The Birmingham Parking Authority (BPA) was joined by Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and other city leaders for a press conference Thursday to announce new efforts to improve parking across downtown Birmingham.
The BPA said it is developing a strategic plan to transform the parking experience in the downtown area while supporting economic development and meeting the growing needs of businesses, workers, and residents. The process is expected to kick off this week with stakeholder meetings and surveys which are expected to help with the planning process. The BPA said it is also welcoming public input.
“The process we are launching is deliberate and extremely ambitious,” said BPA Executive Director and CEO Andre Davis. “What we are creating is a whole new Birmingham Parking Authority. We are committed to making parking more convenient, safe, seamless and efficient. And we are doing this working hand-in-hand with city leaders and our business community.”
Woodfin echoed that excitement for the new plan and gave plenty of credit to BPA's leadership.
“We welcome the collaborative spirit of Andre Davis and the Birmingham Parking Authority board," Mayor Woodfin said. “Their willingness to work with the city and with businesses will advance the economic development and livability goals of Birmingham. Parking is essential to a thriving downtown as we continue to see new business and residential developments. The strategic plan will add to the momentum that has been created.”
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During the press conference Thursday, the BPA outlined three goals in developing the new parking plan:
“Parking should be safe and seamless,” Davis said. “You should be able to reserve a parking spot, know the exact location of that spot, and be assured when you arrive that you will be able to park without any hassle, worry, or loss of time. Getting in and out of our parking decks should be quick and hassle-free as well.”
People and businesses using the parking system in Birmingham can find surveys for the strategic plan on the parking authority's website.
Some people wanted to see more parking options.
"It's kind of bad. There's nowhere to really park," said Vincent Pressley Jr. "They made too many of the bus lanes. They should've made some for cars to park."
Davis said evaluating the parking infrastructure for future needs will be a part of the plan, however, he believed there was enough parking inventory to support the city at this time.
"It's very easy for me to find parking. I have always lived here. Sometimes you may have to walk far. May have to walk a block or two," said Brian Todd, another Birmingham resident.
Although easy for him, Todd can see how people who aren't familiar with certain areas could have issues.
"Sometimes you do risk getting towed or getting ticketed trying to enjoy a night out," said Todd.
He believed more signs for existing public parking would help. Pressley Jr. agreed.
"People getting tickets for no apparent reason cause they don't know where to park," said Pressley Jr.
The issue of 'predatory towing' in private parking lots is also being worked on.
"These are privately operated lots where they contract with a towing company to do the enforcement on those lots. The city council in cooperation with the city attorney's office, and the mayor's office are actually reviewing our city ordinances related to the operation of those lots," said District 5 City Councilman, Darrell O'Quinn. "There are many things we want to do in terms of improving lighting and signage and how the triggers for towing are set up."
"In many cases, they are being towed just based on a technical issue in using the payment systems. There are ample opportunities for us to revise the ordinance and create a better experience for folks," said O'Quinn.
The city council is expected to hold a public hearing on the issue in the coming weeks.
"We need to do our part to make sure citizens who visit downtown Birmingham make the BPA facility their first choice when parking. If we give our citizens the reason to park with us as opposed to parking in a private lot, there is much less risk of being towed by mistake," said Davis.
The strategic parking plan could be completed in six to eight months.