Curbside Management Strategy – Improving How Curbside Space Is Used

Curbside Management Strategy – Improving How Curbside Space Is Used

By Peter Richards, IBI Group 


IBI Group worked with the City of Toronto on the Curbside Management Strategy. The City of Toronto has seen and continues to experience significant growth with substantial development adjacent to its right-of-way, resulting in considerable demands on the road network and excessive congestion; especially in the downtown core. Currently, curbside access (use of the shared space on a roadway adjacent to the sidewalk) is in high demand for motorists, cyclists, operators of transit, taxi, motor coach, courier and other deliveries/goods movement vehicles, and many other users. 

The Curbside Management Strategy’s objective is to improve upon the efficiency and effectiveness of curbside space allocation and usage for all parking and loading activity, and to reduce congestion in the study area. The study area is bounded by Lake Shore Boulevard / Harbour Street, Bathurst Street, Queen Street, and Jarvis Street in Toronto. Between University Avenue and Yonge Street, the Study Area extends northerly to Dundas Street.

Activities under the Curbside Management Strategy (CMS) will help manage traffic congestion by:

  • Using innovative solutions to improve the balance of safe access for people and goods with mobility;
  • Reducing illegal parking which may affect traffic flow; and
  • Increasing legal parking availability and reducing parking “search time” (i.e., cruising).

The CMS study involved the following overall tasks – reviewing of existing conditions, assessing future condition impacts, outreach and stakeholder engagement, reviewing best practices, developing strategies to evaluate, and recommending a set of policies and a proposed implementation plan.

Existing Conditions Review

The objective of the Existing Conditions review was to study the existing transportation conditions and curbside usage, issues, and opportunities in downtown Toronto within the proposed study area. This included a high-level review of existing City of Toronto policies and commitments, to ensure adherence and consistency for any potential recommendations. Some significant issues that were observed and identified included:

  • Utilization rates varying block by block throughout the downtown core with some designated zones being underutilized, indicating that the curbside space may be improperly allocated. This may also be partially attributable to seasonality of demand, e.g., motor coach parking is in much higher demand in the summer than in the winter;
  • There may be insufficient supply to meet demand for on-street parking in some areas of the downtown core; however, interventions such as improved information on available parking locations or variable parking pricing may help redistribute this demand;
  • The perception that on-street parking is less expensive than off-street, artificially increasing the demand for it; and
  • Since courier loading zones are not regulated, non-courier vehicles can park in these spaces without a penalty. This is leading to high occupancy rates in these spaces by non-courier vehicles, often forcing couriers to park elsewhere.

Future Conditions Assessment

The Future Conditions Assessment documented several key planned and proposed City transportation policies and initiatives underway, in order to better understand their impacts on, and ensure they are well-aligned with, the Curbside Management Strategy. The initiatives were organized in two general categories – broad, high-level City planning and policy frameworks, and specific City projects and initiatives with more direct impacts on Downtown curbside operations.

The continued increase in non-residential developments suggested that there will be a growing need for loading zones and potentially short term parking (likely desirable on-street) in the future. The increase in residential and non-residential developments within the study area suggested that there may be a modal shift occurring, with a focus on active transportation and transit, as more residents are choosing to live closer to their work. 

Continued plans to improve inter-regional transit service will also impact the modal split for trips originating outside the study area. The changing modal split and growing population and employment figures indicate that there should be increased demand and competition for the limited curbside space. The curbside management strategy needed to account for these changes to ensure the resulting recommendations can accommodate these competing needs.

Outreach and Stakeholder Engagement

The objectives of this task were to engage the public and stakeholders in a flexible, focused manner to facilitate the Curbside Management Strategy, garner varied input from multiple sources, and to facilitate the evaluation and implementation process. The major components of this program undertaken included:

  • Individual consultations with key stakeholder groups;
  • Collection of public and stakeholder experiences via a web survey;
  • Identification of issue hot spots via a web based issue reporting tool;
  • A public consultation session; and
  • Input from an external expert on curbside parking operations.

