Birmingham city commissioners on Monday, October 8, accepted the Downtown Parking Strategies and Recommendations report as presented by Nelson Nygaard Consultants, and directed the ad hoc parking committee to evaluate and prioritize implementation of the recommended strategies.
Assistant City Manager Tiffany Gunter said the report had been developed to make sure Birmingham's downtown parking system is being operated, managed and developed in accordance with professional and technological best practices. With a shortage of parking, she said the city was looking to have a realistic plan for a more effective use of parking, as well as better management of the parking system in the central business district, one that will utilize the latest technology, be self-sustaining to cover operations, ongoing capital improvements and system growth.
“The report draws upon best practices in parking and demand management to develop proven solutions that work,” Gunter wrote in a memo. “The consulting team has worked closely with the city and its partners to understand and evaluate the downtown parking system and develop recommendations to achieve the outcomes.”
Of the existing conditions, Nelson Nygaard wrote in its report that parking demand has been steadily increasing, especially for long-term, monthly parking, and has outpaced the addition of new parking supply. However, at any time of the day, at least half of the metered (more than 70 percent) block segments are underutilized.
During the peak lunch period, each of the city's five garages exceed 90 percent utilization. A significant number of parkers staying longer than five hours are not permit holders. And the permit wait is longer, but many of these parkers are finding space within the system, “sometimes paying more to park and sometimes finding other opportunities.”
Birmingham's current downtown parking system consists of about 4,944 publicly owned spaces, of which 3,423 are in the five public parking structures; 1,272 are metered, on street; and 391 are in five surface parking lots. There are two private, independently-run parking structures and additional private parking lots which are being used temporarily by the city to expand supply and meet demand from permit parkers.
Potential strategies to redistribute demand include expanding employee parking options and ensuring drivers know their options; to reduce demand, they suggest optimizing “ParkOnce efficiencies; provide circulator and shuttle options; improve pedestrian and bicycle network infrastructure; provide commuter benefits; and transition monthly permits to a daily pricing structure.
Other recommendations include expanding capacity, whether by continuing to refine the public valet for visitors and commuters; expanding mobile pay options; varying regulations; allocating curbside spacing for higher-capacity forms of parking; and using pay-by-phone options to encourage off-hours shared parking.
They also suggest expanding the supply, to continue to refine joint-development mentality, as well as to develop technologies, such as utilizing license plate recognition software, and supporting electronic vehicle infrastructure.
Commissioners voted 4-0, with mayor Andy Harris absent, and commissioners Stuart Sherman and Mark Nickita having left due to the late hour, to approve accepting the report and moving it back to the ad hoc parking committee to recommend implementation.