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Parking problem? Depends on where you have to go

06.23.2010 by André Natta · → 10 Comments

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Time out on parking meterIs parking availability really a major issue in Birmingham, AL?

An issue that has drawn considerable attention in recent months is the number of broken parking meters that currently exist in downtown Birmingham.

I recently stumbled across a couple of posts that suggested that Birmingham has a parking issue – one that would serve as a great reason for not considering a downtown baseball park. We’ll talk about the ballpark later on in this series…

We have a parking problem, but not the kind that will keep people from coming downtown because they can’t find a parking space.

Besides the obvious fact that we like to park right in front of the place we’re going and don’t like having to place our cars out of view, we also are having an issue collecting the total potential revenue that these spaces are supposed to be providing (which could be an issue unto itself).

As the city faces a budget deficit from this year and the City Council looks to the city’s reserve funds as part of a possible solution for the coming year, some have turned to the vandalized parking meters as a symbol for what’s wrong.

The lack of revenue due to several people (including LKW and myself) taking advantage of the “free” parking available on-street makes the situation the perfect poster child. If you remember, the plan was once to increase parking ticket fees and increase revenue coming into the city’s coffers.

It’s ironically something that most states do not encourage as parking meters are meant to be a way to regulate parking options and not to be viewed as a source of income. A quick glance at the Wikipedia entry for parking meters provides several examples of how the revenue argument does not hold up in a court of law even if it would in the court of public opinion.

It was also a shame to learn just how many resources were available to deal with the issue earlier this month while reading Kyle Whitmire’s account on Second Front .

Despite the city’s reliance on the automobile, it would be safe to say that people are becoming more strategic about when and where they drive, especially as gasoline prices fluctuate and some choose to boycott some stations due to the crisis in the Gulf.

A quick drive around any section of the city not called the UAB campus shows that parking options are plenty. For those wondering if there are enough parking decks available in the city to handle the number of vehicles, a recent Heaviest Corner post should put those worries to rest (and give you a heads up on where to consider parking next time you’re downtown).

Perhaps increasing the urban tree canopy would make walking a couple of blocks farther just a little more bearable if you had to park a couple of blocks away from your destination. Encouraging the city or an organization to take on a project similar to New York’s MillionTreesNYC may help us reach that goal. The more comfortable and enjoyable it is to talk, the more likely some of these beliefs of parking issues may start to dissipate.

There are other potential solutions, but I’ll save some of them for inclusion in tomorrow’s piece.

We could also use this need to replace our current collection of meters in certain sections of the city with pay and display units, moving some of these newer units into sections of the city that are not seeing a heavy demand on parking. It would allow for individuals to pay for parking on the street using credit cards and dollar bills, perhaps dissuading the desire to break into the units for money (it wouldn’t necessarily stop those just doing it for the fun of it all – as stupid as that is).

Money is still needed to implement improvements to our network of parking management solutions as well as its maintenance. The issue may warrant a serious look in the budget and perhaps an examination of whether or not the city’s parking authority should take over on-street parking as well (something currently not officially in their purview).

One day parking availability will be a major issue in the City of Birmingham; I just don’t think it’s there yet compared to the other issues facing the city. We’ve got a parking infrastructure issue (and a psychological one) to deal with first.

What do you think?

André Natta is the stationmaster for bhamterminal.com.

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10 comments
ScottW
ScottW

You're welcome Andre! And I agree with you on the following: "I doubt they’d build a new ballpark without a parking deck and you shouldn’t start a new project without looking at the potential impact." I hope that the entity responsible for the project, if and when it happens, takes a good look at the overall impact. It would go a long way towards making an enjoyable evening at whatever event is going on.

Tom Brander
Tom Brander

It seems this is just another small corner of the broken city Government. hopefully you shedding some light on it will inspire some poor overworked city Department head to get on with fixing it. Revenue collection would seem that it ought to be important to the city. On the other hand,, too aggressive a plan would choke off commercial activity and make people more reluctant to "go downtown" some some finesse is needed, not something the local Gov't is known for...

ScottW
ScottW

Guess I'm in the minority then when it comes to parking problems. Can't say I'd be alone in this but I can say that there's been plenty of occasions when even trying to get to a deck, let alone a space on the street during a major event like a concert or festival was unbelievable. Now, I'm not referring to your everyday, go to town, park and walk to the office type thing here. I meant in my post that parking during an event is an issue. Traffic snarls added to this makes trying to attend an event less than desirable. This is why alleviating parking/traffic issues before building a stadium of any kind would be very welcomed from the patrons who spent a lot of money for tickets to attend them.

Andre Natta
Andre Natta

Thanks for the comment! I don't think you're in the minority, but I do think that it's more of an issue of making it easier to use all of the parking options available and making sure folks are aware of all of them. I think that information is one of the issues that keeps everyone out in the dark and things operating as they currently are. I'd also say that you can't fully solve the issues until you know just what they'll be; I doubt they'd build a new ballpark without a parking deck and you shouldn't start a new project without looking at the potential impact. I'll save most of my comments until tomorrow's post, as they're relevant to it as well. Hopefully it will spark some more conversation as well.

Wade Kwon
Wade Kwon

Events vary greatly. I haven't been to Crawfish Boil in years, so I don't know the situation there. At a typical BJCC event (2K to 17K attendees), I haven't had an issue. At Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival (5K attendees), I haven't had an issue. At April's Paint the Town Red (maybe 1K attendees), no issue. Maybe I'm going to the wrong events.

John
John

Wade, driving around looking for a space at Five Points can take a while, especially waiting to make those left turns on green. But I've never seen the public deck behind Pickwick Plaza fill up... so it's not so much a lack of parking places, but high expectations about where I'll be able find them that keeps me on the prowl.

Spencer Wyatt
Spencer Wyatt

My car's parked at a broken meter on 2nd Ave N right now. It's a pretty convenient problem. Like Wade, I never have trouble parking anywhere but UAB/Five Points S.

Wade Kwon
Wade Kwon

Besides UAB during the day, I would also add Five Points South as a sometimes challenging parking area. But as someone who parks in various parts of town day and night, I have had almost no problems finding a space within a reasonable time and distance of my destination. Often, I can find a busted or missing meter to save that quarter. If you really believe there's a parking issue in downtown Birmingham, come take a ride with me sometime.

david
david

1. There's no parking problem downtown, there's a walking problem. 2. a baseball park downtown is the only hope i see in unifying the city and righting Birmingham's present course.

Andre Natta
Andre Natta

Not really sure if a downtown ballpark is the only hope, but I definitely think it's a piece of a larger puzzle. Hopefully it, or something else of that magnitude, can get started continuing the momentum...