UPDATE: May 6, 2022: The Open Mobility Foundation’s board of directors approved the Curb Data Specification 1.0 tool this week, which is designed to improve the safety of curb space and maximize its use.
“Today, curb space is one of the most high-demand public assets, but cities need efficient and effective tools to help them make the most of this valuable real estate. The Curb Data Specification is a critical tool that gives cities the data they need to make strategic decisions, advance policies and respond to changing market dynamics with the same flexibility as their private sector partners,” Seleta Reynolds, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and chair of the OMF board of directors, said in a statement.
- After creating the Mobility Data Specification tool, a set of data standards for cities to collect data from mobility-as-a-service companies, the nonprofit Open Mobility Foundation (OMF) is rolling out similar standards that will provide open communication about curb space.
- OMF’s Curb Data Specification (CDS) is a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) for cities, delivery companies, ride-hailing companies and other users to digitally share curb information. Eventually, the system could be used to inform dynamic curb policies affecting curb use in real time. OMF announced a release candidate, or beta version, of the CDS last week.
- The release, which comes after more than a year of work, still needs to go through OMF’s governance process and incorporate feedback from early users, the foundation said.
Crowded curb spaces due to taxi pickup and drop-offs, delivery companies, idling trucks, food service and private cars have always been a sticking point for cities, especially with a web of parking and idling laws governing the space. The COVID-19 pandemic "took a rough situation at the curb and made it even worse," said OMF Interim Executive Director Angela Giacchetti.
The increase in delivery drivers stopping on streets and the push for restaurants and small businesses to expand their outside space further complicated the use of curbs, Giacchetti said, leading OMF’s city members to look for a digital tool.
"With so many users on the curb, this was something we were hearing about from cities a lot," Giacchetti said. "With all of these modes and tools, not everyone speaks the same language. Creating a common language and a standard unlocks cities’ ability to work with all these different vendors."
Although there have been some concerns from users, and even some providers, about data privacy, OMF’s Mobility Data Specification (MDS) tool has allowed cities to gather more data about micromobility providers and craft industrywide regulations and policies. The hope is that CDS can do the same for curbs, creating what Giacchetti called a "virtuous cycle" where additional data leads to dynamic regulations.
Cities could use the data to create digital representations of physical infrastructure and regulations that they can communicate easily to curb users. That could, in turn, allow delivery companies to coordinate schedules or ride-hailing companies to use more flexible pickup and drop-off areas. Philadelphia will integrate the standards into its Smart Loading Zone pilot, which seeks to test different software applications to more efficiently use commercial loading space by offering digital availability and reservation information.
CDS joins other curb data efforts. Data company Coord released Open Curbs as part of its broader Curbs API tool, which collects information on curb infrastructure, painting and curb rules. Companies like Mapillary have also worked to give cities the ability to digitize their parking sign information to create a better understanding of curb use.
Harris Lummis, co-founder and CTO of the curb management company Automotus, said that more efficient curb use should create less congested and safer streets. Automotus, which works with cities and airports on sensor-based systems that measure curb activity and automate parking payments, was a participant in the working group for CDS.
"This is a big benefit for everyone," Lummis said. "For us, implementing new projects in any new space becomes much easier if we have a way to universally reconcile different providers and sensor operators. This will reduce friction when launching in a new city."
Correction: We have updated this story to more accurately describe Automotus' work.