How Innovative Towns Can Map For the Last Mile Just Like Apple

While private companies, including Apple, are collecting massive amounts of data to find routes for people who prefer not to drive, local and state governments are falling behind in collecting similar data. They can’t afford expensive LIDAR technology that companies like Apple are using. Yet, cities and states are responsible for regulating and managing the public right of way. They also are in charge of promoting safety standards for walkers and bikers.

Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

Meanwhile, the demands on curbs have never been greater. Shared vehicle startups, like Uber and Bird, are putting more vehicles on roads than ever before. As a result, more people are entering and exiting vehicles at the curb and onto the sidewalk. People, cars, bikes, and scooters are now competing for the same space. This trend will continue as cities and towns grow. They will need better solutions for efficient, seamless mobility.

Building extra streets and sidewalks is costly and disruptive. To restructure the streets of a city requires lots of resources and time. This includes complex environmental impact reviews, citizen input, and capital from cash-strapped cities. By the time construction begins, it isn’t clear that the new or reconstructed streets will move people and products around as planned. To keep people and products moving in the future, cities will need to understand how to best use their existing infrastructure. They can then adapt rules and regulations to meet the demands of the new economy.

The task may seem daunting, as many of the necessary data sets do not yet exist. Most local governments don’t have standardized and digitized data of their curbs. The companies currently mapping their hotly contested curb space are unlikely to give away this data, but there is a way for municipalities to do it themselves.

Coord developed an easy way to collect accurate curb data at a reasonable cost. Our Surveyor app creates asset data, which our system then analyzes to create curb rules, made available via Coord’s Curb API. These rules include detailed regulations for loading, pickup/drop-off, and parking. Using that data, we also built a Curb Explorer so you can see the data on a map. More than 5,000 bocks in San Francisco and 7,000 blocks in Los Angeles are already available for public use.

For example, a delivery company can see that one block of Romaine Street in LA has different sets of parking regulations because it crosses municipal borders. Part of the street has free parking from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Another part has paid commercial parking for only 2-hour stretches. Interspersing these two parts are no parking zones. The City of Los Angeles allows for free commercial loading in free parking. But they need to pay for the privilege of loading or unloading in a paid parking area. If a logistics companies knows this, they can reduce their delivery costs.


The cost-effective mapping solution

Local governments need better sources of data for planning and management. That’s why Coord built the Surveyor app. It uses augmented reality to capture curb level data and accurate position information. As a result, Coord can automatically produce a detailed and accurate map of curb rules.

Because Surveyor accurately measures the locations of curb assets, measuring wheels and paper are no longer needed. On average, the Surveyor app can digitize a city block face in under three minutes. This means cities can now quickly map the kinds of routes pedestrians, cyclists and scooter riders take.


Un-mapped cities will miss out on safety and revenue opportunities

After collecting accurate map data, cities should make the data accessible to citizens and companies. Sharing this information widely can help to ease traffic, reduce accidents and improve quality of life. It will be easier for city managers to find problem zones on the curb. They can then find ways to change the rules that created these problem zones in the first place. From there, companies and citizens can use these rules to improve their lives. For example, cities add more loading zones to stop trucks from blocking traffic. If the city shares its data, logistics companies can guide their vehicles to these loading zones. Deliveries are then made without blocking streets.

Cities can learn valuable lessons about regulating traffic by analyzing curb data. If governments have accurate curb data they can adapt rules to residents’ behavior. When a city identifies the amount of street parking available for vehicles, they can reallocate existing curb space to biking, without reducing traffic flow.

Curb data also allows municipalities to identify potential revenue sources. When curb rules are mixed with street camera data, cities can learn exactly how vehicles and people mix. For example, if a block has many pickups or drop offs from ride hailing, cities can can reallocate curb space. From there, they can charge ride hailing vehicles for their new designated curb space. Since the ride hailing vehicles never paid for parking, these new fees can make up lost revenue.

This is already an issue in some cities. Dr. Ryland Lu of UCLA researched the traffic flow on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood on Friday and Saturday nights. Traffic flow decreased 34% due to ride hailing vehicles double parking to pickup or drop off passengers. These same vehicles also rarely use meters. These vehicles don’t pay into the funds that support the roads they drive on a regular basis. By having a correct curb map, Santa Monica can consider implementing a dynamically priced fee for ride-hailing in pick up and drop off zones.

The same premise can be used to optimize the flow of delivery trucks in mixed-use neighborhoods. If a block appears to receive more residential deliveries, it can have less of its curb space allocated to long standing times. Meanwhile, if a different block is prone to commercial deliveries, cities can designate curb space for long standing times. Traffic will then flow through the mixed-use neighborhood more efficiently.

Cities of all sizes can now collect better data for last mile logistics without busting their budget. Coord’s Surveyor is available now on a pilot basis to survey American cities.

Get in touch with us at surveyor-pilot@coord.co to learn more. We’re excited to expand our work with all kinds of organizations, including government agencies, transportation consultants, and mobility companies.