Every fire hydrant, parking sign and bus stop in downtown Santa Monica is now on a digital map.
Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM) used new software to take photos and measurements of curbs and sidewalks in the downtown area, creating a map that it could use to change where scooter riders leave their devices, how delivery drivers park and where Ubers and Lyfts wait for riders.
Coord, the startup that makes the Open Curbs software, is mapping neighborhoods in Santa Monica and other cities, including San Francisco and San Diego. Co-founder and CEO Stephen Smyth said Open Curbs is meant to help cities guide policy decisions about who gets to use the curb.
The ubiquity of scooters, ridesharing and delivery services have rendered the way cities have historically managed the curb – street signs – inadequate in busy areas, Smyth said.
“We’re in an era of ridesharing and food delivery, but our maps are not keeping up,” he said. “We’re at a breaking point with scooters piling up on the curb, jams of ridesharing vehicles and delivery trucks blocking buses.”
That’s certainly the case in Santa Monica, which is already carving out scooter parking zones to prevent riders from scattering the devices across the sidewalk. DTSM is also changing the curb with the times, launching a pilot program Apr. 15 that will set aside some parking spaces for food delivery drivers between 6 and 10 p.m., said mobility manager Hector Soliman-Valdez.
With a digital map of the curb, scooter riders or delivery drivers can know the rules of the curb before they arrive, Smyth said. Cities can designate loading zones or scooter parking and adjust them at different times.
If planners decided to swap out parking spaces for scooter parking – as Santa Monica has done in recent months – they will be able to compare how many people can use the curb before and after the switch. A New York study that compared the use of a bike station and parking spaces on different sides of the same street found that in a single hour, about 200 people arrived and left from the bike station, while only 11 people arrived and left from the three parked cars on the other side of the street.
“You need to literally put the curb and curb rules on the map before you start to manage them,” he said. “We’re providing the maps that can better inform those kinds of tradeoffs.”
Soliman-Valdez said Open Curbs helped DTSM decide which spaces delivery drivers should use during its pilot program, which will last a few months.
“There’s a lot of pressure on our road network because scooters, Ubers and Lyfts, and Postmates and Doordash are so common in Santa Monica,” he said. “We may need to create spaces for them, but first we need a really good understanding of what the designated uses already are for our downtown curbs.”
Smyth said carsharing, ridesharing and delivery services are adopting Coord’s software because their fleets are increasingly getting ticketed at the curb.
“With carsharing companies in particular, their customers drops off and pick up vehicles along the curb and it’s important for them to know where they can do that and where they might be in violation,” he said.
Open Curbs will also help the public sector engage with companies like Uber and Lyft, Soliman-Valdez said.
“It will put us on a more equal footing,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re equipped with real-time information as much as possible and fact-check any conversations we’re having.”
The City of Santa Monica is watching how DTSM uses its map and deciding what other parts of the city, if any, should be mapped, Soliman-Valdez said.