Food delivery drivers are getting dedicated parking spaces downtown for the next three months.
Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM) is launching a pilot program Friday that will set aside two parking spaces in front of 2nd Street restaurants HiHo Cheeseburger and Uovo between 6 and 10 p.m. for drivers contracting with food delivery apps like Postmates and DoorDash. Two spaces in Parking Structure 1 on 4th Street will also be available.
Drivers will be able to park for a maximum of 10 minutes and a sidewalk sign will mark the spaces as reserved for mobile delivery.
Hector Soliman-Valdez, DTSM’s mobility manager, said the program is meant to alleviate congestion stemming from the increasingly popular delivery apps. The spaces in front of HiHo and Uovo were selected because both restaurants are among the most sought-after on the apps, he said.
“We were getting a lot of reports that mobile deliveries were impacting the area,” he said. “We wanted to get ahead of the curve as that business model keeps growing.”
Soliman-Valdez briefly became a delivery driver while developing the program, and he often had to double-park in the bike lane to pick up food from restaurants.
“We want to make sure the spaces are in appropriate locations so traffic isn’t backed up,” he said.
Juan Matute, a DTSM board member and deputy director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, said cities are looking at different ways to manage the impacts of delivery services and ridesharing, including increasing turnover at the curb and reducing the amount of time drivers need to park. Matute said he would consider the DTSM pilot successful if the spaces are used primarily by delivery drivers who respect the time limit.
“If they’re staying for a few minutes 80 percent of the time, that’s a success, but other drivers may see the spaces and make the calculation that they can just use them for 30 minutes without getting a ticket,” he said. “I’m interested in the percentage of the time that they’re not working as intended.”
DTSM will be conducting surveys throughout the length of the pilot program to monitor how the spaces are being used. If the program goes according to plan, it will explore setting aside more spaces in other locations, Soliman-Valdez said.
The district recently partnered with startup Coord to map curbs in downtown Santa Monica, recording every street sign, fire hydrant and bus stop. The map helped DTSM identify parts of the curb that could be used for delivery parking, Soliman-Valdez said, and may be used to inform future work with ridesharing and electric scooters. The technology puts public entities like DTSM on a more equal footing with large tech companies, he added.
“We want positive regulation rather than being adversarial with companies,” he said.