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Oakland, Calif., Sets Up Digital ‘Smart Loading Zones’

More than 380 loading zones in Oakland will be turned into smart zones, allowing for commercial fleets — like parcel and other deliveries — to seamlessly park and pay by the minute.

Oakland, CA
The curbs in Oakland, Calif., may soon feel a little less crowded and chaotic thanks to a new digital curb management system aimed at creating “smart loading zones.”

The Bay Area city will use technology from Populus to transition more than 380 curbside loading zones to “smart” loading areas in an effort to better manage the increased volume of package delivery occurring across the city.

“Technology can help us modernize the management of our limited curb space, making it faster and easier to pay for the use of the curb, reducing circling, and increasing access to the curb for those who need it,” said Jean Walsh, a public information officer for Oakland.

The city will begin operating a new permit process for commercial fleet operators to access the seamless system, freeing up drivers from having to physically pay for parking, but will pay across the contactless platform on a by-the-minute basis.

The smart curbs are made possible by the Curb Data Specification (CDS), a standard language for a city to communicate its curb rules out to users of the curb.

“It’s really important for cities to be able to publish those curb rules and regulations out in a machine-readable, standard way, so that UPS, or DoorDash, working in one city can speak that same language when they cross a border into another city,” said Andrew Glass Hastings, executive director of the Open Mobility Foundation, during a mobility panel in November 2022. The panel was hosted by CoMotion LIVE.

Having a standard language shared by mobility operators and the cities charged with developing and regulating the transportation right of way is essential for realizing the full potential of a digital curb management system, according to transportation officials.

“If the city develops a policy around a reduced speed area, or a geo-fenced exclusion zone, or parking areas, they’re able to push that policy back to the operator,” Hastings explained. “This now enables a city to really be able to play their role as managers and regulators of the right of way to help make sure that integrated system is working well together.”

Rates for using the smart loading zones follow rates for general parking at nearby meters, said Walsh.

“This is typically $2 per hour, but can be as high as $3 or as low as $1.50 in areas with demand-responsive parking pricing,” she added.

The Curb Data Specification is the outcome of the Curb Management Working Group, formed in 2020 and made up of more than 160 leaders from the tech, transit, delivery and city staff levels at OMF to develop a “free and open standard.” Populus was a primary contributor to establishing the curb data standard.

“Oakland is leading the way in developing and implementing curb management strategies that lead to outcomes that work for both residents and commercial fleet operators,” said Regina Clewlow, founder and CEO for Populus, in a statement.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.