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Curbs in Hoboken, N.J., Get Ready to Be ‘Reimagined’

The city will work with technology company Populus and an urban design firm to digitize its streetscape. It’s part of a project known as The Curb Reimagined, which will create a real-time, digital city map.

An aerial view looking down on brownstones and cars parked at curbs in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Transportation officials at a small, dense city near the metropolitan New York area are digitizing their curbs as part of transitioning the streetscape from static, inflexible uses to more dynamic places capable of adjusting quickly.

Hoboken, N.J., is working with transportation tech platform Populus and the urban design firm Kimley-Horn on the project. The end result should be a multidimensional map layered with details relevant to curbside problems like congestion and double parking, and to handling competitors for curb space like deliveries, ride-hailing and micromobility.

“This digital curb inventory map will show how Hoboken’s curbside is managed today, including loading zones, paid parking, permit parking, bike lanes and more,” explained Marilyn Baer, communications manager for Hoboken, in an email. “To actively and effectively manage curbside demand, it’s important for the city to have the ability to see how curb regulations are distributed by both location and type.”

Creating a digital map of the city is a first step in the process of putting in place a framework to collect and analyze the voluminous amount of real-time and other data available from modern transportation systems and smart city applications. The project is known as The Curb Reimagined.

In the old days, officials relied on separate maps to see parking, loading zones and other demands on the street, making it difficult to see the area holistically and completely, Baer said. But digital maps — like a Google document — can be edited by multiple planners in real time, allowing the maps to be organic and reflective of the evolving nature of the streetscape.

“A use case to consider is that the city can overlay complaints about double parking and whether there are loading zones operating nearby and during the hours when the complaints are recorded,” Baer said.

A number of cities are turning to digital tools to manage the curb, made possible by Curb Data Specifications developed by the Open Mobility Foundation (OMF), which counts Populus and companies like it as members.

Portland, Ore., is taking on a project to create a zero-emission delivery zone across about a dozen blocks of downtown, an endeavor where data collection from the curb activity is essential.

“As we grapple with how we price the right of way, how we price the curb, how we regulate the curb, how we manage the curb ... being cognizant of what is informing our next steps is really important,” said Millicent Williams, director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, discussing the project earlier this month at the CoMotion Miami conference. “And so, big data, for us, is that collection of all of those partners in problem-solving, bringing their data and information together.”

The project in Hoboken will enable the city to integrate and compare real-time parking data against curbside demand and revenue, a Populus leader said. The development of a database that includes curb and parking regulations will be part of a process known as “coding the city’s curbs,” creating information that can be digitally communicated with the city’s fleets.

“Our Curb Manager platform will provide Hoboken with the tools needed to make informed decisions, reduce congestion, and enhance the overall mobility experience for residents and visitors alike,” Regina Clewlow, Populus CEO and co-founder, said in a statement.

The digital curb map will be publicly available when it’s finished, Baer said, to keep residents and businesses up to speed on regulations and planned activity on the street. No completion date has been set; public engagement meetings this summer will likely be the project’s next visible step.

“Once completed, The Curb Reimagined will recommend strategies for how the curbside can be managed to better meet the growing needs of people and businesses in Hoboken including potential uses such as loading zones, parking, bus stops, pickup and drop-off zones, bike lanes, and outdoor dining,” Baer said.
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.