Category Archives: transportation

Silver Airways indefinitely suspends plans for southeast expansion, including Birmingham

Silver Airways saab340bSilver Airways formally announced plans on June 10 to indefinitely suspend beginning non-stop service from Birmingham, AL to Jacksonville, FL and New Orleans, LA less than a week before the flights were scheduled to begin, according to several media outlets. As recently as May 16, the Fort Lauderdale, FL-based company was promoting an airfare sale for the new routes, first announced in April. The company released a statement, referenced by WVTM 13 in their report, stating in part, “[d]espite robust marketing efforts, this market is not able to support flying this route at this time.” Refunds are being offered and the airline’s website still shows the proposed expansion on its route map.

It would have marked the first offers of direct-flight service to the two destinations from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport since Southwest Airlines discontinued serving them in 2013. A similar lack of support within the market was cited by the airline and in a subsequent report when the plans were announced in late 2012.

Silver also announced plans to not offer direct service between Orlando, FL and Savannah, GA on June 11 (service was set to begin June 23). (though Savannah was already celebrating the return of seasonal direct-flight service via Allegiant Air to several cities in Ohio). It was not the first time the company intended to expand its footprint only to delay and eventually suspend the plans. January saw Silver announce its intention to offer service from St. Pete Clearwater International Airport to Fort Lauderdale and Key West beginning in March. The change in plans (first delaying them, eventually backing out completely) came shortly after the company announced several new appointments: chief financial officer, chief operating officer, and vice president of airports and customer service.

According to an interview the Sun Sentinel conducted with company CEO Sami Teittinen in February, it’s been refocusing its efforts on Florida and the Bahamas in recent months. There is still a presence in the metro Washington, DC area, but it has seen its own share of issues and concerns recently (though efforts to remedy others appear to be working).

On-street parking rates go up in Birmingham’s city center

time-out-on-metersRecently there have been many more comments made via online networks like Facebook and Twitter about a seemingly sudden and significant rise in on-street parking rates in Birmingham’s city center. The rates were last raised in 2009, though city officials admitted the changes hadn’t widely gone into effect nearly a year later. Current reports show meter rates have risen to $0.25 for 8 minutes — an increase included in the city’s 2015 municipal budget.

Fees for city owned parking lots have risen at this time and they may be seeing some increased usage as a result of the unavailability of spaces under Interstate 20/59 adjacent to the BJCC complex. The following is a quick round-up of parking meter and city-owned parking deck fees from cities either visited as part of the then Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce’s BIG Trip (as has been done on this site previously) and those currently referenced as peer cities in the Birmingham Business Alliance’s Blueprint Birmingham document for the purposes of comparison.

City Meter Fee Parking Deck/Lot Fee
Birmingham $0.50/16 minutes $1/hour ($8 daily maximum)*
Baltimore, MD $0.50/30 minutes $5-7/hour (avg. $20 maximum)
Charlotte, NC $0.50/30 minutes $3-6/hour (avg. $20 maximum)
Nashville, TN $0.50/20 minutes $5-8/hour ($10/12 daily maximum)
Pittsburgh, PA $1.50/30 minutes $5/hour ($11-16 daily maximum)
Denver, CO  $0.50/30 minutes $1-4/hour ($12 daily maximum)
Austin, TX $0.50/30 minutes $4/hour ($13 daily maximum)

Louisville, KY $0.75/30 minutes $2/hour ($10 daily maximum)
Memphis, TN $0.50/30 minutes $3-5 flat rate
Raleigh, NC $0.50/30 minutes $2/hour ($12 daily maximum)
Oklahoma City, OK $0.50/30 minutes $2/hour ($10 daily maximum)
Atlanta, GA $1.00/30 minutes $4/hour ($10 daily maximum)
Huntsville, AL $0.25/30 minutes $0.50/hour ($4 daily maximum)
Montgomery, AL $0.50/30 minutes $1/hour ($6 daily maximum)
Mobile, AL $0.50/30 minutes $5 flat rate

Morris Avenue Parking Lot Sept 2014NOTE: All on-street metered rates listed above are for that city’s central business district area.

