Tag Archives: congestion

WSJ: Curb Space is the New Gridlock

Delivery truck on curb in city“Curb management” isn’t a new term for members of the parking and mobility profession, but it is hitting consumer media outlets for the first time. The Wall Street Journal this weekend called the space along the curb “new gridlock in America,” and outlined why delivery trucks in particular are contributing to city congestion and what those companies are trying to do about it.

“Simply put, the curb today in most American cities is overwhelmingly devoted to single-occupancy personal-vehicle parking, which is simply unsustainable,” the piece quotes a UPS spokesman as saying. It discusses recent curb management pilot programs in several cities along with steps delivery companies are taking–including bike-powered deliveries, locker pickups, and simple truck consolidation–to help manage congestion at the curb.

Read the whole story here.

Is Manhattan Ready to End Free Parking?

Ninety-five percent of on-street parking spaces in New York City are free to use. Because the city has lost a good amount of spaces to bike and bus lanes in recent years, more cars are circling looking for those spots, increasing congestion and frustration. But a proposal to make on-street parking paid has sparked more than its share of controversy in Manhattan.

The New York Times estimates there are 3 million free, on-street parking spaces in the city. And while some lawmakers say making those spots paid would help reduce congestion and keep people moving more efficiently, drivers say adding payment to the recent loss of spaces targets them unfairly.

Will NYC embrace paid parking? Read the whole story here.

Miles and Miles and Miles

By Casey Jones, CAPP

I’m sorry, but I just don’t love holiday shopping. Don’t get me wrong–I love nearly everything else about the season from finding and decorating a tree to celebrating with family and friends. It’s just that the shopping thing seems to get crazier each year and I dread fighting through mobs of fellow shoppers who are just as possessed as I am in their search for the perfect gift. Thankfully I am able to do much of my shopping online and I set out each year to complete all of my purchases that way.

E-commerce offers many benefits and retailers and their shippers are responding to our collective demand for immediate and ultra-convenient customer service. The cost of this convenience is additional congestion and miles traveled by shippers. Indeed, a recent study by KPMG projects e-commerce to displace between 30 and 50 percent of total shopping trips by 2040. This shift will result in between 23 and 78 billion more delivery vehicle miles traveled (VMT), representing between .7 and 2.4 percent of total current VMT. The increase in shipper VMT might be okay if shoppers forgo any travel and take advantage of home delivery. But the recent decade-long trend in VMT suggests that while we might be driving less to shop, we are driving more for other reasons. U.S. VMT in 2017 stood at 3.2 trillion miles–up 200 billion from 2007.

As with any innovation, there are bound to be unintended consequences, and additional miles traveled and associated traffic congestion that appear to be byproducts of an e-commerce era are worth addressing.

Casey Jones, CAPP, is senior parking & mobility planner with DESMAN.

Time to Consider Non-city Transportation Issues

By Courtney Turner

I hate driving. Aside from emptying the dishwasher and folding clothes, it’s my least favorite thing to do. However, I’m finding that I spend more time in my car than anywhere else–and I’m not even commuting for work.

Because my kids aren’t eligible to ride one of the 43 buses that serve their high school, I spend 45 minutes to an hour round trip every morning to travel 12 (total) miles to get them to school and then get myself back home. It takes me another 45 minutes in the afternoon to pick them up; this time, the time suck is not due so much to crazy traffic but rather the lack of well-thought-out after school pick up procedures to allow for the departure of above-mentioned 43 buses coupled with hundreds of cars all trying to use the same egress (the result is a complete logistical nightmare and it is really only a matter of time before an angry parent decides griping on Facebook isn’t enough and takes matters into his or her own hands). Once I get everyone picked up from school, we head home and, less than an hour later, it’s time to run the baseball shuttle, which could include an hour drive north or south in rush hour traffic for a game or a 45-minute trip back to the high school for practice.

