Let A Thousand “Tienditas” Bloom!
Curb management in PDX, Canadian pizza heads south, Marketplace Risk Conference
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Let A Thousand “Tienditas” Bloom!
Zoning! Before your eyes glaze over with excitement – today’s post isn’t about the all important battle for cities to accommodate housing growth – but something that tends to get overlooked in the fierce YIMBY vs NIMBY battles: corner stores.
Corner stores, mini-marts, bodegas, tienditas - what you call it might depend on which side of the continental divide you reside on. And while 7-Eleven may have given Americans the false impression that these types of stores are meant to live at the intersection of two giant highways, historically these have been neighborhood serving retailers that reside in the interior, residential blocks of a community. Across the country you can still find them in older, denser, curb-friendly parts of town; but from coast-to-coast their traditional form has been slowly squeezed out, with existing stores deemed non-compliant, and newer retailers tending to cluster on main streets with too much parking and not enough walkability.
Walk around any pre-war neighborhood, and if you look closely enough you can see evidence of all the corner stores that once were: subtly different brickwork and cornices, the faint outline of a sign, a window that doesn’t quite match the rest of the building…
Welcome Back, Corner
This past week, LA made progress on updating the community plans to three core, historic neighborhoods: Downtown, Hollywood and Boyle Heights. And in that latter community - just east of the LA River - we can see how smart policy practitioners are looking to restore the humble corner store to its rightful throne.
The plan relegalizes Tienditas / Neighborhood Corner Stores, across much of the 6.67 square mile community. While a variety of socio-economic factors have kept a number of corner stores in business for hundreds of years, this finally offers a path for many of their land uses to once again be deemed compliant, and opens a door for newer stores to open in select locations as well. Also exciting are plans to help accommodate another neighborhood staple: street vending.
Corner Stores for a Healthy Curb
The real beauty of corner stores isn’t just the local economic opportunity, but what it does for street life in the neighborhood. Residents have a grocery or shopping option that they can walk to, forgoing unnecessary car trips. Shoppers or diners have a more pleasant place to be, getting them away from noisy and dangerous arterial roads. Some of these locations might even (somewhat counterintuitively) be more conducive to deliveries as well - as nearby curb faces have ample availability when residents are away at work, and the occasional double parker at least avoids backing up traffic on a major thoroughfare.
If this program succeeds, one can hope it’ll be expanded to other neighborhoods and cities as well. (Another related concept to keep an eye on is the “accessory commercial unit.") One could argue that there are a number of dense, post-war neighborhoods that would benefit even more from these updates, since they don’t have any existing corner stores to rely on…
HOT INDUSTRY NEWS & GOSSIP
This week in curb management: Portland, Oregon plans to create a zero-emissions delivery zone in a 16-block section of its downtown. “No one has done this, this way, in the U.S.” claims Dylan Rivera, a spokesman for the Portland Bureau of Transportation. We’ll note that it sounds a lot like… the zero emissions delivery zone in Santa Monica, or the one in the works for Downtown LA. But hey, we’ll let them have their moment in the sun. (Also worth noting that the pilot zone is comprised almost entirely of government buildings, likely to try to tame pushback from reticent commercial landlords.)
Dublin, Ohio is also getting into the curb management game - partnering with Automotus to gather realtime curb data in its Bridge Park neighborhood. The town, a suburb of smart-city mecca Columbus, looks to make live spot availability data open to the public as it works to make space for increased delivery traffic. Meanwhile, Lisbon is playing the trump card when it comes to rethinking its streets and curbs; the Portuguese capital just announced plans to ban cars from driving through its downtown.
“A dipping sauce place that happens to serve pizza” There’s no food more associated with delivery than pizza, and no country more associated with pizza than… Canada. Incongruities aside, Canadian pizza giant Pizza Pizza (that quote is from a real review) is headed south of the border (or in their case, doubly south of the border) as it opens new restaurants in Mexico. The question remains whether they’ll learn from local pizza legends like Pixza and add chapulines and huitlacoche to the pies.
Federal incentives work! Rivian opens its EV charging network to the broader public, as the struggling automaker looks to tap into fresh federal cash. Inflation Reduction Act money is also succeeding at in-sourcing green jobs, as battery manufacturers set up new plants in the U.S. On the less happy side - GM just announced it was killing off its diminutive Bolt, likely as EV buying subsidies push shoppers to its more dangerous, less sustainable, and way more profitable giant electric SUVs. Maybe we need some new rules about that as well?
Speaking of small electric cars… French startup Kate just raised €7 million to develop lightweight mini-cars geared towards in-city driving. They’re electric, of course!
“The key to staying alive is to iterate and innovate.” Kiwibot co-founder David Rodriguez shares his thoughts on ESG, mapping, how robots can be good citizens and more, as the company navigates obstacles in its sixth year of business.
The birth of a carsharing behemoth! Blink Charging announced it was acquiring EV carsharer Envoy; the company previously gobbled up on-street carshare operator BlueLA, and won a contract to offer a subsidized carsharing program for low income New Jerseyans. As Envoy’s business model is to offer carsharing as an amenity for closed campuses (office parks, apartment towers, etc) - it looks like Blink is hedging its bets on the best path forward for shared mobility.
Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty… Repeat business is the name of the game when it comes to just about any company. Organizations of all stripes are increasingly looking to loyalty programs to lure back customers. While classically associated with travel and mobility, even salad-slangers like Sweetgreen are getting into the game.
Now for some bad, transit-related news: Let’s say you’re a dense state capital city, hemmed in by the ocean and mountains, and at the mercy of having to import all your gasoline from the mainland. You wisely decide its time to build an elevated rail transit system, but you then unwisely go billions over budget and a decade plus behind schedule. Having pushed back the complete opening of the rail line until the 2030s, phase I of Honolulu’s metro is finally opening this year, and the authority just announced that the fully automated system will… close at 7 PM, and feature trains that only come every 10 minutes. Hawaiians - I hope you didn’t want anything useful for all that money!
Back on the mainland, Culver City unwisely looks to partially undo its popular downtown bus and bike lane system. And proving there’s indeed no such thing as a free lunch - DC wants to cancel a plan to build a transitway on K Street to instead fund its fare-free bus program. Its not all doom and gloom though - the California Transit Association released a plan to shore up the finances of in-state transit agencies.
Prices on the rise: No it’s not inflation, it’s the premium consumers pay when they order from many popular chains on third party delivery apps. New data shows that ordering Chipotle or Chick-fil-A on a 3PD averages a 30% premium over the in-store price, while others like BJ’s and Papa John’s feature no upcharge.
Job alerts! SDOT is looking for a public space management intern; NYCDOT needs someone to lead its freight efficiency and sustainability programs. And congrats to Brooke McKenna on her promotion to Transportation Commissioner in Cambridge, MA.
Just a few more links… Toast jams in some new reservation features. New technology by Viva identifies problematic streets and intersections. BART looks to improve weekend headways. Transit construction shrinks across the country. Bad dog! FDA approves pets in restaurants. Prop 22 heads to CA Supreme Court. C-V2X moves ahead, soon we’ll finally know what all those cars are saying about us! Orderbyte launches online ordering and dispatching tool. How Chandler, AZ became AV mecca. Meet America’s fastest-growing, least-appetizing cookie chain. Al fresco weather: get to know the top outdoor dining restaurants in LA.
Until next week!
- Jonah Bliss & The Curbivore Crew