There were some interesting findings as the research was conducted. While there are several parking deck options in Nashville, there are only two municipally owned options in their city center; this would be why the rates included may seem lower than what’s typically encountered while there. It played out that way in several of the cities referenced.  Many of the peer cities had also created interactive sites allowing potential customers to know about availability in parking decks. Additionally, it was determined that it’s really difficult to find rates posted online for metered parking in Alabama cities. One question that still remains though based on the necessary shifting of parking options — why does the western end of the Morris Avenue lot still look like this most days?

UPDATE: BJCTA to hold public meeting on proposed new U.S. 280 commuter route

UPDATE: 9/23/2014, 4:15 p.m. – The original headline for this piece, and information contained within, was based information provided during and after the presentation suggesting it would take place on September 23. While preparing to re-share the piece this afternoon, we learned that it will instead be held on a new, yet to be confirmed date in the near future. It will be shared here once it is finalized.

newmallbusBirmingham area residents living along U.S. Highway 280 may soon have another option to consider during their morning and evening commutes. Members of the Birmingham City Council’s Transportation and Communication committee heard from Henry Ikwut-Ukwa, manager of planning and development for the BJCTA, on Wednesday afternoon about proposed commuter route along the perpetually congested thoroughfare.

The proposed route, which would be known as Route 201, would run four times a day initially (two trips inbound at 5:45 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. and two trips outbound at 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.). The buses would operate between the Walmart location along Highway 280 near Lake Purdy and State Highway 119 and the BJCTA’s Central Station (soon to be replaced by the intermodal facility now under construction), stopping at The Summit, St. Vincent’s Hospital UAB, the central business district, and the Social Security Building (located at the corner of 14th Street North and Abraham Woods, Jr. Blvd). It was stressed that the route is only proposed at this point and is subject to changes.

It is one of three routes currently under consideration for pilot commuter service in the area. One of the other proposed routes would operate during peak morning and afternoon travel periods between downtown Bessemer and the Galleria in Hoover. A third route would serve as the long-talked about shuttle service between downtown Birmingham and Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

bjcta280boundThe seven new buses being used for the pilot effort were purchased using grant monies obtained with local matching funds provided by the city of Hoover originally intended to provide assistance for a city circulator. It was later changed to allow for the purchase. (It is one of several orders for new buses received in recent years by the BJCTA.) A restriction on the how the grant could be used prevents them from being added to the existing fixed routes. Ikwut-Ukwa placed the estimated cost to operate the service at $101,400 and that it could be accommodated in the current operations budget. He told the committee the authority was anticipating an estimated early usage of 25-35 riders; each bus can hold 26 people and are ADA accessible. He also informed them the authority’s board was looking at the system’s fare structure and that the cost for riding on this particular route had not been determined as of yet.

There will be a public notification meeting held on Tuesday, September 23, in the Arrington Auditorium on the fourth floor of the Birmingham Public Library’s central branch from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. in the near future. It’s hoped those in attendance will help them to refine and develop the pilot route and schedule.

The mayor negotiating direct flight options isn’t that far-fetched — for several reasons

Straßenbahn BremenYesterday’s report about negotiations taking place between Birmingham, AL and the German state of Bremen by Joseph Bryant in had some scratching their heads. Instead, it probably should have had folks wondering why it had taken so long to get to this point.

An agreement signed in November 2011 between Alabama’s development office and Germany’s tenth largest city could be key in understanding how and why these talks are taking place — plus a reminder that it’s not uncommon for these types of negotiations to take place at all.

Alabama’s secretary of commerce, Greg Canfield, shared the following information with via a prepared statement back when the pact was announced:

“We have 68 German companies who have invested more than $5.8 billion in Alabama. Since 2000, these companies have been responsible for 10,305 announced jobs in our state.”