Writing this, I realize that I don’t hate driving in and of itself. I hate driving because I don’t have any other options. I used to love to drive–windows down, music blaring, cruising along. I did my best thinking while driving. Unfortunately, my current reality is windows up to drown out the blaring horns, I can’t hear my music, and I’m constantly seeing red thanks to the glare of brake lights from the gridlocked traffic all around me. The only deep thoughts going through my head center on whether or not my current situation is good for my blood pressure. While my husband can take a bus and then Metro to work, relaxing the entire time, I don’t have that same luxury. As a result, I’ve become resentful of having to spend so much time in the car simply because other options aren’t available in my area.

The Metro and buses do a great job of getting people into and out of the city every day, but it’s time to focus on the transportation issues that arise when neighborhoods and schools are overcrowded. I, for one, would like to hear my music and enjoy driving again.

Courtney Turner is IPMI’s member engagement and special projects manager.

Stop Treating the Symptoms: Curing Traffic Congestion at the Source

By Juan Rodriguez

CONGESTION IS A PROBLEM that routinely plagues cities worldwide. The threats it poses Symptoms Cure Traffic Congestionto society are immense: chronic pollution, crumbling infrastructures, and low quality of life. As major cities search for solutions, they often turn to tactics such as congestion pricing and curbside management—programs that can produce positive results but only treat symptoms of the problem. To cure congestion at the source, cities need to turn to dynamic mobility ecosystem hubs that manage their sources by connecting people with alternate solutions.

Congestion Control through Pricing

London, England, is one of the world’s pioneers in using congestion pricing, which requires motorists to pay fees to drive into the center of the city during busy periods. London implemented congestion pricing in 2002 with the goals of reducing traffic volumes, improving bus ser­vices, and making the delivery of goods and services more efficient. And it has worked.

In 2006, Transport for London (TfL), the government agency respon­sible for the city’s transportation system, found that the surcharge re­duced traffic by 15 percent and congestion—which it defines as the extra time a trip would take because of traffic—by 30 percent. The TfL reports these trends continue today, with traffic volumes down nearly 25 percent compared to a decade ago. That has enabled it to open more dedicated road space for bicyclists and pedestrians.

However, congestion remains a problem due to a number of factors, including one city officials could not have anticipated back in 2002: the influx of transportation network company (TNC) drivers using their cars to work for companies such as Uber and Lyft.
The Conversation news site reports that while the number of cars driven by their owners has fallen, the number of private for-hire vehicles such as TNCs and minicabs is up. Trips by taxis and private for-hire vehicles as the main mode of transportation have increased by nearly 30 percent since the surcharge was implemented. Today, more than 18,000 different private for-hire vehicles enter the congestion charging zone each day, reducing the speed of traffic through the city.

The ripple effects include traffic jams, slower bus service, and falling revenue. Taxis and minicabs (but not TNC vehicles) are exempt from paying the congestion charge, so, not surprisingly, the number of minicab registrations rose quickly—from 49,854 in 2013 to 87,409 in 2017. Last year, TfL experienced its first drop in congestion charge in­come since 2010.

New York lawmakers are evaluating the pros and cons of the London case study as they prepare to make New York City the first U.S. city to implement congestion pricing. Assuming its scheduled December 2020 rollout is not delayed, motorists will pay a toll of around $12 to drive between midtown and lower Manhattan.
The plan passed as part of the state budget earlier this year, but some lawmakers, business owners, community activists, and residents are pushing for a number of exemptions. They see the mandatory surcharge as being akin to a regressive tax that imposes an unfair financial burden on the lower and middle classes, who typically don’t live in the city and have no choice but to make the daily commute.

The plan currently exempts “conges­tion zone” residents who earn less than $60,000 a year, as well as emergency vehicles and vehicles carrying people with disabilities. Other proposals want to extend exemptions to all New York resi­dents, any police officers who drive their personal vehicles into the city, and all electric vehicles.

