Imagining the Curb Zones of the Not So Distant Future

Five panelists discussed the future of curbside parking and agree that there are technological and financial incentives to change priorities for these spaces.

2 minute read

November 6, 2020, 6:00 AM PST

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery

Outdoor Dining

James Kirkikis / Shutterstock

A panel of transportation and logistics experts at the Vision Zero Cities Conference by Transportation Alternatives predicted continued and long-lasting changes in the way curbs, sidewalks, and curbside parking spaces are organized, managed, and prioritized. Since the incremental reopening of restaurants and other amenities since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, space formerly dedicated to private vehicles is increasingly finding alternative uses.

But we have more than the coronavirus to thank for these shifting behaviors and innovations in the use of parking spaces. "That hopeful future might seem like a far-off dream for those who have sat through interminable community-board meetings where people have fought over the last inch of parking. But it’s probably achievable in the next 10 to 15 years — because technology and financial incentives will drive it," writes Eve Kessler, describing the panelists' insights. 

Dynamic usage for curbside usage, according to the five panelists, will also make streets safer by reducing instances of vehicles stopping in bike lanes. The speakers heightened that technology could help drivers identify parking and avoid similarly dangerous situations. "Dawn Miller, head of policy and partnerships at the data firm Coord, said that mobile apps would soon direct deliverers — not just those in trucks, but also those in smaller vehicles — to available spaces in the last mile before a stop. Such precision would help eliminate hazards like parking in bike or bus lanes," reports Kessler. 

Discussion about pricing for curb space is ongoing. Large delivery companies and small businesses alike stand to benefit from priced curb zones. "Pricing the curb would entail a balancing act for different users, the panelists agreed. Persons with disabilities, for example, should have complimentary access," Kessler writes.

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