This document produced by the U.S. Consulate General’s office in Hamburg (it’s only eight pages) in 2011 spells out most of the reasons why the agreement still makes sense. The most recognizable of those companies has a significant presence in Central Alabama — it’s Mercedes-Benz. The company’s plant in Bremen is producing the same C-series W205 sedans currently under production in Vance, AL. It was the main focus of a follow-up visit made by the Bremen Economic Development agency in 2012.

The recently completed $201.6 million renovation and expansion of Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport gives the facility an opportunity to provide a less-crowded alternative to Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta, It does not serve as a hub (Delta’s main hub is located in Atlanta while Southwest effectively treats Nashville as its gateway to the southeastern United States). That said, as the Birmingham Business Journal recently suggested, incentives will play a key role in whatever ends up happening with regards to international or domestic direct flight service. It also doesn’t hurt that the current expansion project provides for additional gates to be added when and if the need is identified — and that a recently released master plan for Hartsfield still needs to be priced out and receive public input.

While it may seem weird to hear about the mayor being involved in negotiations to secure direct flights, it is not unprecedented. The example most relatable may be what happened in Columbia, MO. Shortly after the announcement that the Tigers would be joining the SEC, then first-term Mayor Bob McDavid was able to secure direct flight service via Delta to and from Atlanta, GA. This service was discontinued shortly after it was announced — but only because Delta thought American Airlines received a better incentive package to provide direct flight service to Chicago, IL (via O’Hare) and Dallas, TX. A more recent example (resulting in direct flight service to the same two cities) is what Bismarck, ND was able to secure from American via incentives.

Whether or not Birmingham is successful, the precedent is there. Time will tell what options will be available to area residents.

Photo: Straßenbahn Bremenkaffeeeinstein/Flickr.


The app battle may shift to carpooling soon

rideshareappoptionsThe responses after the July 29 Birmingham City Council vote creating a classification for digital services like Lyft and Uber in the city’s transportation ordinance have been varied and loud. The day the changes were passed, Mike Smith of filed this report explaining the definition of ridesharing in Alabama compared to how the companies had been using it. The report included the potential issues for existing options if Uber’s requests had been granted (issues currently being looked at and considered throughout the country). Today’s planned public beta launch of a new offering by Uber (UberPool) — on the heels of a similar one offered by Lyft (LyftLine) — may help provide a clearer picture of what’s next — and a chance to expand the practice of ridesharing in the metro area.

New York Magazine published a story on August 6 via its Daily Intelligencer explaining the latest offerings by the two visible players in the marketplace. (Note another company,  Sidecar, announced a similar ride sharing service that same day.) The post pointed out Lyft’s purchase in April of a  transit-focused app called Rover; the suggested rush to get announcements up suggest the plans were well underway well before the City Council vote. Now, the services offered by the first two haven’t exactly launched without problems (as a report filed onGigaOm from August 12 points out), but their potential long term impact is one being watched by livery service industry insiders, with some media outlets like Vox suggesting it could have an impact on public transit as we know it. They allow users to be matched with either other based on whether or not a driver was headed close to their destination. The passengers would share in the cost of the ride, resulting in it being less than a regular ride and slightly more than a similar journey via transit (though with door to door service available). It potentially makes it even more palatable as an option for residents here with complaints about transit and existing taxi options driving much of the support for the introduction of another option.

Long before the emergence of “ride sharing” apps for smartphones, the term was normally used interchangeably with carpooling by many cities, including those in Birmingham’s metropolitan area. Other companies, like Hitch (in San Francisco) and Carma, have long offered versions of the new services being launched by Lyft and Uber, with their emergence providing an opportunity for carpooling to expand rapidly. It could potentially lead to increased participation in programs like CommuteSmart — the one highlighted in Smith’s piece. One question that still remains is whether or not their entries into the ridesharing ecosystem would affect funding for the programs now or in the future. This website has reached out to the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, the local organization responsible for the ridesharing service, for comment and we will update this post when it is received.

