Programs target uses of curb space other than parking
The pandemic we just lived through caused deep changes not only in the health and economic sectors, but also in transportation. As local enterprises had to reinvent ways they do business, mobility dynamics changed as well, posing new challenges to cities.
This was the case in Miami, where people and businesses came to rely on delivery services such as Uber, Lyft, Postmates, Amazon, FedEx, UPS and DHL. Alejandra “Alex” Argudin, CEO of the Miami Parking Authority (MPA), and Carlos Cruz-Casas, assistant director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works, agree that the curb is now a shared space for cars, trucks, partial deliveries, pick-ups and drop-offs, and the regular consumers that want to park. The concept of the curb as the storage place for a vehicle is gone.
As a consequence, they say, public authorities have the responsibility to keep up with the demands of mobility forces coexisting in Miami.
“Our role is to balance the needs of competing users and it will take a lot of experimenting, and that’s where we are using technology to figure out who is using the curb, how long they are there, what’s the occupancy, at what time,” Ms. Argudin said.
Gathering that data will help the MPA decide how to improve the management of the curb, so that everyone that is competing for a space knows when there is a spot available or not, and then guide them to another location that has space available, Ms. Argudin explained.
For the past two weeks, the MPA has been implementing a pilot downtown by locating sensors in high-density areas. Also, the authority has been installing cameras in Brickell, the Central Business District and Wynwood, and for the past few months has been piloting in Coconut Grove over-the-ground centers in curb areas.
“We have a command center in our office. It’s 24/7 and we have a person in our operations division that will be monitoring the data that is coming in from the centers so that we absolutely know the length of stay and the occupancy of a stop,” Ms. Argudin said.
After three to six months, the MPA intends to gather and analyze the information to then implement new policies at the curb. This is part of an effort that the Task Force of the CoMotion Lab – a Los Angeles-based digital media, conference and advisory platform on emerging mobility – has been undertaking.
Some of the policies that the parking authority could implement include regulations of time in loading zones to provide better traffic flow, and converting these zones into a pick-up space for deliveries of restaurants or even a parking space at night.
“The partial delivery folks look at us to see what kind of technology we are going to put out, to see if it works, and they could implement them in other cities.… It has to be a policy that works for them nationwide, so we are working to put something in place that affects everyone and works for everybody,” Ms. Argudin said.
Mr. Cruz-Casas explains that the Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works is working from a more regional, multi-jurisdictional effort to bring policies for the curb space. “In particular, we are introducing a pilot with the Mobility Data Specification (MDS), which is a new standard format for public agencies and private sector mobility solutions to communicate in a universal fashion,” Mr. Cruz-Casas said.
The MDS is not only about mobility providers but also about an open data source of information on scooters, bikes, and trucks – where they are parked, and how often they are using the curb. With this communications tool the City of Miami and the county will be able to define a non-ride zone, a non-pick-up zone, a speed area for all mobility devices within a data format that can be read by anyone in the same way.
The department has been creating policies for public transportation for many years. “We have street signs, we have no parking zones, no parking during peak times or loading zones or speed limits. All of those are policies that we deliver today with signs and infrastructure. Now, MDS is our ability to deliver those through APIs (Application Programming Interface), which is how all these new mobility solutions can be understood,” Mr. Cruz-Casas said.
The MDS pilot is just being launched, and for the past two to three weeks the department has been gathering stakeholders, exploring and helping frame what is the best subject for Miami-Dade County to work on.
The department is still working on the pilot and the offices are not active yet, but the extent for this project is scheduled through the end of the year. “Ideally, our goal is to establish one MDS countywide to serve as a tool for delivering policies for micro-mobility companies like scooters and e-bikes, and policies that can be for drop-off zones, among others,” Mr. Cruz-Casas said.
Through the MDS, the information can be shared with service providers such as Amazon, Lyft, Uber and UPS, or anyone that needs to use it so they don’t have to circle around for parking. “We do believe that there is a role that Miami-Dade can play in terms of mobility. There is a role for us to unify the cities,” Mr. Cruz-Casas said.
Another front the department is taking is working with the C-Lab, a pilot on curb management that is set to begin operations in upcoming weeks. Miami-Dade and CoMotion announced the launch of this project in June 2020 as a consortium of stakeholders to discuss and implement mobility and transit solutions.
John Ellis, co-founder, president & CEO of Ellis and Associates, a Lacuna Technologies company, serves as a chair for the taskforce created in April 2021. He explains that Lacuna has been working on two fronts. “One is that we have been doing work with the Miami-Dade County, helping them to work with some dockless mobility and infrastructure, and then we have had the pleasure to be invited to C-Lab to participate and spend time with the Miami Parking Authority, the City of Miami.”
They all are participating in CoMotion Miami Live June 16 and 17, where they will announce these pilot programs and provide more information on various efforts to improve traffic and mobility in Miami.