A solution for cash-strapped cities is right by the curb

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In less than a year, a microscopic virus has caused disruptions large and small in the movement of people and goods. The number of public transport users is declining; automobile traffic is increasing. People order products online rather than in-store purchases – UPS deliveries in the second quarter of this year were up almost 23% around the same time last year. Ninety percent of consumers now prefer delivery during a store visit.

The consequence? The parking lots of shopping malls are empty, while delivery vehicles fill our streets. Across the country, there is more traffic congestion, double parking and idling at the curb as more and more businesses bring their goods to us.

Pandemics, despite (or perhaps because of) their devastation, are known to lead to times of great creativity. Upheaval has given us the gift of thinking, on many fronts, “Why haven’t we done this from the start?”

Here is one of those ideas: For almost 100 years, we charged the drivers of personal cars for curbside parking. It’s time to start charging delivery companies to stop there too. To create new sources of revenue for towns and cities and finally bring order to the chaos of congestion, ask Ubers, Amazons and DoorDashes around the world to pay for the right to stop and deliver.

Our company, Automotus, helps cities manage curbside deliveries and transportation services. As a result, our business could benefit from city pricing for commercial curbside use.

Much like parking on the public street, sidewalk management involves billing drop-off and parcel delivery companies for a dedicated space. A study found that double parking by delivery vehicles leads to 264.4 hours of delays per year on dual carriageways and 866.5 hours on four-lane streets. By 2029, it is estimated that these delays will increase by 135%.

Changing the way we allocate sidewalk space isn’t just about traffic. The fallout from the pandemic has left cities in desperate need of new sources of revenue. New York faces the layoff of 22,000 city workers, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has already borrowed $ 450 million from the Federal Reserve to cover operating costs. The city of Miami Beach faces a $ 13.8 million shortfall in its parking fund and can privatize up to 50% of its parking control functions.

Billing for ridesharing and delivery services for curbside access creates revenue from a previously untapped source. In New York City, 20% to 30% of parking violations are committed by commercial operators who rack up millions of dollars in fines every quarter. Although other cities in the United States have less delivery traffic, there are still significant revenue opportunities.

We’ve been deploying video technologies and analytics to measure curbside demand for the past two years. Rest assured, this is not surveillance – video streams are processed in real time to extract data only and are not recorded. We’ve found the perfect spot to balance vehicle stopping and parking needs, allowing cities to create paid models where ridesharing and delivery companies can proactively claim their curbside spot.

Some cities have already tested. In a pilot project we ran on the campus of Loyola Marymount University, the traffic caused by drivers looking for parking decreased by more than 20%. In Columbus, delivery drivers access a sidewalk with specified stopping zones prevented around 9,700 double or illegal parking lots.

It is of course never easy to charge someone for something they had before. But some companies in the delivery and carpooling space are already on board, with commercial operators paying for dedicated and well-managed curb space in Columbus, Aspen, and Washington DC In 2018, a quarter of $ 181.5 million in commercial parking fines in New York were paid by UPS and FedEx. None of this is tax deductible. Pay for parking, on the other hand, that is.

Having a dedicated sidewalk space also saves operators time. Commercial vehicles using designated areas reduce their time on the sidewalk by 28% on average, saving two minutes on each pick up and drop off. The space designated for commercial vehicles also leads to safer use of vehicles. Double parking is a safety hazard and disrupts the normal flow of traffic.

There has long been a balance between the needs of cyclists, restaurants, delivery drivers and carpooling passengers. By changing the way we manage our street space, we can create more order in our streets and make them run more efficiently and safely.

We can use this tragic pandemic as a springboard to make our cities work better. If you’re lucky enough to see your delivery driver pull up in a designated area rather than circling to park while your tacos are cooling, you may rejoice to ask yourself, “Wow, why didn’t we. not done this from the start? “

Prajwal Kotamraju is responsible for computer vision at Automotus.

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