Through this program, input was received from over 20 different stakeholders, various City of Toronto departments and City Councillors, and nearly 900 completed surveys and reported issues. Through this process the most common issues of note included:

  • High demand for limited space;
  • Illegal use of space by non-intended users; and
  • Confusion about which uses are permitted in certain areas.

All of the components were reviewed in order to help shape the recommended policies associated with the proposed Curbside Management Strategy.

Best Practices Review

This Best Practices review aimed to assist in the development of the City of Toronto’s Curbside Management Strategy by working in tandem with the information gained from the tasks noted above. 

While few cities have developed an overall curbside management program, many are working to improve their city through various operational strategies. It has been found that there is not one program that will address all curbside conflicts, nor will any one solution work in all locations. Some key observations noted in the best practices review are:

  • Price is an effective strategy to control demand;
  • Many of the benefits from the programs observed do not increase revenues;
  • Programs such as New York’s off-peak deliveries or specialized bus service program show that it is possible to better utilize existing infrastructure by delegating priority to certain users during peak and off-peak periods; and
  • Real-time parking information can help users to plan their destination in advance, reducing circling or “cruising”.

The findings were helpful when developing strategies and tactics for the overall CMS.

Strategy Development and Evaluation

The objective of this task was to introduce an assessment framework, established for assessing curbside requests, and develop potential recommendations for curbside management by creating an implementation plan. These tactics were reflective of the established curbside guiding principles, the needs of curbside users, and the hierarchy of curbside function by corridor type. A long list of proposed tactics were evaluated in the context of their ability to meet the study’s vision and user needs, as well as their potential impact on curbside operations in downtown Toronto. The result of this evaluation was a short list of tactics that were believed to best address the overall objectives of the Curbside Management Strategy.

There are many roles that the curbside plays for its users, such as movement or parking. However, the most common and essential curb functions can be classified into five different categories, all of which play an important role in the strategy development for the curbside management strategy: 

  • Movement;
  • Access for Business;
  • Access for People;
  • Parking; and 
  • Activation. 

Streets serve many different roles and functions, depending on their context, and on time of day, day of week, or time of year. The purpose of all Study Area streets, as they pertain to the curbside, can be seen to operate in a matrix with a continuum of traffic mobility and curbside access as axes ranging from high to low. To that effect, the five distinct corridor types for the CMS were separated into two themes: mobility matters, and access matters. These five corridor types are Surface Transit Priority, Cycling, Arterial, Mixed-Use Access, and Mixed-Use Main Street. 

Each of the corridor types were examined, and the associated curbside functions for each of the corridor types were ranked. The ranking was based on all of the information gathered to date, including field observations, stakeholder engagement, best practices, and a review of City documents, including the Official Plan and Complete Streets Guidelines. 

With all of this information on guiding principles, curbside functions, and corridor types, downtown streets now had a system by which to determine what kinds of uses relative to other uses should be prioritized on each of the classifications of roadways, while the tactics provided guidance on how to make changes (such as regulate courier load zones). 

Recommended Policy Approach

Throughout the development of the Curbside Management Strategy, key curbside themes arose that are important in attaining the curbside vision. A series of eight policy statements were developed, one for each identified theme. These policies are intended to ensure that the high-level, strategic aims of the plan can be used to inform future operational recommendations. These themes were:

  • Appropriate Street Use;
  • Equitable User Priority;
  • Accessibility Needs;
  • Effectiveness;
  • Value;
  • Efficiency;
  • Safety; and
  • Reduce Use.

The simplified goal of the CMS was to ensure that all stakeholders have curbside access where and when they need it, while supporting the economic health and livability of the downtown area. The combination of the high-level guidelines and policies, and the detailed assessment framework and tactical implementation plan together, will improve curbside management in a way that supports multi-modal mobility, economic vitality, and access for people and goods.ν

Peter Richards will present this topic on Monday, September 17, at 1:30 pm as part of the the 2018 Annual Conference program. Join him to learn more and engage in the discussion.


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