Leipzig/Jakarta. In urban centers, the curb has become a highly contested space. With the rise of ride-sharing services that operate without designated stops, the curb is no longer reserved just for parking, but also used for passenger pick-up and drop-off. This causes a lot of double parking and increases congestion on the road.
A report called "The Share-Use City: Managing the Curb," released during the International Transport Forum (ITF) summit on May 24 in Leipzig, Germany, tries to rethink the design and use of the curb – in the report defined as "a demarcation between two spaces – the roadway and the sidewalk."
It argues the curb should not be used just for street parking anymore, and encourages a more flexible use of the space, including as passenger and freight pick-up and drop-off zones.
The report shows that ride-sharing services have significantly impacted traffic in several cities in North America – where the services were first introduced and, as the report says, "where they have been most popular."
According to data from the report, taxi and ride-sharing service trips in New York City increased by 15 percent between 2013 and 2017, causing a 15 percent drop in average vehicle speeds.
Operating hours of ride-sharing vehicles rose by 59 percent in downtown Manhattan. The number of hours taxis and ride-sharing services spent with passengers on board grew by 48 percent, but at the same time unoccupied vehicle hours increased by 81 percent.
"Ride service vehicles typically pick up passengers from their doorstep which entails an additional amount of empty travel and wait time. This... contributes [to an unknown but possibly significant extent] to more congestion and lower travel speeds for all," the report said.
The data also suggest that increasing number of freight and parcel deliveries due to the rise of online shopping may have also contributed to more curb and traffic congestion.
The report has a list of suggestions on how to manage the curb for large, mid-sized and smaller cities.
Overall, they include designating specific pick-up and drop-off zones for ride services and taxis at the curb, establish curb space reallocation and install an effective monitoring of all transport activity.
Zonal allocations can be time-based, according to Eno Transportation Weekly (ETW) analyst Greg Rogers, as reported by Wired. According to him, the curb is a "flex-space" which is reserved for certain functions throughout the day.
According to the ITF report, this "would require a complete re-evaluation of the physical and digital infrastructure supporting street and curb use today."
The report also takes into account the monetary loss from disappearing parking revenue.
"If cities intend to maintain curb-related revenue levels, the potential loss of parking revenues would have to be substituted by fees charged to other users of the curb – including shared ride service operators," it says.
One possible scenario is to charge a "curb-kiss" fee that is "digitally triggered every time a vehicle operates a meaningful transaction at the curb [e.g. loading or unloading passengers or freight – or longer-term parking]."
This payment scheme should be applied equally to all users, including private vehicle owners, ride-sharing vehicles and public transport.
Too Far-Fetched for Indonesia?
Local ride-hailing services such as Go-Jek were developed with the purpose of reducing traffic in big cities in Indonesia. But so far there has been no comprehensive research on whether or not they do so or – as anecdotal stories on social media seem to suggest – actually make gridlocks worse.
In one of the few attempts to put actual number on the issue, local news outlet Viva in March quoted a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report saying that adoption of ride-sharing services in Asia is still low and that 96 to 99 percent of road users are still private vehicles.
Nevertheless, there have been many complaints that ride-sharing services actually make traffic worse, with more and more motorbike taxis seen occupying curb spaces as their drivers flock to the sidewalk to wait for passengers or enjoy a break.
This is a common sight in city centers and train stations, such as Palmerah in West Jakarta. Compounding the problem, ride-hailing cars and taxis often also gravitate toward the curb to find passengers.
The result? More intense competition for curb space and more road congestion at busy spots in the city.
Motorbikes often take over the sidewalks completely, either using them as parking space or as shortcuts during bad gridlocks.
This is despite an announcement by former Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama two years ago that motorcycles are barred from the sidewalks.
So in Indonesia, competition for space isn't limited to the curb, but extends to the sidewalks – – called "trotoar" in Indonesian, from the French "trottoir." It also involves more contenders: pedestrians and also street vendors known as "pedagang kaki lima."
In response to the ITF report, Danis Sumadilaga, the head of the research and development department at the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, said Indonesia still has a long way to go before it can apply a flexible shared-use curb system, though he also said that the report will be a useful reference in making policies.
"It’s easier for countries with a balanced ratio between public and private transport to regulate mixed-use curb. We still have too many private vehicles," he said.
In Jakarta and most cities in Indonesia, not every street has a proper sidewalk and curb.
Meanwhile, the ITF report shows sidewalks widened to fit bike lanes and storages, pedestrians, passengers waiting for public transport and ride-sharing vehicles and people hanging out on the streets.
In Indonesia, the number one priority is to make more sidewalks available before regulating access to them.
"Once we have the sidewalks, we can think about making them bigger and more convenient," Danis told the Jakarta Globe.
Renovations for Jakarta's sidewalks and curbs are underway along Jalan Sudirman and Jalan M.H. Thamrin – the city's main thoroughfares – carried out by the local city administration.
As reported by Tempo, the width of the new sidewalks is expected to reach 12-15 meters.
Other cities have already refurbished and expanded their sidewalks, as can be seen on Jalan Tunjungan and Jalan Basuki Rachmat in Surabaya, East Java, and on Jalan Dago in Bandung, West Java.
The Public Works Ministry is also revamping the sidewalks around Jakarta’s Gelora Bung Karno stadium for the Asian Games in August and September.
Since mixed-use street is not a feasible concept for Jakarta now, architect and head of the Indonesian Architects Association (IAI) Ahmad Djuhara told The Jakarta Globe that to solve the curb problem the government or ride-sharing providers should come up with designs for a "driver pool" on the city's roads – basically a modified version of a cab rank.
"We need spaces for [ride-sharing vehicle] drivers to stop for a certain amount of time on the road. The space should also have a limit for the number of vehicles that can park there. We don't need to get rid of ride-sharing services, we just have to accommodate them better on our roads," Djuhara said.
Danis said some buildings in Jakarta already have a designated drop-off and pick-up zone for passengers. However, this is not regulated by the government.
The Transportation Ministry released a ministerial regulation in March last year stipulating that every ride-hailing service provider must have pools for drivers to wait for passengers, but in reality this has not happened.
Djuhara, who designed the 80-meter bus stop between the Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX) and Pacific Place Mall in South Jakarta, pointed out that for the city to have better sidewalks and curbs, the government must include architects in city planning.
He said architects are included in Jakarta's city planning only recently. Before that, the city only involved planologists and contractors, so city infrastructures were only planned, not designed.
Architects, Djuhara said, know more about how the city's inhabitants interact with buildings and other infrastructures around them.
"There are many ways to design the curb, not only what the [ITF] report recommends. We should have the design ready when start planning a city," he said.
Djuhara said having architects on board will help Indonesian cities catch up with the more sophisticated curb designs in other parts of the world.
"We can have mixed-use curb sooner than we think, as long as our leaders know how to control and allocate funding – and they have to get architects involved. There is no one definite design. The best way is to have a design contest. The public can be the judges. People should be given a chance to appreciate the design for their city, they should be able to decide the look of the city they live in," he said.