Here, in the urban core of Birmingham, AL we are blessed with wide multi-lane streets and avenues. This is a byproduct of the steel industry. When our city’s founding fathers created our city, they made sure that our infrastructure was large enough to handle many large trucks maneuvering throughout the city. Today, our great city is no longer a heavy manufacturing steel town, instead, we are a diverse mix of financial services, tech companies and culinary establishments, among other businesses.
We no longer need 3 lanes of traffic on specific streets or avenues. We do however, have a parking issue in our city. Most buildings in the urban core do not come with parking. Patrons of these buildings without parking sometimes must walk great lengths to get to their vehicles. On other occasions, there is simply not enough parking in a certain area to fulfill the need. This lack of parking could really stifle growth in the future. As more buildings get renovated downtown and people move back into the city, parking is going to become more of an issue.
So, what can we do about it? In certain strategic areas, I would get rid of two lanes of traffic and keep one lane. As an example, Hwy 119 has just one lane of traffic per direction and it has more traffic than some of our city center avenues. We can handle the reduction of lanes downtown. On average, there are 12 parallel parking spaces on one side of an avenue, within one city block. By putting in diagonal striped parking places you would double your parking spaces. There would be 24 parking spaces per side of the street or 48 total parking spaces per block. (Imagine the above photo with diagonal spaces instead of parallel.) I would also get rid of the antiquated parking meters. I would instead move to a 2-hour verify system. You have parking enforcement coming by and checking to see if a car has been parked for too long just like you see in Mountain Brook and Crestline Village. This way the city still collects some revenue from parking and citizens don’t abuse the new-found free parking. This new parking arrangement would invite people downtown and say that we are open for business. I think this would be the beginning of retail businesses truly flourishing in our city and therefore increasing revenue for the city. Also, some of the best land in our city is currently used as parking lots. With less need for parking in these lots, we could re-develop them for a higher and better use.
This is a problem that can be solved with minimal expense and minimal effort. I can’t see any reason not to take this action. Please let me know your thoughts. Is this a good idea? Do you have any further insight? I am considering pushing and pulling for this change to happen with the proper authorities.