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December 08, 2021

Philadelphia to pilot high-tech solution for delivery trucks clogging city streets

Starting this spring, the program will give drivers the opportunity to reserve a loading space online before they arrive

As Christmas approaches, drivers in Philadelphia may be spending more time than they'd like stuck behind illegally parked trucks delivering presents ordered online.

And they aren't the only ones vying for precious curb space in the internet age, as tech companies endeavor to seamlessly bring the world to their customers' doorsteps in cardboard boxes. Along with rideshares, food delivery services and residents simply dropping off friends and family, there are just too many people competing for the same limited number of spots.

But hopefully the streets will be less clogged next holiday season, as the city's Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, & Sustainability is partnering with the Office of Innovation and Technology to pilot a traffic reduction program which works by having delivery drivers reserve loading spots online ahead of time.

The city currently has a request for bid out for tech solutions to make the Smart Loading Zones program a reality. Five different software options will be tested for a year starting in March 2022.

In addition to the spot reservation system, the city would like the software to map out all of Philly's curbs and provide information about regulations for any given spot.

At present, the lack of available loading spaces often leaves delivery drivers few options aside from double parking, which slows down traffic and makes streets more dangerous.

This illegal stopping often happens on a street's bike lane, creating a hazard for cyclists. It can also obscure a pedestrian's view of oncoming traffic, which makes crossing the street more risky than it needs to be.

Washington D.C. piloted a similar project in 2019 and found that incidences of double parking went down, which in turn improved crosswalk and cyclist safety.

Last year, curbFlow—the third-party provider that created D.C.'s reservation system—expanded the program by installing several cameras around the city which allow drivers to see if a loading spot is open in real time.

This is not the first pilot Philadelphia has undertaken to address delivery traffic in recent years. Back in 2019, loading zone regulations on Chestnut Street between 6th and 20th were altered for six months to see if traffic flow improved.

Whereas loading had only been permitted in certain spots from 6-10 a.m., the pilot created a 20-minute, permanent spot at the western edge end of each block. It worked, and the changes were made permanent in April 2020.