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New Smart Loading Zones in Pittsburgh to Manage Curbside Congestion

City of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA

The City of Pittsburgh was awarded $3 million in grants to implement a “smart loading zone” system in commercial districts throughout the city. This new initiative will replace 20 existing loading zones with new camera-enabled smart zones in an effort to mitigate curbside obstruction and reduce emissions.

Topics Covered

Small Business
Air Quality, Health, Noise
Congestion
Parking
Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety

Cost

Initial: Zero Upfront Cost

Funding

Grants

Project Status

In Progress/Under Construction since 2022

Gov Champion

City of Pittsburgh Department of Mobility and Infrastructure

Problem Addressed

As delivery and rideshare services continue to grow at unprecedented rates, The City of Pittsburgh seeks a way to improve curbside efficiency.

Online services like Grubhub, Doordash and Uber certainly existed before the COVID-19 Pandemic. However, demand for groceries, food and other products delivered directly to your front door, considerably increased when the coronavirus put Americans in a year-long quarantine. While these services have been extremely beneficial in assisting restaurants to stay in business and provided a more convenient way for Americans to have dinner on their table in just minutes, it has also brought about many difficulties and safety hazards as well. 

Pre-pandemic estimates showed demand for e-commerce resulting in a 35% increase in commercial vehicles by 2030. Yet, after the introduction of the pandemic, e-commerce grew by 44% in the year 2020 alone. With this new increase, the city has also seen a rise in air pollution as well as curbside crowding. According to the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, parking in the city has always been challenging with its narrow roads and its loading zones being open to all vehicles. In an interview with WESA, Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI) Policy Analyst Erin Clark stated, “We not only have cars being parked there and delivery vehicles, but we have Ubers, Lyfts, transportation network companies, food deliveries, parcel deliveries…. We see a lot of double-parking, a lot of idling for longer than is necessary, which creates safety and environmental concerns.”

In order to tackle this phenomenon, the DOMI and the Pittsburgh Parking Authority are looking to implement a new curb management system. 

Solutions Used

Pittsburgh was awarded $3 million in grants to integrate new technologies that will automate parking for commercial vehicles.

In recent years, Pittsburgh has seen a substantial increase in commercial curb activity and the Pandemic only made that worse. The DOMI teamed up with local restaurants, small businesses and other community and business stakeholders to strategize best practices to maintain the steady flow of traffic and manage air pollution. These initiatives were put into place to establish a more efficient parking system for curbside and delivery services.

In December of 2020, the City of Pittsburgh was awarded a $100,000 grant from Automotus, a technology company focused on mobility and equity solutions, for a one-year pilot of 20 Smart Loading Zones. These loading zones will help them analyze real-time data to improve curbside efficiency for short-term parking in commercial areas. Automotus’s technology is attached to long-standing infrastructures, such as surrounding street lights or signs, which can read the license plates that park in the designated loading zones.

Between January and March of 2022, the city installed the technology from Automotus throughout the city. The technology will analyze parking activity and automate payment by the minute.

Drivers can identify these smart zones by their brightly painted purple curbs and corresponding signs. Drivers will then scan the QR code located on nearby signs to input the necessary information to be able to park in the loading zone. Each time their vehicle is parked in a smart zone, they will be automatically sent an invoice with no app or meter needed.

The camera-enabled technology is not a surveillance or traditional camera recording system but instead will gather image data to train the technology, measure curb activity to inform smarter policies, and retain vehicle license plate information solely to automatically process payments. No other personal identifying information is collected and it never shares the information for any other purpose.

The DOMI launched the pilot smart loading zones in April 2022 and will monitor and evaluate the results with direct input from the stakeholders including the Pittsburgh Parking Authority. In August of 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a three-year, $3.8 million grant to develop zero-emissions delivery in Pittsburgh, Santa Monica, and Los Angeles as part of a larger DOE grant program to support electric vehicle development. Following the year of the pilot, the DOMI will continue to work with Automotus to integrate the technologies throughout the community using the grant awarded to them by the DOE. They plan to adapt the smart loading zones according to community feedback as necessary. DOMI Policy Analyst Erin Clark noted that poor air quality may have contributed to why Pittsburgh was chosen for the grant.

Outcomes

1

Reduce parking-caused traffic by 20% and double-parking by 60%;

2

Increase parking turnover for restaurants and small businesses

3

Improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and other users

4

Generate additional revenue from parking and loading

Government Project Team

  • Caroline Seifert, Policy Analyst, Department of Mobility and Infrastructure

Last Updated

Jun 29th, 2022

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