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Public Parking Meters Removed for App-Based Loading Zones

Walker Evans Walker Evans Public Parking Meters Removed for App-Based Loading ZonesPhoto by Walker Evans.
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Starting Monday, November 18, nine designated public parking areas will become dedicated loading zones through a partnership between the City of Columbus and curbFlow — a Washington D.C.-based startup designed to relieve congestion caused by delivery vehicles.

The zones will all be located in the public right of way along street curbs, primarily replacing existing metered parking spaces. The spots area located in the University District near OSU, the Short North, and Downtown near the North Market and on Gay Street.

“We are dedicated to being responsive and to providing mobility options that add to the quality of life for our residents and visitors,” stated Jennifer Gallagher, director of the Department of Public Service at the City of Columbus. “With increasing demand for curb space due to the growth in e-commerce, freight and on-demand deliveries and ride hailing, this pilot program with curbFlow brings an innovative, data-driven approach to managing congestion. It will also make our streets safer and air cleaner for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers.”

The installation of the Loading Management Zones (“LMZs”) began this morning, and the immediate reception was mixed. While some neighborhood stakeholders, business owners and property owners were solicited for feedback in the planning process, others felt caught off guard by the process.

“We had no prior knowledge of the installation until work actually started today,” stated David Day of The Day Companies, which owns multiple buildings on Gay Street, adjacent to one of the loading zones. “At first glance, I would say that it is a terrible location to foster development of retail.”

Arguably, the Gay Street retail business likely to be most immediately affected by the change is Cafe Brioso, located directly adjacent to the curbFlow zone. Owner Jeff Davis told Columbus Underground that the changes made today are already having a negative impact on his business.

“Nearly all customer visits by car park at those five meters and since they are 30 minute meters, there is a great deal of turnover throughout the day,” he stated. “The negative impact on the weekends could be even worse with really no need for for a loading zone. I am now even more pleased we are relocating to the west side of High Street.”

Conversely, loading zones in The Short North have seen a warmer reception.

“The City of Columbus reached out to us to gather input on the new curb flow program,” stated Short North Alliance Executive Director Betsy Pandora. “We engaged businesses adjacent to proposed locations to solicit feedback on the program and, to date, have not heard of any objections.”

So How Does curbFlow Work?

A delivery driver — whether it’s a UPS truck, refrigerated food delivery semi trailer or a Uber passenger pickup — stops in the curbFlow zone and checks in on the curbFlow app. Using the service will be free the first month, but the second month will see the implementation of microtransactional fees. A curbFlow user pays 10 cents for up to five minutes of “dwell time” and two cents per minute afterwards. That means that a thirty minute delivery would cost a driver 60 cents.

The LMZs are in effect 24 hours per day, seven days per week, which means that the parking meters that were replaced will be bagged and unusable for public parking over the 12-month test period. Robert Ferrin, assistant director for Parking Services at City of Columbus Department of Public Service, stated that based on usage data collected, the usage time could change at a later date to allow for public parking during non-peak hours.

The LMZs are located at the following spots:

  • High St. – W. Norwich Ave. to W. Lane Ave.
  • High St. – E. 18th St. to W 18th St.
  • High St. – E. 12th St. to E. 13th St.
  • High St. – Chittenden Ave. to W. 11th Ave.
  • High St. – E. 9th Ave. to W. 9th Ave.
  • High St. – W. 2nd Ave. to E. 2nd Ave.
  • Vine St. between High St. and Wall St.
  • Park St. – Spruce St. to Vine St.
  • Gay St. – N. High St. to Pearl St.

“Columbus has been at the forefront of identifying innovative solutions to address the challenges of our evolving transportation ecosystem, and we’re excited to partner with the city and community to manage curb space in a way that makes them safer, more productive and efficient for merchants, operators, bikers and pedestrians,” said Ali Vahabzadeh, Founder and CEO at curbFlow.

“I think this is going to suck for us,” stated Paul Westrick, owner at zer0z wallet shop on Gay Street. “Small retailers wrestle with all types of challenges to be here for the community and this does nothing for us. We hear from many of our customers that they can not find parking to stop in for 10 minutes. This does not help.”

For more information, visit curbflow.com/Columbus.

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