Creating Safer, More Efficient and Productive Curbs and Streets

As the adoption of ridesharing via Transportation Network Companies (‘TNCs such as Uber, Lyft, etc.) increases, ridesharing pickups and drop-offs are adding to the demand for curbside access, competing with a variety of other uses such as vehicle parking, commercial loading, and on-demand deliveries. In response to the growing competition for space, some cities are calling the curbside “flex” space and starting to be more intentional about defining curbside uses and allocating space.

Fehr & Peers recently partnered with Uber on a curb study in San Francisco, California, examining how well several locations accommodate moderate-to-high-volumes of passenger loading activity amidst other uses. For each location, we collected, observed, and analyzed a tremendous amount of video and traffic data, including activity data from Uber to quantify loading demand. We did so to better understand demand for and the efficiency with which different users use the curb, evaluate interactions between roadway users, and understand other behaviors and trends at and around the curb.

As a result, this study provides a method for quantifying data that cities can use to evaluate productivity, as well as providing strategies for safer and more efficient curbside access for passengers and drivers.

Case Study Locations & Key Takeaways

Transportation Hub

Train station surrounded by mixed-use office and light industrial

Commercial Corridor

Mixed-use commercial corridor with medium-density residential

High-Density Office Neighborhood

High-rise office and commercial area

Downtown

High-rise office and commercial area

Bicycle Corridor

Civic Center neighborhood, high-density residential and neighborhood commercial area

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Curb Productivity Index

This study defines curb productivity as the importance, worth, or usefulness of a specific curbside designation in facilitating pick-ups and drop-offs of people. To quantify curb productivity, we developed a metric which represents the efficiency of a specific curbside designation based on its primary use. This may be commercial loading, passenger loading, bus stop, or parking. Since this study focused on passenger loading activity, the curb productivity index was expressed in terms of the number of passengers served per hour per 20 feet of curb (passengers per space-hour).

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Strategies to Improve Curb Productivity

Each of our study locations has a unique blend of roadway characteristics, surrounding land uses, and community priorities. Based on our observations and data analysis, we developed three basic strategies to improve curb productivity for each location. By accommodating a greater proportion of passenger loading demand, and thereby reducing the frequency of double parking, these strategies aim to reduce friction and increase safety in the travel lane.

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Design Templates for Curb Configuration

Our final products for the study were conceptual design templates (see example on page 35 below), that consider the surrounding context of each case study location, intended to help cities understand and evaluate the potential changes that could be made to the curb to improve productivity and accommodate a greater passenger loading demand. These templates may also prove useful for other cities with similar urban land use and streetscape contexts.

For more about our methodology, findings, metrics, and design concepts for improving curb productivity:

Attending the 2019 TRB Annual Meeting?

Hear more about the project from Eric Womeldorff and the Uber team on Tuesday, January 15.

Poster Session 1142: A Data Driven Approach to Understanding and Planning for Curb Space Utility