It’s been a busy few months at Coord! As part of our initiative to build out our Open Curbs database as well as augment our Curbs API with curb data from additional cities, I’ve been running point on setting up curb surveys across the U.S. As any traveler knows, every city has its own charm, something that makes it extraordinary and differentiates it from even its closest neighbor. It comes as no surprise then that this uniqueness carries all the way down to the curb and how cities have come to regulate it.
After my first stop in San Diego, I was soon on another plane, this time to Austin, Texas, the land of live music, breakfast tacos, Texas two-step, and a whole host of curb (ir)regularities. After a great experience working with Kimley-Horn in SoCal, we again partnered with them to manage our surveying teams as they captured curb data.
The first thing that stood out about Austin’s curbs was how many of them were blocked by construction fencing! Austin is building a slew of high-rises throughout the downtown area. This meant that a lot of curbs were inaccessible for surveying. It also presents an exciting opportunity for city planners; there will be a lot of decisions to make in the coming months and years about what the new curb regulations will be post-construction.
Austin has adopted a unique curb stencil convention: vertical stencils. Instead of putting the lettering on the top of the curb edge, as San Diego does, it’s actually on the vertical face of the curb, meaning car wheels readily block it.
This made surveying these features hard, but it’s even worse if you’re trying to park at one of the 10,000 ft.+ of curbs with curb stencils and you’ve inadvertently blocked the regulation that applies to you!
Austin’s curbs aren’t always made of cement. The moment you leave the main business and commercial corridors, there’s a chance you will encounter streets where the asphalt melds right into dirt or grass on the shoulder. These dirt curbs still have parking signage and are regulated similarly to their cement counterparts, but it provides a unique country feel to an otherwise urban Texas city.
Austin is full of murals and public art! It made for some striking backdrops while capturing curb regulation data.
Bikes and scooters
It doesn’t take walking too many curb miles to notice that Austin has committed to replacing a number of on-street parking spots with bike racks (59 parking spaces in total, based on our analysis), of both the bike-share and non-bike-share variety.
Also, I didn’t think it was possible, but Austin seemed to have even more scooters per square curb foot than San Diego. Anecdotally, usage also seemed to be higher, especially at night, when it wasn’t uncommon to see a group of friends heading out to Sixth Street in a flying V formation.
Sights and sounds and food
When visiting a city, I always prefer to stay in a flat or rental over a hotel, if possible. “Keep Austin Weird” is the city’s unofficial motto and the rental offerings don’t disappoint. I ended up staying in this upgraded camper.
It made me think a lot about how much space I actually need to be comfortable and live; the highlight was the outdoor shower next to the chicken coop.