A recent article by the American Planning Association (APA) proclaimed that “Poor Kerb Management is Costing Cities Billions!” and whilst this may seem like an alarmist statement, it is actually very true both in the USA and here in the UK. Badly managed kerbsides create congestion, impede access including for the disabled and vulnerable, and cost people in time and money.
The US argument
To tackle the kerbside conundrum in the US, the APA argued for a number of points to counter the issues towns and cities in the states experience. These are;
- Off-street parking should be cheaper than on-street parking
- Free nights and weekends shouldn’t apply to parking
- Parking meter revenues should be set to recoup costs
- Technology will play a major role as our kerbs become more dynamic
- That kerb assets are greatly undervalued
The article goes on to argue that these changes are needed because many cities across the USA are not pricing their parking spaces based on demand.
The initiatives laid out by the APA are relevant to many cities across the globe, including to towns and cities in the UK. In the UK off-street parking, particularly in larger cities such as London, Birmingham or Manchester are often incredibly expensive compared to on-street parking. In central London for example, on-street parking costs roughly £4.90 per hour, but some off-street car parks can set back drivers £11 per hour! Like the USA, many UK towns and cities offer free or cheap parking after 8pm and on weekends, but unlike the US, the majority of authorities in the UK do use those parking charges to help them recoup revenue to spend on essential roadworks, including the £10bn backlog of urgent road repairs we have the UK. But for one fifth of UK authorities, parking charges do not reach the surplus needed for these repairs, they either breakeven or operate at a loss.
These are important changes that councils in the USA, the UK and beyond should consider but what this article does not give enough weight to is points 4 and 5, how technology can facilitate a dynamic kerbside and that kerbs are greatly undervalued.
A UK approach
Here at AppyWay we’ve always known that kerb is so much more than just parking and in relation to point 5, yes, they are most definitely an undervalued asset. The kerbside unlocks access for a variety of transport options and arguing only for changes to parking strategies does not future proof the kerbside or encourage more thriving, liveable towns and cities.
Focusing solely on parking does nothing to discourage congestion and rising emissions, issues that very obviously have an impact on the public’s health and well-being, but these issues also impact the economy. The 2019 Inrix Global Traffic Scorecard analysed the severity of congestion across the UK’s top 102 urban areas. The findings show, on average, Brits wasted 115 hours in congestion this year, costing the country £6.9 billion in 2019, an average of £904 per driver. During the peak of the pandemic in 2020 so few cars were on the roads that drivers actually saved money, £613million to be precise.
The kerbside will always be a place to park but in recent years, particularly since the onset of the covid-19 pandemic, governments are starting to realise that to improve the health of their citizens and to improve how their cities operate, a full rethink of how the kerb is used is needed.
In the UK this has taken the form of active travel initiatives, including vouchers for bike shops, better cycle lanes and low traffic neighbourhoods to encourage walking and cycling. To encourage more eco-friendly travel that requires less kerb space, e-scooter trails were introduced last year in a number of spots around the country including Coventry, Southampton and Liverpool, with London launching trials this summer.
These initiatives aimed at transforming travel and public health actually open up authorities to new revenue streams beyond traditional car parking. Diversifying their portfolio of operators they seek charges from and avenues for enforcement whilst improving overall access to the kerbside.
All of the above requires kerb space, whether that’s removing parking bays to accommodate cycle lanes or changing car bays to dedicated e-scooter bays, on-street parking will need to rethinked if towns and cities are to open themselves up to active travel and improve the modal mix.
So how do cities advance these changes? The most effective way is through technology. At AppyWay we have been helping a number of authorities manage their kerbside more effectively with innovative tools. Through our Traffic Suite, we are helping councils create, amend, and consult on their traffic regulation orders, the legal mechanism for making changes to the kerbside. Councils are able to reduce the time it takes to implement changes to their kerb by speeding up the process of amending traffic order. The Traffic Suite which includes Mapper, Engagement, and Streets, is 80% faster than existing solutions and processes.
In addition to our Traffic Suite, we have worked with councils such as Harrogate to implement our Smart City Parking scheme. The town has benefited from real-time availability of parking and seamless payments via the AppyParking mobile app that reduce congestion and increase time spent on the highstreet. The council are able to see how their assets are consumed through our web-hosted analytics platform which exposes parking utilisation data for all on and off-street parking spaces thanks to our smart parking sensors. This is helping the two local authorities involved, Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council, make data-led decisions on future parking and kerbside strategies.
In 2019 we were able to use the Smart City Parking scheme tools to suspend parking bays on behalf of the council so Harrogate could safely host the UCI World Championships, an important event on the professional cycling calendar.
A dynamic future
These uses and use cases we have outlined all make the case for a dynamic kerbside, point 4 from American Planning Association’s article. Technology can facilitate dynamic kerbsides, or in the UK, dynamic traffic orders. In fact, that technology already exists, and it exists here at AppyWay.
So what’s holding cities back? One word… legislation. Dynamic kerbs will require legislative changes at a national level and is encouraged alongside the embrace of technology at a local government level.
Dynamic TROs and dynamic kerbside management would enable local authorities to optimise the designation of their kerb space, allowing land to be multipurpose and enabling changes of designation without the need for a new traffic order each time. It would also harmonise the conflictual demands on limited space and enable councils to adapt to future requirements, for example, imagine on a day with high pollution levels, parking could be suspended to discourage private car travel. Ultimately solving the issues US cities are facing according to the APA article.
With legislation currently not in place for dynamic kerbsides and traffic orders, the place to start for authorities, here and in the USA, is the adoption of innovative management and data collecting tools. As we have showcased these tools are out there and already in use, helping council and city authorities across the UK understand and manage their kerbs like never before. With the right, future-proofed solutions, towns and cities can make the changes they urgently need today whilst ensuring they are on the right footing for whatever the future throws at them and their kerbs.
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