COVID-19 & the Curb: Private Sector Works to Adapt and Offer Creative Solutions

A woman in a medical mask and gloves hangs a "curbside pickup" sign.
Image: Downtown Santa Monica Inc.

This post is part of a special series on curb management and COVID-19. A joint effort of International Parking and Mobility Institute (IPMI), Transportation for America, and Institute of Transportation Engineer’s Complete Streets Council, this series strives to document the immediate curbside-related actions and responses to COVID-19, as well as create a knowledge base of strategies that communities can use to manage the curbside during future emergencies.

By Mae Hanzlik

Flexible curbside management is a small, but key, piece of many cities’ response to COVID-19. Often, these efforts have been supported or made possible with the support and technology of private-sector partners. Transportation for America reached out to its Smart Cities Collaborative sponsors to hear how they’re responding to COVID-19 and working with jurisdictions to adapt curbside management.

Adapting their platforms and launching new tools

To accommodate increased food takeout and deliveries, Coord, a curbside management software company, is offering their platform at no cost for 90 days to cities in its coverage area. Coord also worked with existing city customers who were identifying locations for temporary loading zones and fast-tracked specific feature requests.

Downtown Santa Monica Inc. (DTSM), a business improvement nonprofit in Santa Monica, Calif., used Coord’s data collection and analysis to help them quickly stand up a program where essential businesses could temporarily convert metered parking into short-term loading. “[We] were looking for any opportunity to support our district businesses during the COVID-19 crisis,” Benjamin DeWitte, DTSM’s research and data manager, shared with us. “Our prior research into curb usage, driven by COORD data collection and analysis, indicated that a shift from metered parking to short-term loading could positively impact access and efficiency for those who rely on delivery and take out business.”

Populus, whose data platform helps cities manage their curbs, streets, and sidewalks, is working with their existing city customers to provide digital solutions that support “Open Streets” and “Slow Streets”. They’re also inviting cities and agencies to apply to their Open Streets Initiative where they’ll partner with a handful of cities on implementing dynamic street policies and provide them with complimentary access to their Street Manager platform. The deadline to apply is May 15.

Lacuna, a transportation technology company, is launching a dynamic curb reservation system in May that allows cities to remotely allocate sections of curb in real-time to accommodate deliveries of food, freight, and other essential supplies.

Establishing internal teams to work directly with cities

Uber has put together an internal team that’s dedicated to working with cities and stakeholders to ensure safe access points for trips to essential places like hospitals, grocery stores, and pharmacies. They are also reaching out to cities to learn how they can best support city efforts to ensure adequate space for social distancing, offering the use of geofencing and in-app routing changes to support car-free streets.

Preparing for the future

A number of companies are starting to think about what the world may look like post-COVID. Passport, a parking and mobility software company, is starting virtual conversations through its webinars on the future of the mobility industry and the equity impacts of cashless payments.

Strong public and private partnerships are key to emergency response. We hope to continue to see the private sector work alongside municipalities to offer support and transformative tech solutions.

Mae Hanzlik is a program manager for Transportation for America in Washington, D.C.