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It has been a bit scary to watch the decline in business activity in our cities this past year, due to pandemic driven restrictions. The good news is, restrictions on business operations are being lifted, COVID 19 infection rates are declining and maybe, “normal” is just around the corner.

Unfortunately, part of that “normal” will be the return of traffic congestion and the challenge to find curb-space to legally park cars and service vehicles, as we rush to visit our favorite restaurants and shops in urban centers.

Curb-space as a limited resource

Curb-space and the necessary parking it supports is in great demand, with practically no opportunity to increase supply as streets and the resulting curb space in our largest cities is a finite resource.

While off-street parking would seem to be the logical solution to reducing congestion from double parked service vehicles, there is also very little available land in our cities to support off-street parking. Additionally, using scarce real estate in our largest cities for parking, is probably not a practical use for this expensive property.

Persistent Pandemic Problems

We learned how to cope with change during the pandemic. When we could no longer visit our favorite restaurants and shops, we turned to increased on-line purchasing and on-demand home delivery for our meals, groceries, and just about anything else that we needed. With overall business activity down dramatically during the pandemic, curb-side street parking became available to support the growth of on-demand delivery vehicles.

However, as the pandemic wanes and business levels return to normal, our new purchasing behavior patterns are not likely to change. As a result, all those additional, double-parked, on-demand delivery vehicles, may worsen traffic congestion in our cities.

Obviously, on-demand delivery is not a bad thing as it employs thousands of people, helps us to save time and supports additional convenience for the busy consumer and urban worker. Congestion driven by on-demand delivery is generally not a problem in suburban venues where curbside or off-street parking is readily available.

However, we cannot claim that double-parked service vehicles driving congestion in our cities is a recent problem/phenomenon. We can claim that the condition is getting worse and being exacerbated by the growth of on-demand delivery.

Space Solutions

Urban governments have been addressing parking and street congestion problems forever. More recently, city governments are moving to strictly enforce traffic rules that prohibit double parking.

Some cities are also looking to make it more costly for delivery vehicles to operate in congested urban areas. This is forcing both carriers and independent on-demand delivery drivers to rethink their urban delivery models and strategies for offering their services.

So, the question begs, is the answer to these urban congestion conditions a unique solution to creating more on-street parking (curbs) or permitting fewer on-demand delivery vehicles in our cities? Curb space is important, and given its scarcity, may very well be the most valuable space in our busy urban centers.