The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) awarded a $2 million grant under its SMART (Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation) grant program to support the development of the Last-Mile Freight Curb Access Program: Digitizing the Last Mile of Urban Goods to Improve Curb Access and Utilization, a collaboration between the Urban Freight Lab, Seattle Department of Transportation, and Open Mobility Foundation. This project will develop sensor-based technology solutions that address to transportation problems, enabling commercial vehicles to make faster, safer, and more efficient deliveries with reduced vehicle emissions.
The Last Mile Freight Curb Access Program focuses on providing commercial vehicle drivers with real-time information to park legally and expedite deliveries. Research from a 2019 Urban Freight Lab study showed that more than 40% of commercial vehicles in downtown Seattle park in unauthorized locations. Another study showed that equipping commercial vehicles with real-time parking availability and load zone information could reduce their “cruising” time by nearly 30%. The project aims to make information about curbside regulations digitized and more accessible to commercial drivers, and leverage this data to improve regulations.
Other cities including Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Miami-Dade County have also received SMART grants to implement similar technology-based solutions for improving curb access.
Since 2010, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has been a national leader in data-driven curbside management by using parking occupancy data to set on-street parking rates. We proposed to extend our data-driven pricing and curb literacy to a new use: designated commercial vehicle load zones (CVLZ) and the commercial vehicle permit (CVP). Our plan is to establish new CVP policies in close collaboration with urban freight companies, adjacent businesses, and other critical stakeholders; implement a digital CVP built on the Curb Data Specification (CDS) that enables capture of curb utilization measurements and communicates demand management policies; and transform our legacy digital curb inventory to the national CDS standard.
To address these challenges, SDOT proposes a SMART project that will use a combination of digital technologies coupled with targeted outreach. This approach will be implemented through three key strategies:
- Engage with local businesses and urban freight companies to understand challenges and build a foundation of trust SDOT will engage with a variety of stakeholders including local neighborhood businesses, commercial vehicle users from large carriers, and commercial vehicle permit (CVP) holders from small and local businesses. The goal is to build trust and work collaboratively with our users to modernize and improve our existing CVP to create a system that works for urban freight companies, local businesses, and benefits the community at large.
- Prototype a digital CVP and use findings to modernize and scale the system SDOT will conduct a vendor procurement to prototype and assess a wireless vehicle-to-curb infrastructure (V2I) communication system, built on top of the Curb Data Specification (CDS) standard as a new way to manage our CVP. Data collected through this prototype will be leveraged by the UFL to conduct research to develop standardized data collection efforts for commercial curb use and create new data-driven policy and permit recommendations.
- Collaborate with a national cohort of cities implementing the Curb Data Specification SDOT will partner with the Open Mobility Foundation (OMF) and collaborate with a national cohort of OMF member cities to support the shared objectives in how CDS can help cities and companies pilot and scale dynamic curb use. SDOT will share lessons from Stage 1 prototyping with OMF cohort cities to strengthen all CDS-related SMART grant projects and better position proven technologies to be implemented at scale for a Stage 2 project. SDOT is uniquely positioned to deliver a successful Stage 1 project focusing on commercial vehicle curb access and utilization given our existing CVP and leadership in data driven curbside management. Specifically, this project will directly address the SMART goals of equity and access, partnerships, and integration and build the foundation for dramatic improvements in safety, reliability, and climate in Stage 2. Our goal is that the Stage 1 learnings will allow us to scale a digital CVP for citywide adoption in Stage 2, thus promoting interoperability of technology solutions to improve curb access for commercial curb users citywide. Our approach centers on stakeholder and community partnerships, data-driven assessment, and technical capacity-building. Potential outcomes for testing and implementation in Stage 2 include updated policies or curb allocations that might address inequities through deeper understanding of the variety of commercial users of the curb, reduced carbon emissions by creating or incenting CV zero emission zones, and decreased impacts to vulnerable road users through optimized curb allocation.
The expected benefits of Stage 1 will be threefold:
- Rigorously assess the piloted technology system to understand its scaling potential: The project will develop a technology assessment methodology that will look critically at accuracy and data use model development. This assessment will be transparent and developed in collaboration with OMF cohort cities to ensure solutions are scalable while meeting the core needs of Seattle’s digital CVP.
- Create a CDS framework for standardizing data collection efforts of commercial curb space: SDOT will share lessons learned from Stage 1 prototyping and policy recommendations with OMF cohort cities to collectively strengthen all CDS-related SMART grant projects and better position proven technologies to be implemented at scale.
- Create new data-driven commercial vehicle policy and permit recommendations to be enacted during Stage 2 of this grant
The recommendations will be informed by data models created by the UFL using utilization data from the project overlayed with characteristics of adjacent urban form and land use. These models will help SDOT identify areas for adjustments to existing curb allocation as well as establish a deeper understanding of the variety of commercial vehicle user behavior at the curb to meet climate goals. We anticipate these policies will benefit both curb users and local community members by reducing congestion and creating safer streets.