When Greg Rogers left his gig as a Washington, DC, lobbyist in 2015, he did what any savvy, mid-2 0s child with a car and a light wallet might: He signed up to drive for a couple of ridehailing services. “Living the millennial dream means quitting your job, driving for Uber and Lyft, and trying to figure it out, ” he says.
He was a menace. “It was always the same dancing, ” says Rogers , now a policy analyst with the Eno Center for Transportation, a think tank. “I wouldn’t be able to see the passengers, and couldn’t find a place to park safely. So I did what a lot of Uber drivers did: I hurled on the hazard lights and blocked a lane.” He and his fellow drivers stopped traffic, risking tickets and sparking jams along the way.
Rogers and his countrymen were just foot soldiers in an unending war of conquest that rages in nearly every city in the country, even the world. The battleground is ubiquitous but rarely merits a second look. In some places, it occupies mere inches of space. But the territory is now fertile clay, its coveters many. We are talking, of course, about the curb.
The curbside has always been a a place for walking and loitering. But in merely the past decade, smartphone technology has enabled new transportation services, all of them looking for their own bit of the terrain. The kerb is home to bike share programs and the cycling lanes that help their users get around safely. It’s a place to pick up and drop off passengers( Uber, Lyft, Chariot, Via, public buses and streetcars, paratransit) and things( UPS, FedEx, Instacart, Postmates ). Some cities have put aside space for carshare services( Zipcar, Maven ), or scooter-shares( Scoot ). Others have found new and creative ways to charge for parking spots, experimenting with tech that adjusts costs based on demand.
“Cities have started to rethink how their streets are designed from kerb from kerb, ” says Matthew Roe, who directs street design initiatives for the National Association of City Transportation Officials and authored a new curbside management white paper released this week. “They’ve started to realize they need more tools to manage that valuable curbside space. It’s the most valuable space that a city owns and one of the most underutilized.”