Susan Crawford of the Cyberlaw Clinic explains what cities should consider when gathering data to assess how curb spaces may be rezoned:
“It’s common knowledge that city curbs are fiercely contested places, what with Ubers and Lyfts hovering inconveniently and blocking traffic; piles of shared bikes and scooters being dropped off and picked up; rapidly climbing numbers of deliveries being made by double-parked trucks; and buses and taxis pulling up—not to mention all the private-car parking going on. These daily dramas will only get more boisterous and difficult in the years to come, when fleets of city-licensed driverless cars join the fray.
Yes, dramas. Calvin Trillin wrote an entire 2002 novel about parking in New York City (Tepper Isn’t Going Out), in which the main character, Murray Tepper, finds a sense of purpose in securing a Beautiful Spot; once he’s in, he usually stays in his car until the meter runs out, reading the newspaper and waving away anyone who asks whether he’s leaving. That’s a use of the curb that planners call, somewhat derisively, “storage”—today’s private vehicles spend 95 percent of their existence waiting to be used.
Planners want curbs and sidewalks, the essential public ways of any city, to go through a phase change from the Tepper storage state (“Where can I leave my car for the day?”) to mobility. (“How will I move along with my day?”) The District of Columbia, along with several other cities, is piloting shared used mobility zones, and city officials are thinking about both how to rezone curb space and what to charge for its use so that the work of the city can be supported appropriately.”