February 2012

News

New Midfield City Council districts proposal dies

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MIDFIELD, Alabama -- A proposal to elect the Midfield City Council by districts rather than at-large failed to come up for a vote Monday night, despite favorable endorsement of the plan by some city residents.

A resolution that would have allowed Mayor Gary Richardson to begin the process of having new districts drawn died when none of the city's five council members motioned for a vote.

Under the proposal, the city would have partnered with the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham to draw five new council districts. The plan would have then been submitted to the U.S. Justice Department for approval.

The new districts would then be in place for the Aug. 28 municipal election.

All five council members said they had misgivings about the proposals and offered various reasons for opposing the change. At least one questioned the motives behind the proposal.

Richardson, who had previously pitched the idea of elections by district, said eliminating at-large voting will result in greater turnout for city elections and allow residents to clearly identify who represents their neighborhoods.

"This allows representation to be closer to the residents," he said.

Richardson also pointed to the fact that two council members, Velma Johnson and Janice Anderson, live on the same street. A third, councilman Terry Adams, lives within three blocks, he said.

Anderson said later she felt the initiative was aimed in particular at the fact that she and Johnson live so close. She and Johnson said the current system works because councilmembers look out for the best interest of the entire city.

"Wherever we are needed we try to be there," Johnson said. "I don't think districts will solve anything."

Six residents present for the meeting all spoke in favor of districts. None opposed the idea.

"It will bring more visibility and accountability to the city," resident James Reasor told the council just prior to the vote.
Don Langston, a resident of Fairfield Highlands, said he liked the plan.

"It would be valuable to have someone there that is accountable to our neighborhood," he said. Resident Marva Douglas said the council's vote against the proposal was disrespectful to residents who supported it.

Adams said the council would not take up the measure again, but would work to assign councilmembers responsibility for certain areas.
Richardson said he hoped residents will continue pushing for voting by districts. "If you look at what's best for the city, a district election is the way to go," he said.

Via AL.com

Commuting Smartly

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT)- Have you seen the price of gas lately?

"It's ridiculous," says Lethaniel Taylor, drives everyday, and the price of gas leaves in him worried about what lies ahead.

"At the rate they're going now, if they get any higher, I don't know how we're going to make it."

But there may be a solution to help you fight those steep gas prices. Commute Smart. It's a federal funded program that offers free online ridematching, carpool and vanpool services.

"Everyone looks at their bank accounts and see that the gas prices are affecting them and they want to try an alternative measure," says Greg Wingo.

It works for anyone living in Shelby and Jefferson counties. All you do is sign up, and let them do the rest. It's free of charge, and they'll actually give you money to participate.

"It just comes down to the individual wanting to be apart of the program and save the money and make a little bit of money."

On average, a Birmingham commuter wastes 32 hours per year in traffic and 21 gallons of fuel. Last year alone, Commute Smart saved drivers 11 million dollars, all while helping the environment.

"Taking those vehicle miles off the road really does help out air quality and really does reduce the amount of money we're having to spend on road repairs."

For drivers like Lethaniel.

"I'm hoping something can be done, next couple of days, months, it's killing us man."

Via CBS 42

Gardendale prepares for new council districts

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The Gardendale City Council held a public hearing on its proposed new council district boundaries, but they heard nothing at all from the public.

A request for comments by Mayor Othell Phillips was met with silence from those in a nearly full council chamber, as the city prepares to restructure its government in the wake of a large increase in its population.

The redrawing of district boundaries was made necessary by a large influx of new residents in the western portion of the city, mainly in new housing developments along Fieldstown Road west of Interstate 65, as well as the area east of I-65 and south of Fieldstown.

That area made up most of District 5, and when the 2010 U.S. Census was completed, the district contained about 39 percent of Gardendale's population -- about twice what it should have when districts are divided equally.

The new plan, drawn up by the Regional Planning Commission under contract to the city, attempts to get each district as close to 2,779 residents -- one-fifth of the total population -- as possible. They came pretty close, with Districts 2 and 3 just five persons under that mark. District 1, which takes in areas in the northern part of the city adjacent to Mt. Olive and Morris, is now the largest of the five with 2,831 residents.

The newly-drawn district lines will coincide with a reorganization of the city's governing body, which is necessitated by the increase in population.

Gardendale will move to a mayor-council form of government after the next election. In the new administration, the mayor will not preside over council meetings as current mayor Othell Phillips does. Instead, a council president will be in charge, and the mayor will not have a vote.

"It's something that is required by state law when we reached 12,000 in population," Phillips said.

In preparation for that change, the council voted Monday to set positions and salaries for a council president and president pro tempore, as well as the remainder of the council. The new president will be paid an additional $250 over and above the council members' base salary of $1,000 per month. The president pro tem will be paid an extra $50 per month.

The base salary will take effect when the next council is sworn in; it is the same rate that current members receive.

Via The North Jefferson News

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Downtown's residential real estate market was not spared from the blows of the economic downturn that walloped virtually all parts of the metro area, but officials says the condominium and apartment properties in the city's core are nearly full again. Now, there is talk that new projects soon could be ripe for development.

