at their destination, paying for space in-app when they arrive. This provides drivers with advanced curb intelligence they can use to navigate directly to available space, reducing illegal parking and circling. It provides cities with valuable data and tools to optimize their curb space to meet competing community needs.
The four Digital Curb Challenge pilot cities designed and launched (or are about to launch!) innovative new Smart Zone pilot programs even during the COVID-19 crisis, enabling us to learn together what the key components of a successful Smart Zone program are. These four cities learned from and supported one another in developing best practices, sharing lessons and findings along the way with Digital Curb Challenge Cohort Cities: Vancouver, BC, Baltimore, MD, Sarasota, FL, Bend, OR, Norwalk, CT, Fort Smith, AK, Halifax, NS, Portland, ME, Walnut Creek, CA, Las Vegas, NV, Bay Area Metro and Portland, OR. More than thirty fleets, including a mix of local and regional businesses and national brands such as US Foods, FedEx, Frito Lay, Sysco and UNFI, are already using Smart Zones in the pilot cities.
What’s New in 2021?
This year, we are looking for cities that build on the work of our first group of Digital Curb Challenge cities and are ready to take Smart Zones to the next level. For instance, we are looking for cities interested in Smart Zone programs that explore one or several of these features:
- Variable pricing to use different pricing for different times of day or different zones. This can help manage demand and improve availability for drivers, shifting more loading activity to times when it works well for the neighborhood (e.g., early mornings or overnight) or across more zones.
- Exploring greater automation, booking drivers automatically into the best available zone near their destinations.
- Deploying Smart Zones in spaces beyond the curb, such as alleyways.
- Exploring Smart Zones for recurring or predictable uses of street space, such as charter buses, intercity buses, or mobile vending.
- Applying Smart Zones in a unique neighborhood, downtown or other commercial setting.
- Ideas from cities!