The Curb and COVID-19

The curb has always enjoyed the distinction of being an economic engine for our roadways. As the connecting point between transportation and land use, the curb remains an essential cornerstone of commerce. This is made more evident as numerous restaurants and businesses respond to COVID-19 restrictions. As these businesses have limited access to their brick-and-mortar buildings in response to the pandemic, they are relying on curbside pickup locations for customer interactions.

Curbside pickup is not a new concept. Major supermarkets and grocery stores such as Walmart, Target, Publix, Kroger, and Whole Foods have led the trend of buy online, pickup curbside prior to the Coronavirus outbreak. However, in recent months other retailers and local businesses have embraced the model as municipalities throughout the country have temporarily suspended parking enforcement on city streets, creating the opportunity to use metered parking spaces for other than personal vehicle storage. In addition to curbside pickup, these spaces also are being repurposed for outdoor dining to allow for social distancing where phased opening has begun.

Some health experts estimate that social distancing will be necessary beyond 2020. Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health projected that intermittent social distancing measures may be needed into 2022 to control COVID flare-ups (Tozzi, Bloomberg, 4/14). Demand to repurpose the curb lane is likely to continue in a post-COVID world, which may shift this commerce center away from mobility to an extension of restaurants and businesses. With fewer on-street parking spaces to generate revenue, municipal parking programs will need to create innovative ways to supplement revenue generated from the automobile.

The response to COVID-19 has also had a large impact on the micromobility industry. Although they were once ubiquitous on city streets, micromobility devices have all but disappeared. The seasonality for micromobility usage and lack of an outdoor user group may significantly impact this industry’s ability to survive COVID-19. Unlike on-street parking that can convert to a contactless transaction through the use of mobile payments, micromobility scooters have surface contact built into their business model. As a shared device, users are required to have prolonged contact with a surface that was touched by previous users. This may make e-scooter usage particularly risky for the transmission of bacteria and viruses. Without clear preventative measures, this could mean a longer suspension of micromobility services. However, if micromobility companies can figure out a way to lower the risk of transmission, they may re-emerge in an environment that has a lower demand for transit, increased flexibility of curb lane uses, and a higher demand for mobility that allows for social distancing.

Click here to read Part 1 of this series.

Connect With Us!

Contact Jeshua