Whatever the final version of the plan looks like when (or if) it is implemented, the fight for exemptions will continue, the reduction of traffic congestion will be minimal, and the city will face the same issues of lost government revenue London is deal­ing with now.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll found New Yorkers op­pose the congestion pricing plan by a 54 to 41 percent margin. If a majority of New Yorkers are unhappy with the prospect of having to pay extra money to drive their cars, just imagine how they might react to a policy that prohibits them from driving their cars at all.

No-drive Days
That’s the model Mexico City officials created when they imple­mented a “No Drive Day” program. Each weekday is reserved only for cars with specific license plate numbers and letters. The written policy states:

  • Monday: no driving if license plate ends with 5 or 6.
  • Tuesday: no driving if license plate ends with 7 or 8.
  • Wednesday: no driving if license plate ends with 3 or 4.
  • Thursday: no driving if license plate ends with 1 or 2.
  • Friday: no driving if license plate ends with 9, 0, or a letter.

Of course, there are exemptions and exceptions to these rules, particularly for foreigners and Mexican residents who live outside Mexico City. Take this example of a vehicle with Texas license plates that end with the digit 3:

“Thus under the rules above from Monday to Friday, they can­not drive between 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. However, on Wednesday, they have the additional restriction that they cannot drive between 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. The only way they can get around this is to obtain a 0 or 00 sticker should their vehicle be eight years old or newer.”

Americans generally hate having to keep track of what side of the street they must park their cars on depending on what day it is. It’s safe to assume that a proposal for a No-drive Day policy will be met with vehement opposition. However, many are experimenting with restricting parking curbside.

Take It to Curb
Take a moment to think about all the uses for those lips of concrete that separate streets and sidewalks. Drivers looking for parking spots (and struggling to parallel park) fight for limited space with taxis, TNCs, and buses dropping off and picking up passengers, as well as delivery vehicles. The results are frustrating traffic jams and an increased risk of accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians.

Autonomous vehicle manufacturers and tech companies such as Google and Uber are developing solutions to ease that con­gestion and reduce the risk of accidents. Their intelligent route navigation and collision avoidance capabilities will enable much more efficient interactions with other vehicles to reduce the instances of unnecessary starting and stopping and prevent ac­cidents. Still, they won’t solve the congestion caused by stopping curbside to collect or drop off passengers.

Implementing a policy that prohibits vehicles from stopping or parking curbside would be counterproductive and costly. Curbs are one of the most valuable assets a city owns (see the May issue of The Parking Professional for more). Governing mag­azine reports America’s 25 biggest cities collect about $5 billion in car-related revenue. The trouble is even if you widen streets; add new lanes for vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians; or create dedicated parking zones for passenger or delivery vehicles, curbs remain a fixed asset.

If people stop parking their cars and feeding parking me­ters, what happens to the city services that that money funds? What about the businesses that depend on that traffic to bring customers to their doors? This space needs to be managed more intelligently.
Some cities such as Washington, D.C.; San Francisco, Ca­lif; and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., have tried to strike a balance between keeping curbsides open for vehicles of all kinds and reducing congestion with curb­side management programs built around the concept of shared mobility zones. Curb­side areas are reserved for specific functions, such as only being available to taxis and TNCs during rush hour and only to delivery trucks in the afternoons or overnight.

While cities experiment with ways to ease traffic congestion on the streets, their sidewalks are becoming just as crowded (and dangerous). Pedestrians, joggers, and bike or scooter riders have to avoid one another. The rise of micro-mobility technology com­panies that enable customers to rent a scooter or bike right from their smartphones can reduce the number of cars traveling short distances and provide new first- and last-mile transportation options that encourage more people to use mass transit. Howev­er, they also create safety issues, and the gig charging economy’s general lack of organization encourages riders to park wherever they want, blocking sidewalks.

