In many cities, there is an increasing demand for the space between the roadway and sidewalk—known as the curb zone. City curbs are often bustling with activity from cars, delivery trucks, ride-hailing vehicles (Uber/Lyft), bikes, scooters, emergency vehicles, ADA accessibility, and pedestrians. And as more people move to urban areas, the more this curb space is in demand.
Georgia Institute of Technology doctoral student Becca Kiriazes saw that curbside management was becoming a hot topic in transportation engineering. While working with Dr. Kari Watkins on the STRIDE Project Q2 “Enabling the Shared Revolution,” Kiriazes developed a new educational product to teach students about this emerging issue.
Kiriazes first developed a half-class lecture about curbside technology for the undergraduate Multimodal Transportation course (CEE 4610) at Georgia Tech. This grew into a full lecture that identifies the potential users and uses for the curb zone, examines curb treatments and technology solutions, and describes the process that engineers and planners use to make informed curb decisions.
Students also complete an activity where they apply their new knowledge to a real-life curb management scenario on the Georgia Tech campus. Tech Square is a busy area where delivery trucks double park or park in the bike lane to access the Amazon locker hub, parked cars line the street all day for campus, a Tech Trolley picks up students for classes, and a busy sidewalk is always full of people going in and out of the shops and restaurants. Students were challenged to find a solution that would not change the roadway and only manage the curb space to make room for everyone that is using the street.
In the activity, students identify the current uses of the curb and calculate curb productivity. They examine the surrounding context, evaluate the potential solutions, and propose their alternative. They then review and evaluate a plan that has been proposed by a local community agency.
Students enjoyed applying what they learned in class to an area that they frequently travel through. By incorporating the community agency’s plans for the segment, students also became familiar with a local agency and the importance of public feedback.
Kiriazes hopes that this lesson and activity will help future transportation engineering students see the roadway systems they build as extremely valuable to many different users beyond just vehicles. She notes that “the curb is more than just a physical boundary object and should be thoughtfully designed during the engineering process.” Real-life activities like this one help students also see how their future designs have the potential to improve everyday functions in the community.