• By Lisa Brody

Birmingham to look at alternative parking study

The Birmingham City Commission unanimously approved on Monday, September 14, requesting Nelson Nygaard, a mobility consulting firm which has done previous parking work for the city, to amend their September 2018 Downtown Parking Plan to study alternate management structures and best practices for managing parking systems and present the city commission a report with recommendations. City commissioners Clinton Baller and Brad Host, in a motion on August 10, had requested city manager Joe Valentine prepare for the commission a series of options for studying alternative management structures and best practices for managing the city's parking systems. Valentine said the question is “what you want to study. I think what is asked is alternate styles to managing the parking systems. Ours is effectively a hybrid system.” In a prepared report to the commission, Valentine laid out four management styles, using four different cities, Montclair Township, New Jersey; Durham, North Carolina; Billings, Montana; and Trenton, New Jersey; and their parking plans. “This is precisely the kind of stuff I was looking to see. The four reports were terrific. We could almost take one of the reports and tweak it, but it's probably more appropriate to have a consultant. Since Nelson Nygaard is already familiar with the city, it would be a good idea to have them do it, with the recommendation that they give their report directly to the city commission,” said Baller. Commissioner Rackeline Hoff asked what it would cost, and Valentine said he thought it would be in the ballpark of $20,000 for a study. She then asked if they were going to give them any direction. Baller said, “The goals, I didn't include because I assumed a consultant would come back and ask us. Would a goal-setting session be a first step once the consultant is engaged or are we supposed to come up with those?” “You need to have clarity. If you engage a consultant, with the absence of assessment, I don't think you'll have the outcome you'll desire,” Valentine said. “What is the driver of this?” asked commissioner Mark Nickita. “We have had a successful multi-level approach – the city manager, the assistant city manager, then the consultant – SP+ that implements what we want, then a citizen/public component, the parking advisory board. I think we've changed over so many years – we've changed technology, operational systems. We've altered the system over time as we've needed. I question the goal of having a study. Just like any planning, planning without guidance results in questionable results. Also, our parking is in transition due to Covid, and may not go back to normal for many, many months.” “I don't share the opinion that the horizontal management structure works,” Baller responded. “One of the goals would be to have something that works both for Covid and post-Covid.” Commissioner Stuart Sherman said he ordinarily doesn't like having a consultant unless there is a problem, “but maybe they'll come back and say our system is the best… I'm not sure what the issue is we're trying to solve other than the constraints of municipal government. Nelson Nygaart is going to have to meet with us, and we'll know a lot more after we have a proposal from them and what it will cost.” Commissioners agreed to have Nelson Nygaart do an assessment, review of their parking system and look at suggestions for improvements of the system.

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