Jan 15, 2020

Empowering Cities with Scalable Curb Management

Stephen Smyth

CEO & Co-Founder

We're excited today to announce the Digital Curb Challenge, an opportunity for cities and curb managers across North America to partner with us to undertake a free curb space management pilot program in 2020. This is a significant milestone in our mission to help cities actively manage their streets, starting with the curb. Since our founding, we’ve envisioned a Digital Curb that is transparent, flexible, and productive. Transparent in that it can improve decision-making for users and officials. Flexible in that it can adapt to changing conditions in the short term, such as weather, traffic, and events, and changing modes in the medium term, like scooters and ride-hail. Productive in the sense that it can serve more people per unit length and time and, as public space, be priced equitably.

And this is really what the Digital Curb Challenge is designed to accelerate: moving from static and inflexible curb space towards more active and effective curb management based on real-time needs. After years of experience building solutions for curb data and curb analysis and meeting cities where they are, with the Digital Curb Challenge we now turn to improving curb access. Every city we talk to is at a different stage in their curb management journey and we are seeing more interest than ever before in experimenting with providing access to new, post-parking curb uses.

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We’re seeing this momentum in other countries like Ireland where our platform is already being used to support a virtual loading zone pilot in the capital Dublin. In that initiative, Coord is being used to inventory pilot area curb space, identify and allocate appropriate space to virtual loading zones, and communicate via API the virtual loading zone locations and restrictions (i.e., vehicle type, time of day, day of week, time limit). By launching this Challenge, we’re excited to offer these kinds of programs in North America.

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Although you may not think of it in this way, there are already transactions happening along the curb today. For instance, there are parking meters, parking tickets, and permits for construction vehicles and residents. In cities there is already a precedent for paying to access the curb. And  as new mobility modes, micro-mobility options, and growing demands for commercial deliveries transform how we use our curbs, we see that cities must expand and improve how they charge to access the curb. 

Growing fleets also require better curb management. No longer is it just your personal car vying for curb space, but ride-hail companies like Lyft and Uber, and logistics companies like UPS and Amazon. More and more, trips to move people and goods are handled by fleets. Coord provides cities with the tools they need to actively manage the curb in a way that is scalable, comprehensive, and effective. We are excited to expand access to the curb.

People often ask me why we started with curbs. We didn’t. We started the company in 2016 with the idea that streets should serve people - not vehicles. We initially tested a number of product ideas for curbs, off-street parking, and tollways, but quickly realized that how a city manages its curb is one of its most powerful tools to improve mobility, safety, and sustainability. As the literal intersection of transportation and land use, curbs are the starting point for transforming and managing our streets. Yet, many cities haven’t used the curb to its greatest potential.

In fact, when we started our journey four years ago, we quickly realized that most cities do not even have an up-to-date, let alone digital, record of the location of their curb and how it is managed. So, we decided to build a tool to help cities do just that. We invented a new method called Coord Collector that uses augmented reality to quickly and accurately map curb features like parking signs, curb cuts, and fire hydrants at minimal cost. The Coord tool assembles this data  to automatically produce a detailed and accurate map of the underlying curb rules. The result? A digital curb map at your fingertips! This is helpful for city transportation planners and curb managers. 

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Assembling curb data is a crucial first step. But sharing that data is necessary to help cities, mobility providers and fleets make more informed decisions that benefit citizens, customers, and businesses. 

Using curb data aggregated and normalized from the New York and Seattle open data portals and gathered with Coord Collector in San Francisco and Los Angeles, in February 2018 we released the Coord API. This enables mobility companies and fleets to incorporate comprehensive curb regulation data into their day-to-day operations for smoother, safer, and more efficient performance. Companies that operate vehicle fleets, for example, can partner with Coord to help improve efficiency and customer satisfaction by taking the mystery out of where and when vehicles should — and are allowed to — park, pick up or drop off. Scheduling trips based on our information means they will put up with less traffic, less time hunting for a place to stop, and fewer parking tickets.

On the  foundation of accurate curb data, we then enabled the next crucial step in complete curb management: analysis. In May 2019 we introduced the Coord analytics tool, the first-ever data tool designed specifically for curbs to facilitate analysis and informed decision making. Coord presents both curb assets and curb regulations through a highly visual interactive map, along with tools to help curb managers at city agencies more easily see the effect curbs have on their city’s mobility. By offering a simple way to view, analyze, and interpret curb features and regulations exactly as they are in each metro area, Coord empowers cities to make informed decisions and recommendations that maximize social benefits, as Seattle does with its curb use priorities

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Once you have allocated (or more precisely reallocated) curb space, you often need to price it. Cities like our customer the City of Seattle annually reprice curbside parking as part of their Performance-Based Parking Pricing Program to achieve an occupancy goal of 1 to 2 spaces available per block. The goal is to make it easier for visitors and shoppers to find a spot and reduce circling for parking and congestion. A program like this requires accurate curb-by-curb parking capacity data combined with granular occupancy data to determine how to change pricing to meet policy goals. Coord helps cities streamline these kinds of analyses.

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With the help of of our engineering firm partners like AECOM, Kimley-Horn, Sam Schwartz, and Stantec, Coord now supports curbs in 15 cities across North America, including: San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Austin, Miami, Philadelphia, San Diego, Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver and Vancouver. We look forward to building on this and empowering cities to actively manage their curbs with our inaugural Digital Curb Challenge.

 

Looking ahead

It is hard to identify an aspect of city life that doesn't touch the curb -- whether cars and bikes, businesses and homes, ride-hail and delivery trucks, and more. This is why we're so excited about providing cities the most comprehensive and effective curb management tools that combine data, analytics, and transactions.

Working with public and private stakeholders, we are building the tools to help cities design and manage policies to reduce congestion, encourage sustainable modes like transit and active transportation, and enable us to get ourselves, our families, and our stuff from A to B seamlessly. Improving curb management will improve quality of life for millions of people around the world.

Our standard-setting curb management tools are only the first of the tools and services we will develop. Our objective is to help cities inventory, allocate, price, and operate the entire public right of way from the center traffic lane to a building’s front door. And, with a goal of supporting a hundred cities by 2021, this is just the beginning. We hope you come along for the ride.

If you, your city or your company are interested in Coord, please email us at partners@coord.com. You can also request a demo here, and you can keep up with our progress on the blog.

Stephen Smyth

CEO & Co-Founder

Stephen is Coord’s co-founder and CEO. An engineer by training, Stephen has over 15 years experience at early-stage and established companies such as Prosper, Amplify and Reuters. He started his career in mobility at BMW in Germany, writing software for crash and robotics simulations. When not at work, he enjoys taking his bike for a spin in Central Park and exploring New York City with his kids.