Even if a city implements congestion pricing, prevents peo­ple from driving their cars on certain days, sets aside portions of curbside areas for different uses, and rolls out fleets of self-­driving vehicles, the effects on traffic congestion will be minimal. There are simply too many cars and trucks on the streets, and increasingly, bikes and scooters cluttering the sidewalks.

A Congestion Cure: The Mobility Hub

These challenges present an enormous business opportunity for innovative owners and operators of parking garages, lots, and other assets. Using technology available today, they can work with their B2B partners to create full-service mobility hubs that enable TNC drivers to get off the streets between fares.

Drivers can pre-reserve parking spaces, navigate to those spaces via their Uber or Lyft driver apps, use their smart­phones’ Bluetooth connections to pay to enter the facility (perhaps at a discount), and quickly leave when summoned by a customer. The entire process would be automated and immediate so drivers won’t need to worry about using a deb­it/credit card, having cash at the ready, or interacting with a parking attendant.
All parties involved benefit when ride-hailing vehicles are not roaming the streets waiting for passengers. Along with relieving traffic congestion, drivers reduce the wear and tear on their cars and save money on gas, riders won’t experience delays, and parking operators grow their businesses by filling otherwise unused spaces.

Parking asset owners can also partner with micro-mobility technology companies to create docking areas for bikes and scoot­ers and even build charging and servicing hubs. The model could resemble what has worked for so long with luggage carts at airports: You pay to unlock the cart, use it to transport your bags to your car or the curb, then get some money back when you return the cart to a designated area.
Parking garages can be the center of the mobility crossroads for all transportation options, making it easy for people to connect with all options that mass transit agen­cies and private sector companies offer. Parking garages can also serve as hubs for charging electric vehicles and even landing areas for delivery drones. Whatever the vehicle and its purpose, users and drivers (and robot pilots) would be able to find and pay for parking quickly and easily.

These benefits should also extend to drivers of commercial delivery trucks. They work on tight deadlines and don’t have time to circle city blocks looking for streetside parking spots, forcing them to double-park and exacerbate traffic congestion. A curbside management program that designates specific areas for delivery trucks may seem like a good idea, but not when you con­sider how many delivery trucks move through a city every day. There simply isn’t enough available curbside real estate.

All of these scenarios are possible thanks to the maturation of cloud computing platforms and internet of things devices that are always connected to the internet. They present the parking industry with a unique opportunity to turn its assets into con­nected mobility hubs and partner with city officials to cure the problems urban traffic and congestion create, not just put a ban­dage on them.

Read the article here.

JUAN RODRIGUEZ is CEO and co-founder of FlashParking. He can be reached at juan.rodriguez@flashparking.com.



Transportation Key to Costa Rica’s Green New Deal

By Paul Wessel

Costa Rica wants to be the little country that could by becoming fossil-fuel-free by 2050.

Its greatest challenge?  Transportation.

Transportation is the largest single source of Costa Rica’s greenhouse gas emissions. The number of cars and motorcycles on the roads is growing fast, according to a survey by nongovernmental group State of the Nation. The average car in the country is 17 years old. Congestion is a huge problem; morning traffic in the San José metropolitan area moves at an average of less than 10 miles per hour. Afternoons are worse.

So we learn in the New York Times: Tiny Costa Rica Has a Green New Deal, Too. It Matters for the Whole Planet:

Revamping transportation is expensive and so it will require tackling things that have little direct connection to climate change — fixing the country’s fiscal health, for one, to be able to secure big foreign loans to fund such an ambitious project, and lowering unemployment, which is a pressing political demand. It also means addressing the aspirations of its upwardly mobile people.

The story goes on to describe the two-hour commute ordeal of a furniture company manager.  Her goal to improve her quality of life?  Save up enough to buy a used Suzuki subcompact.

It’s worth reading the full story, enjoy the wonderful photos, and chuckle at the first-world zinger at the very end.

Paul Wessel is director, market development at the U.S. Green Building Council.