How CurbIQ Enables Complete Street Transformations

Gonzalo Martínez Santos
April 14, 2022

Since the beginning of the 20th century, North American cities have been characterized by a clear car dominance. Compared to the idealized concept of people-centric European cities, America’s car-focused urbanistic approach has led to miles and miles of multi-lane roads. This approach offers minimal access to alternative mobility options and little open space for citizens to live and interact. But what happens when large social, environmental, and health challenges come knocking? Can roads handle the traffic congestion formed by the increasing urban population? Are streets able to adapt to incorporate more equitable and sustainable mobility options?

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to rethink how different uses of the curbside are allocated. Many cities have reevaluated their priorities to focus on complete street transformation projects on a wider scale, shifting the focus from cars to people. Cites are beginning to see the value in wider sidewalks that benefit pedestrians, or pick-up and drop-off zones near local businesses and restaurants. For many North American cities, the addition of bicycle lanes has been a crucial aspect of this transformation. Uninterrupted and protected bikeways allow for cross-city trips as well as local connections for people to travel using sustainable and active modes. These transformations often come at the cost of reappropriation of the curb space.

The curbside is a complex and dynamic space. To efficiently roll out complete street transformation projects, powerful and flexible tools like CurbIQ make it faster and easier for cities and planners to implement these changes.

Use Case: ActiveTO Midtown Pilot

In early 2021, IBI Group supported the City of Toronto’s ActiveTO Midtown Complete Street Pilot. The project transformed 3.5 kms of Yonge Street, one of Toronto’s most iconic and bustling corridors, into a complete street over the course of 12 months, as part of the city’s COVID-19 response. IBI Group assessed three parallel mid-town corridors and selected Yonge Street due to its pedestrian activity, its subway and bus connections, its high-rise development over the years, and the volume of local businesses and restaurants. Understanding the existing curbside regulations along these corridors, using CurbIQ, was a key first milestone for the project.

Comparison of curbside regulations on Avenue Road, Yonge Street, and Mount Pleasant Road before intervention in 2021.

Visualizing Curb Regulations

CurbIQ allowed planners to visualize the original parking regulations distributed along the chosen corridor. They also performed a detailed analysis by measuring the lengths of regulation segments, and quantifying total on-street parking supply. By fully understanding the existing curbside conditions, the IBI team was able to choose the most feasible complete street transformation for Yonge Street.

By the summer of 2021, Yonge Street’s curbside was completely redesigned using tactical means and light infrastructure materials to include a wide variety of competing curbside regulations, including:

  • 3.5 kms of protected bicycle lanes were added to both sides of the street, separated from the car lanes by 1200 curb stones and bollards, and 250 planters for additional safety
  • 26 summer curbside patios that were previously approved by the CaféTO program
  • 86 winter parking spaces
  • 17 sections of artistic pavement markings
  • 4 raised accessible loading zones and TTC bus stop platforms

CurbIQ’s digital curb inventory gave the IBI team the flexibility to plan a balanced, people-centric, and mobility-friendly corridor. Bike lanes are the unifying thread, while revenue-generating regulations are still present.

Yonge Street, before intervention.
The summer configuration of Yonge Street, after intervention.

Using CurbIQ to Create Complete Streets

Flexible streets need flexible management software. The advantage of CurbIQ is that it is not only customizable and simple to use, but also that it adapts to the needs of cities and planners. CurbIQ has been designed together with planners to provide insight into common urban mobility issues.

Managing the dynamic nature of streets caused by seasonal regulations is a challenge when designing complete streets. In a city like Toronto, restaurants benefit from curbside patios during the summer, but when the winter comes, outdoor dining space can be reallocated to uses such as on-street parking. To accommodate this, bike lanes need to be periodically readjusted around seasonal uses of the curb, such as the bike-reroutes around curbside patios in the ActiveTO pilot.

Curb Manager provides a sandbox for cities to create and test different curbside configurations, without investing time or resources into physically implementing the changes. Planners can virtually remove parking spaces, create new pick-up and drop-off zones, or redistribute Bikeshare stations. Different scenarios can be compared in Curb Analyzer to determine the optimal transformation – whether that’s the number of parking spaces that need to be reallocated for bicycle lanes, the best location for a bus stop, or the number of users that will be impacted by these changes.

CurbIQ is an invaluable tool for cities and planners to use both before transformations for evaluation purposes, as well as on a day-to-day basis to keep track of past and upcoming changes.

A Future of Complete Streets

Complete street pilots like ActiveTO have demonstrated that it is possible to strike a balance between all curb users. Of course, not every street has the same activity and demand, so curbside configurations that work for some corridors may not work everywhere. Thankfully, CurbIQ’s city-wide data collection and analysis tools combined with industry best practices in design allow planners to create custom solutions for any city.

More and more cities are beginning to take on wider-scale transformations to tackle the pressing challenges of equity and sustainability. Curbside digitization and management tools like CurbIQ will be essential in helping roll out these innovative projects. Let us know if you’re interested in implementing a complete street, we’d love to help you with it.

Gonzalo Martínez Santos
Gonzalo is a Curbside Mobility Analyst at CurbIQ who is passionate about cities, new mobility solutions, and sustainable urbanism. His background in engineering and data science, and his experience developing GIS visualization and computational tools allow him to contribute to the design and management of digital urban solutions at Arcadis IBI Group.
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