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Next on the List for Data Startups: Managing Curb Space

The humble curb is getting crowded: not only with new modes of transportation, but also with a slew of new data tools aiming to keep track of it all.
April 13, 2019, 11am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Washington, D.C. Street

Andrew Small and Laura Bliss report on an increasingly active space: data platforms providing real-time information on how curbs are being used. They include Open Curbs, a tool from Sidewalk Labs spinoff Coord, "which pins the locations of wheelchair cuts, fire hydrants, bus stops, and other physical assets that define the curb to digital maps, available to anyone who's interested in using them."

The idea is to give public officials, mobility companies, and researchers a better picture of what's going on in a space that, according to Coord CEO Stephen Smyth, remains "relatively un-digitized." Many of these startups focus on the often-fraught nexus between new mobility companies and the public sector. For instance, a tool from data company Populus "gives cities access to parking data from e-scooters and e-bikes operated by private companies." Another, from transit data startup Remix, provides data visualization and analysis options.

On the public end, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation is experimenting with its own API that obtains real-time trip data from private scooter companies. This lets the city "understand where vehicles are distributed across the city, and to adjust and enforce regulations for private mobility companies directly through their apps."

While many see potential in smarter systems for curb management, Small and Bliss write that "the new, data-oriented products that aim to pave over conflicts at the curb are also raising new conflicts about privacy and governance of public space."

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Published on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 in CityLab
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