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Addressing Birmingham's parking issues

The Birmingham City Commission will soon be asked to determine the fate of a proposed set of changes to the on-street parking system in the city's downtown area, put forth by city staff with recommendations from the Birmingham Advisory Parking Committee (APC) and review of the board of the Birmingham Shopping District (BSD).

The original proposal included converting all one-hour zones for parking to two-hour zones and creating 16 parking spaces for short-term (15 minutes at no charge) parking to accommodate deliveries being made to locations in the downtown area for such concerns like FedEx, UPS, DoorDash, GrubHub and for store patrons who need to pick up purchased items at stores. Lastly, the new program was originally to include what is called dynamic pricing that involves charging higher per hour ($3/hour) prices at select meters during specific times each day.

Some changes to the proposal were made after BSD board members debated the original proposal. BSD recommendations included that the on-street meters on Old Woodward and those on Maple Road west of Old Woodward remain as one-hour meters as all other meters would go to the two-hour time. No changes were proposed to the 15-minute short-term parking part of the new plan.

On the question of dynamic pricing for select meters, there was a definite difference of opinion so a compromise recommendation from the BSD was reached that included the increased hourly rate only for one-hour meters that would remain in the busiest part of the downtown area, although this part of the original proposal was dropped at a recent APC meeting and won't be presented to the city commission.

The BSD board also recommended that the changes in the on-street parking system be treated as a pilot program before becoming locked in as a permanent pattern for the future, a logical approach.

The overall reasoning behind the proposed changes was to address the fact that too often patrons coming into the downtown area could not complete their shopping, service or dining excursions within the one-hour time limit on the meters. According to ongoing complaints received by the city and businesses, often times the average time needed by visitors was closer to two hours.

We give a lot of credit to city officials, led by Birmingham Parking Systems Manager Aaron Ford who has a couple decades of parking system management, for attempting to tackle a long-standing sore point when it comes to visiting the city's downtown.

Striking a balance between the concerns of the business community, which depends on a churn of parking spaces that is closely tied to cash register receipts, and those visitors who help support the downtown with their patronage is no small task. We think what we have seen in the last year leaves us feeling confident that some logical changes will help address parking concerns.

Take, for example, changes that are being made to overall management of the system.

Already the city is making moves to take over management of the city parking structures, an important part of the parking solution in the city, rather than relying on a third party to handle this task. The city is planning on adding staff to handle the management change and to move parking enforcement employees from the police department to the expanded new department. Installation of parking management equipment that allows for quicker entrance/exits to parking structures is underway. And we are told that the next step of updating security video surveillance of the parking structures is not too far behind.

Considerable time and thought has been spent developing the new on-street part of the parking solution which we hope the city's elected leaders will support when it arrives at the commission table.


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