Curbside management demands are rapidly changing. Traditional metered parking systems are not equipped to manage the growing demand for conventional and emerging roadway uses. Simultaneously, the widespread adoption of Transportation Network Company (TNC) services such as Uber and Lyft has induced excess demand for short-term access to the curb for loading and unloading. Passenger loading zones in existence today are not abundant enough to manage these increasing curbside access demands. Alternative mobility options such as e-scooters are flooding the market giving users more transportation choices than ever and forcing cities across the US to react with the proper regulations to ensure broader goals of safety, equity, and mobility. Cities need to simultaneously think of the best solutions for today while also remaining flexible to technologies of tomorrow such as Microtransit services and Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs) adoption.
Curbs act as the interface between mobility and accessibility. With so many diverse demands in such a constrained space, it’s no surprise that the current industry standards for curbside management are outdated and underperforming. Numerous problems exist today, including: excess demand for curbspace leading to increased congestion from vehicles circling for available parking, inefficiencies of rigid curbside zoning, and safety concerns due to improper use.
AECOM is building Flex Zones: a digital curbside management system enabling municipalities streamlined control over their most in-demand asset and align curb use with the particular priorities and needs of the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI).
Dynamic signage/embedded lights will inform drivers of available spaces/current prices. Drivers will be informed of available parking locations and real-time pricing when entering a street segment through signage and LED lights along the curb and between travel lanes. Payment would be processed through either a mobile application or through license plate recognition hardware. Drivers could preregister their vehicles for a seamless experience.
Sensors collect occupancy and usage data to optimize the streetscape in real-time to meet current mobility demands. Ride-sharing passenger loading would occur in designated areas, safely clearing the way for pedestrians, cyclists, and scooters while reducing traffic congestion; these zones can be expanded during peak hours when curbside demand is highest and person throughput should be prioritized.
Demand-based pricing could be implemented to “right-price” the curb in high density areas and facilitate a desired average occupancy rate, which could be adjusted regularly by individual block (or whatever granularity the operator desires). This would also allow the ability to generate new short-term loading space revenue (both by potentially charging for commercial loading spaces and adding passenger loading zones to improve traffic flow and safety).
Fixed-use curbside zones would be eliminated to allow for the highest and best use for that space (which can vary in real-time). Automated enforcement could be implemented to help reduce enforcement costs while increasing curbside revenue. A major component of this digital curbspace system would be designating space for passenger loading zones to be used by TNC vehicles for safely and efficiently loading/unloading passengers. A TNC driver would be directed to a specific curb-side zone (typically at the beginning/end of streets) in order to not block traffic behind it, and the passenger would also be notified to walk to their pickup zone (similar to existing implementation of TNC zones at most airports).
Flex Zones: A solution for today, with tomorrow in mind.