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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Public Roads - Summer 2021

Summer 2021
Issue No:
Vol. 85 No. 2
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Hot Topic

Managing Curbside Productivity

by Jeff A. Price

Increasing use of curb space offers challenges in considering accessibility for all users, accommodating increased delivery access, and optimizing curb productivity.

The Nation's roadways now serve an ever-growing set of users: vehicular traffic, pedestrians, public transportation riders, transportation network services, freight and delivery drivers, and various micromobility riders, including cyclists. Many areas require mixed usage of curb space for both motorized and nonmotorized traffic and must adapt to unanticipated uses such as outdoor restaurant space, temporary shelter for homeless populations, and emergencies. Local jurisdictions are constantly challenged to develop creative ways to manage the demand from the various functions of the street.

The Federal Highway Administration recognizes the need for strategic curbside management approaches to the street network. State and metropolitan partners need tools and knowledge to understand and react to this developing practice. Curbside management project goals and objectives need to support the overall efficiency of the surface transportation system. It will take a continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive transportation planning process to foster and improve a systems-based approach to making the street network deliver benefits to all users.

In partnership with State and local governments, public transportation agencies, and other interested parties, FHWA has undertaken research to identify challenges faced by the growing demands for curb space and infrastructure. There is a consensus that research needs to include: (1) a summary of best practices, (2) a report on curb data to understand what is happening, and (3) an exploration of the co-benefits of curbside management.

In collaboration with the Institute of Transportation Engineers, FHWA has developed a new resource on curbside management that will support communities in managing curb space considerations for accessibility, delivery access, and mobility innovations such as emerging micromobility options and autonomous vehicle technology.

A sidewalk with a bike rack and a bikeshare dock. Source: FHWA.
Curbside management can include considerations for pedestrians, micromobility (like this bikeshare dock), parking, and access to businesses.

FHWA has explored potential solutions to optimize curb productivity for the transportation network that address challenges in the following main areas: increased freight traffic and deliveries, transit priority, shared mobility and micromobility, pedestrians, accessibility and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, parking management, electric and autonomous vehicles, and curbside retail.

A fenced area on the roadway beside the curb has a few outdoor dining tables. Source: FHWA.
In 2020, some towns and cities expanded outdoor dining onto sidewalks or along the curb on the roadway.

FHWA is preparing the Curbside Implementation Report to convey current practices and emerging specifications in the area of curbside management. The study aims to provide practitioners of all levels of experience with information on how to assess, gather, and analyze data to understand available information on curbside management inventories. The research provides practitioners with suggested criteria to weigh tradeoffs to better assess, prioritize, and optimize curb uses and to synthesize data to create a strategic, data-driven approach to curbside management projects.

The Curbside Implementation Report will provide an indepth technical study pertaining to the collection, inventories, and processing of information relevant to existing conditions, curbside activity, and performance measurement. The analysis will provide the practitioner with the tools needed to establish modal priorities within a jurisdiction, paving the way for the pursuit of new projects and strategies. The study will cover identifying appropriate measures of effectiveness to understand project needs, selecting appropriate data to evaluate the measures and project alternatives, and obtaining selected data. It will include a discussion of methodologies for collecting new data relevant to curbside management projects through both manual, in-person observations and automated data collection equipment.

For more information on FHWA's curbside management program, visit

Jeff A. Price is a transportation specialist in FHWA's Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty.