Lakey Boyd, deputy director of the Department of Transportation for the city of Birmingham admits it upfront that parking isn’t the most fun topic.
I’ll confess, it didn’t interest me either.
But after a recent visit and an interview with Boyd at City Hall about the topic, she convinced me parking can boost our economy and make our community safer.
1—Parking is Birmingham’s welcome mat
Whether you work, do business or shop and have a meal in Birmingham’s central business and entertainment districts, the first experience you have with the city is parking.
“We want to be like a welcome mat. We want you here,” Boyd declared. “Parking is the first piece of service a citizen, visitor and employee interacts with in Birmingham. We’ve got to do it right.”
For the city of Birmingham, that means updating pay parking with a modern interface (fewer coin operated meters). In addition, it includes working with the Birmingham Parking Authority to do a better job “wayfinding” their parking decks and surface lots for long-term parking.
In fact, at Sloss Tech back in August, the entire Lyric Theatre erupted into cheers when Boyd announced the city’s plans to bring parking into the 21st Century.
2—Good parking gets people downtown
Organizing parking in Birmingham is like being the conductor at the Alabama Symphony Orchestra – everyone needs to play their part precisely to make the system work.
“If ‘on street’ parking is working as it should, it will play a big role in revitalization,” Boyd said.
For example, on street parking is used for short term parking. You want to run into The Pizitz for a poké bowl, or stop in to The Essential for a homemade pop-tart, for example. Turnover is key, especially in a busy urban city like Birmingham.
Meanwhile, parking longer than 2 hours should be done in the Birmingham Parking Authority’s seven decks or surface parking lots in the downtown area. This is for when you have a visit with your attorney, or when you’re at work for the day, or even spending the whole day enjoying the city.
Visit the Parking Locator – HERE
“There will be friction between the two, but if we can make short and long term parking work smoothly in Birmingham, that will lead to more and more people visiting and doing business downtown and around the city core. It subsequently spurs economic growth and new developments.”
3—Parking helps keep us safe
A third reason why parking matters in Birmingham is because it improves safety.
When someone parks illegally in the loading zone, at a bus stop, within a crosswalk or in front of a fire hydrant, it can cause a disastrous chain reaction for the transportation system.
It could be the reason why delivery trucks or buses are parked in the travel lane, which can lead to accidents. It is why a pedestrian appears to be darting out between two cars when the crosswalk is blocked. And in a worse-case scenario, the fire department can’t access a fire hydrant/lane to combat a fire or respond to an emergency.
Bottom line: park in the right place and save lives.
4—A focus on ‘Complete Streets’ and transportation makes for much more vibrant city life
Over the past two years, Birmingham has seen changes in the way it handles parking and transportation in general. For example, the department has been renamed from “traffic engineering” to Transportation. This is a big deal. It changes the way Birmingham does business in the parking realm.
Boyd added: “Historically, the focus has always been on roadway operations. How do we move single passenger cars as quickly as we can on the roads. When we say Department of Transportation, we are introducing the idea of Complete Streets – providing all users equal opportunity to use them. Pedestrians, cyclists, transit, rideshare, cars and trucks.”
“That is where we want to drive the future of transportation in Birmingham – not more and more cars and parking,” Boyd concluded.
5—Parking in Birmingham matters
Even though parking’s not the most exciting topic, it does matter and it’s changing the way we live, work and play in Birmingham.
It needs to.
The Magic City, especially downtown and adjacent areas are experiencing phenomenal growth.
Now is Birmingham’s opportunity to get parking right.