The 'war for curb space' is coming and Kelowna's trying to get ahead of it | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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The 'war for curb space' is coming and Kelowna's trying to get ahead of it

The city has closed Bernard Avenue to vehicle traffic this summer and businesses have extended their patios.
July 19, 2020 - 7:00 AM

As new technology changes how we drive and as Kelowna densifies, the city is aiming to study how curb space can best be used so that it may be rented out by using an app.

COVID-19 may have accelerated the use of delivery companies along with the rise of delivered packages from Amazon, so the city is looking at a new area of study called “curbside management,” Rafael Villarreal, Kelowna’s integrated transportation department manager said.

“It’s called a ‘war for the curb space’ and it’s something we’ve started to work on and be proactive on how we’re going to manage the curb space so as we become more urban that’s an absolute reality,” he said. “In the next five years, it’s going to be super interesting.”

That parking space is going to change at different times of the day, he said. Spaces may be used for parking but at other times for deliveries, he said.

“It’s not just delivery trucks… it’s micro deliveries like Skip the Dishes, e-scooters, e-mopeds, new kinds of mini electric vehicles,” he said. “There’s going to be a fight for the curb space including parking, so what’s happening in cities is that they are using different methods to manage curb space. Right now the curb space for us is (used as) parking, but as we grow and become denser, and there’s more need for different types of devices, the fight for the curb space is going to become a reality.”

READ MORE: Bernard Avenue in downtown Kelowna will be closed to traffic this summer

While that space will be prioritized during certain times of the day for particular uses based on the city’s needs, it’s also going to come down to who pays for that space, he said.

Other cities like San Francisco are using apps to manage the spaces, he said.

“We’re not there yet... but as we evolve it’s going to change, the use of the curb space is going to be more multidimensional and an app is going to help us (rent) that space at certain times of the day,” he said.

In bigger cities, e-scooters are a reality and they’re also fighting for that space.

Kelowna’s population is projected to continue to grow at an average annual growth rate of 1.34 per cent over the next 20 years, according to a 2018 study which means the city will have to also rethink how roads are used.

“The road space as we know it today might have to become more flexible,” Villarreal said, using Bernard Avenue which is currently closed to vehicle traffic for the summer, as an example.

Other transportation problems, like the switch to electric vehicles, is also on the city’s radar.

Villarreal said the city will have to think of different funding methods once residents switch to electric vehicles as the federal gas tax is an important source of funding for transportation infrastructure.

“These things take years to plan so those conversations are already happening to a certain extent.”

As driverless cars become the norm, Kelowna will also grapple with policies on how to regulate them, and how they impact congestion, he said.

READ MORE: Okanagan tech companies eye up working from home permanently

While some tech companies may be adjusting to a work-from-home model, there’s still a lot of unknowns how that switch will play out in the future. Initially, at the start of the pandemic, there was a drastic decrease in traffic, but that seems to have returned to near-normal levels, he said.

It is currently part of the city’s transportation master plan, but there's no hard data yet on how working from home will change the city's traffic, he said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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