Taking the pain out of parking by mapping 7,000 curbs in Los Angeles

Jacob Baskin
Nov 8, 2018 · 4 min read

7,000 blocks + 35,000 parking signs + 30,000 painted curbs = 1 useful map of LA curbs

Los Angeles and cars have always been synonymous. For many years, Angelenos’ love affair with driving meant miles of highway traffic and smog. Those problems are being eased by interactive maps, ride hailing apps, car sharing services and online shopping. For every issue new technologies solve on the expressway, however, new challenges are created on the curb.

Waze helps avoid the worst traffic jams, but what about parking near a final destination? Where can Uber or Lyft drivers pick up passengers? How can Zipcar or Car2Go drivers avoid costly tickets? Where should delivery trucks stop to drop off all those Amazon packages?

Those questions are hard enough to answer in any city, let alone a geographically spread out megalopolis with more than 13 million inhabitants. Los Angeles County is made up of the communities in the City of Los Angeles, 88 other cities and approximately 140 unincorporated areas — and they don’t share standard curb rules or signs.

Introducing the Curb Explorer for Los Angeles

Until now, there has not been an online resource to help the denizens of Los Angeles navigate the area’s curbs. The cities themselves didn’t even have this information digitized! With the launch of Coord’s Curb Explorer in Los Angeles, that is no longer a problem.

We digitized the curbs on 7,000 blocks in Downtown LA, Santa Monica, Venice, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and more communities in the metro area. The information is standardized in our Curbs API and accessible in map form via the Curb Explorer.

Using our Surveyor app and leveraging augmented reality, we collected information on signs, curb cuts and paints, hydrants, and bus stops. As we found in San Francisco, existing street imagery does not work. Curb features were often obstructed by parked vehicles or trees in the images, and that it was very difficult to get precise measurement and location information.

The longest parking sign in LA?

Over 12 weeks with the help of more than 20 surveyors, we digitized more than 35,000 parking signs and over 30,000 stretches of painted curb, standardized the information and incorporated it into our Curbs API. Our Curb Explorer puts that data onto a map for drivers and fleet managers.

That means instead of trying to decipher the 5-part signpost in Culver City above — the longest one we found in the LA area — drivers can check their location on the map and determine where to park and how long they can stay.

Farm fresh, locally-grown parking tickets!

The same goes for anyone dropping by the Farmers’ Market in downtown Santa Monica. Given this mess of parking signs, many quick trips for fresh vegetables probably ended up by retrieving a towed car.

Same block, different cities, different parking rules

Since LA is a mix of different cities and communities, there are not only hundreds of different rules and regulations, but they change from one block to the next. Longtime residents might know the rules and boundaries, but the rest of us would have to rely on often-confusing signs and curb painting.

Two signs, alike in dignity, on fair Romaine Street where we park our car…

For example, on Romaine Street in West Hollywood there is unlimited free parking during the day and permit parking from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Halfway down the block, though, Romaine Street crosses into the City of Los Angeles. There is only 2-hour free parking during the day and permit parking from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.

With our Curb Explorer, a simple map shows where drivers can park and when, even across municipal borders.

Of course, the complications are not limited to street signs. Green paint marks free parking in many parts of LA, but it does not always mean the same thing. This green curb on Jean Place, in Culver City, means free 3-minute parking and applies on Sundays. If it were one block over in the city of LA, it wouldn’t. Again, using the data in our Curbs API, we can show the parking rules on a map and prevent any save drivers from parking tickets.

Help us digitize the curbs in your city

Coord’s goal is to make mobility easier in modern cities. The information in our Curbs API and displayed on our Curb Explorer is available for non-commercial use by researchers, local agencies, mobility companies or anyone else in the community.

I will be speaking about our curb-coding efforts tomorrow, Friday, November 9th, in LA at the National League of Cities conference, and Coord CEO Stephen Smyth will speak the following week about curbs in LA at LA CoMotion, as well.

If your organization wants to help us digitize the curbs in your city, our Surveyor App is now available on a pilot basis for use by public agencies, urban planners, consultants and mobility providers.

As always, we want to hear from you. Let us know what you think at partners@coord.co.


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