Cities face a new battle over space on their streets and curbs

Andy Uhler Dec 24, 2019
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Ridesharing apps aren't exactly helping the major traffic congestion cities are experiencing. Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

Cities face a new battle over space on their streets and curbs

Andy Uhler Dec 24, 2019
Ridesharing apps aren't exactly helping the major traffic congestion cities are experiencing. Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images
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If you’re a city planner these days, a lot of your job is thinking about all of the different ways people and things get from place to place — and it feels like that’s constantly changing.

“Twenty years ago, it was very simple because it was pretty much on-street parking,” said Adam Cohen, a transportation studies researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Now we have loading zones for Uber and Lyft, bikes and scooters and other devices as well,” Cohen said, which puts cities in a tough spot.

They have to change the current infrastructure to meet the demands of those existing disruptions while planning for future ones, like self-driving cars and drones.

New York City tried to ease the amount of traffic generated by ridesharing apps by passing a rule in August that would limit the amount of time drivers could spend cruising without passengers. A state judge struck down the rule on Monday.

Kevin Fang, an assistant professor of geography, environment and planning at Sonoma State University, said changing infrastructure will ultimately boil down to what residents need and how each city was originally built.

“Different cities [were] built in different times,” Fang said. “Was it built with 10-foot sidewalks or 20-foot sidewalks? Is there room to reappropriate or not?”

He said the infrastructure in New York City or San Francisco should be different than in Des Moines, Iowa, or Missoula, Montana.

Shailen Bhatt, CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, said city planners need to embrace new technology.

“They have a lot more tools in their toolbox than they think they have,” Bhatt said.

Tools like tracking data.

“What are the origins and destinations of people in your city?” Bhatt said. “That’s something that we can do through anonymous data.”

He said between that and smart planning for emerging technologies, cities will be able to get out in front of rising demand for the real estate on their streets.

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