The transportation ecosystem is evolving, with a rapidly increasing array of new mobility and delivery options offered by public and private entities. These new alternatives include ridehailing services (or transportation network companies (TNCs); organized vehicle sharing of cars, shuttles, and micromobility; delivery drones; and connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs). In urban locations, these current and anticipated innovations coincide with existing transit operations, privately owned and operated automobiles, traditional taxi services, freight and parcel deliveries, and pedestrians and other non-motorized users. This creates increased demand for space at the curb where passengers are picked up and dropped off, shared and private vehicles are stored, freight and parcels are loaded or delivered, and users transfer between travel modes. These curbside activities impact sidewalk users and the flow of traffic in travel lanes. Further, these activities are dynamic, with high variability in the level and type of activity at different times. This complex environment is often managed through diverse policies and seemingly conflicting regulations that are communicated with signage and markings that can be confusing to users.
An increasing number of jurisdictions are seeking to better manage curbside activity using dynamic curbside management. This approach allocates curbside space as a resource in response to real-time demand to improve operations for all users of the curbside and the rest of the public right of way, including adjacent travel lanes and sidewalks. A dynamic curbside management program can support goals for multimodal mobility, safety, congestion management, travel time reliability (including for transit), and equitable access. Common program elements include:
- Pricing: usually variable in response to the dynamic nature of demand (e.g., smart meters)
- Regulating use: specific uses of the curb are permitted at certain times (e.g., transit use during morning and afternoon commute times, with midday parcel drop-off and pickup)
- Permitting access: allowing access to the curbside only for specified operators (e.g., freight loading license, shared vehicle storage for specific operators)
The development and deployment of CAVs will bring additional challenges for curbside operations. For example, if a community shifts to widespread use of highly automated connected vehicles, this could increase pick-up and drop-off activity at the curb, while reducing the need for curbside parking as vehicles spend more time circulating or spend more time in designated areas. Although the effects from CAVs are difficult to forecast, this shift could reduce parking revenue, increase congestion, impact transit operations at station stops, and have safety implications for non-motorized users on the sidewalk and in the roadway.
To date, dynamic curbside management has largely been the purview of cities, with much of the relevant research and guidance directed towards local transportation agencies. However, state departments of transportation (DOTs), metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and other regional agencies can be important partners for these local entities because, in many cases, roadways and other curb zone elements, such as sidewalks or intelligent traffic system (ITS) infrastructure, are part of the regional or state network. Because dynamic curbside management programs rely on data, partnering agencies also need to understand data sources, data governance, and data standards as well as data-sharing arrangements. In addition, regional or state-level performance targets for safety, social equity, reliability, congestion, multimodal mobility, emissions, and other environmental impacts can be advanced through efficient curbside operations in high-demand locations. An MPO or state DOT may also be interested in encouraging coordination and consistency among local jurisdictions. Finally, many agencies—state, regional, and local—are looking for opportunities to integrate CAVs into current operations; the dynamic management of curbside activity is an important element of an efficient CAV network.
An effective dynamic curbside management program requires that transportation agencies understand how current and emerging mobility and delivery options operate within the public right of way and the complex interactions that occur at the curb. Agencies must also be prepared for continued evolution that will bring new technologies, new stakeholders, and new operational models to the curbside.
The objective of this research is to develop a guidebook for state, regional, and local transportation agencies on developing and implementing a dynamic curbside management program. The guidebook will draw from current and emerging practice to define and describe policies, mechanisms, and data considerations for dynamically pricing, regulating, and permitting curbside activity. The guidebook will address current and emerging mobility solutions and technologies and will prepare transportation agencies to adapt to future challenges at the curb.