Can Technology Help Cities Manage Curbs Better?

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“Cities frequently oversupply parking because they believe a ‘good’ parking experience for drivers is one where there is ample parking,” Ms. Ng said. “If we can match drivers to a space before they arrive, they can have a good experience, and we can help cities reclaim some of that space for better use.”

According to a Google spokeswoman, each city’s smart zone contract is different, based on the number of sensors and the local policies that affect operation. Pebble works with each city to determine its needs, which then forms the budget. (Google doesn’t share the cost of the pilots, the spokeswoman said.)

But the drive for ‌“smart city‌” technology, ‌‌including curbside management, often confronts offline realities, particularly enforcement. Cameras could help, but they often generate privacy concerns. And then, there is an unspoken rule of city planning: Parking is political, no matter the data.

In May, advocacy groups for safe streets and major delivery companies, like UPS and DoorDash, sent a letter to the offices of New York City’s mayor, Eric Adams. It urged City Hall to prioritize uses of the curb that “provide the greatest amount of access and serve the highest number of people.”

“All of these companies are trying to do business in New York City,” said Sara Lind, the director of policy for Open Plans, the group that organized the letter. “But they are really struggling because our curb space is totally unmanaged at present.”

The first step is inventory, Ms. Lind said, and data provided by the ‌start-ups can help. But cities must step up and act, she added.

“Until we have the political will to say that the curb should not just be for the free storage of private vehicles, this technology won’t be effective,” she said. “We won’t be able to reuse that space.”

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