While both new carpooling offerings are in their earliest stages elsewhere in the country, both provide the opportunity for the companies involved to enter the market in a different way than originally anticipated. It could lead to what The Verge suggests could be a new form of public transportation or a dimmer view similar to one shared by Wired — that of neither one of the current industry giants surviving.

A look at the proposed changes to Birmingham’s transportation ordinance

020455-470-uberThere’s been a great deal of conversation online about the pending arrival of Uber in Birmingham, AL since a post first published on this site back on June 19 suggested they were already laying the necessary groundwork. While the City of Birmingham is saying it’s prepared to welcome one of the world’s largest ride sharing apps to The Magic City, they’ve also said they do want to make sure it operates within the existing law. But what’s the law? First, a video posted to the City Council’s YouTube account on Tuesday afternoon:

Uber had already turned to social media to push back against proposed changes to the taxi ordinance, suggesting via email that it would be “anti-consumer” and creating a hashtag, #BirminghamNeedsUber, to garner and organize support for the service. Throughout the entire period though, there has been little discussion about the actual ordinance changes.


This link will take you to a copy of the working document published as a PDF; the changes are underlined with strikethroughs visible where language has been removed or modified; a “clean” copy has also been made available for you to review. A copy of the revisions made to the transportation ordinance earlier this year has also been uploaded to provide a point of reference and so you can actually see where changes have been made. An initial review of the documents prior to publishing this afternoon suggest they support statements made by councilors and city officials that the majority of the changes made were simply to define the service for purposes of the ordinance.

The changes appear to be similar to changes passed earlier this week in Columbus, OH and ones being considered in New Orleans, LA (though Uber’s biggest issue there seems to involve fare minimums). This morning it was announced a meeting to discuss the proposed changes in the Crescent City originally scheduled to take place July 22 has been rescheduled for next Tuesday, the same day Birmingham’s City Council is scheduled to take the item back up.

Council members have taken to social media in recent days to counter similar efforts by Uber in advance of the vote (as documented on, including the video shared earlier in this piece (as part of a longer nearly 2 minute piece) and the following tweet sent via Council president Johnathan Austin’s Twitter account earlier today:

The road may be closed, but Railroad Park is not

04042013railroadroadworkThe signs are correct – 1st Avenue South between 14th and 18th Streets South is closed this weekend. It doesn’t, however, mean that the same is true for Railroad Park. It will, in fact, host two fairly large events as its new neighbor across the street, Regions Field, prepares for its first real close-up next Wednesday.

Part of getting this part of the Five Points South neighborhood ready for April 10 involves installing a brick walkway along the park’s southern edge, repaving of 1st Ave., S., and the creation of marked parking spaces along this stretch of pavement. The fan page maintained by the park on Facebook even has pictures of the work being performed. These improvements will not keep those two events previously mentioned from taking place, though folks attending will probably want to plan to allow time to find a spot.

Saturday sees the Southern Environmental Center holding its second ever Darter Festival, complete with the debut of a Darter ale by the folks at Good People Brewing Company, kites, and entertainment throughout the day. Proceeds from the sale of the beer will go towards the restoration and preservation of the watercress darter.

Sunday’s arrival brings with it the Pop Up Bazaar, an event organized by Junior Achievement. It’s actually this year’s installment (and the fourth overall) of Hot Biz in the City, a chance to shop small businesses located throughout metro Birmingham while benefiting the organization’s Young Entrepreneur Scholarship Fund and their JA Be Entrepreneurial program.

As shared by organizers for both events (SEC, JA), alternative parking options exist, and they’re plentiful. Parking at meters along 18th Street, 2nd Ave., S., and elsewhere in the area is possible, and free. Those attending either or both events may also use the Birmingham Parking Authority’s Lot D, located directly across the street from the park’s 18th St.; it will cost $2 to do so with payment possible using quarters or bills.