Operation New Birmingham's breakfast meeting this morning will take a look at the downtown residential market and its changing fortunes.
An ONB survey, which is being officially released today, shows that 93 percent of the downtown condo properties are sold. The downtown apartment and rental market was even tighter at 99.4 percent leased, according to the survey prepared by the downtown advocacy group.

Tom Carruthers and Charles Robinson, principals of Red Rock Realty Group, will lead the discussion of the downtown residential market at this morning's ONB meeting at the Harbert Center. They said their findings are in line with ONB's survey.
"If you want to rent an apartment downtown today, you almost certainly are going to have to get on a waiting list," Carruthers said in an interview Wednesday.

Carruthers and Robinson said there continues to be demand for apartments downtown, with a strong need for small studio or one-bedroom units priced in the $700- to $900-a-month range. The problem is it's nearly impossible to pay the costs of renovating an old building and charging rental rates that low, they said.

While lenders aren't ready to finance new for-sale condo projects, Robinson expects new apartments will be built in the near future.
"I think you could justify new construction of multifamily projects today," he said.

In fact, the $15 million 29 Seven project at 29th Street and Seventh Avenue South is under construction after the economy and other factors caused it to be delayed a few years. Retail Specialists Inc. is building the four-story building with 54 apartments and 19,450 square feet of retail space, with a target opening in August.

Robinson said he believes property around the proposed $64 million baseball stadium near Railroad Park is also ripe for new construction that will likely include a residential component, be it apartments or condos.

Carruthers said although it is still difficult to find financing for condo projects, the right renovation project could have perfect timing if it started today.

"If you started a condo project now, it would likely take you two years to finish and you could have 40 units sold within that time," he predicted.

David Fleming, president of ONB, said a recent review of U.S. Census data by the Birmingham Regional Planning Commission highlighted the momentum of downtown residential development between 2000 and 2010. Among those findings:

  • 670 percent increase in the number of owner-occupied households.
  • 31 percent increase in the number of total households.
  • 18 percent in the number of occupied rental units.
  • 17 percent decrease in household vacancy rates.

Fleming said The Regional Planning Commission, relying on Census reports, calculates that downtown is home to about 8,900 residents, an increase of 32 percent between 2000 and 2010. He said the planning commission found that the boost was partially due to UAB's growth and partially due to the rise in loft development for apartments and condos.

"Currently our supply is pretty much at near 100 percent occupancy," Fleming said.

Having people live downtown is a major factor in the overall vibe for the area, he said.

"Downtown living is one of those critical elements that adds up to a vibrant city center," Fleming said. "The more people who live downtown add to the street life and give it an entirely different image even to those who don't live downtown."

Via Al.com

Trail system to link Jefferson County paths unveiled

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The Red Rock Ridge & Valley Trail System -- a visionary, long-term plan for knitting Jefferson County together with a massive network of bike lanes, sidewalks and greenways -- was unveiled today to a crowd of more than 250 that filled the Steiner Auditorium of the Birmingham Museum of Art Tuesday night.

The routes, which can be explored on the system's website, could include up to 200 hundred miles of greenways and trails and 500 miles of street-based bicycle and pedestrian paths. Corridors run along creeks and rivers in the county to form the principal arteries of the proposed network, but deep below the overview level are detailed paths navigating individual neighborhood streets.

On some routes, abandoned rail corridors are eyed for conversion to trails. In other places, the plan proposes to put wide, multi-lane roads on a diet, slimming them down and using the extra real estate gained for sidewalks and bike paths.

Wendy Jackson, the executive director of the Freshwater Land Trust, waited until late in the presentation to reveal the estimated pricetag of $200 million. And she was quick to put the cost in context.

She said the system would be built mile by mile and may take 30 years or more to complete.

It won't be the work of one city. The routes in the plan travel through 29 different cities and reflect the wishes of more than 3,000 residents who turned out for meetings and contributed ideas during the planning process that the Land Trust organized.
As more people become aware of the potential, Jackson predicted that support will build to find the funding from local, state, private and national sources.

"Our plan is a long-range plan. Yes, $200 million is a big number. We will build it one voice and one mile at a time," she said.
The entire system has been added to the Regional Planning Commission's Long Range Transportation Improvement Plan, making it eligible for federal matching funds. But it will be up to individual cities to decide which projects to pursue and what level of priority to put on them.

Via AL.com

IRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Hopping aboard a bike, for­mer Bogota, Colombia, Mayor Enrique Penalosa took a six-mile ride through the good, the bad and the ugly of Bir­mingham in advance of today's Sustainable Smart Cities Confer­ence.

After biking through depopu­lated portions of Titusville and Elyton, marred with abandoned and burned-out houses and grim housing developments, Penalosa was aghast.

"What I saw today was one of the most depressed areas I have ever seen," he said.

He suggested that residents in the sparsely populated areas be bought out to make way for a "crazy" project -- something on a massive scale, a veritable new city of five- to 10-story buildings that could accommodate 20,000 new residents, packed with parks and streets reserved for walkers, bikers and buses.

"Something has to be done that is a shock. There are great opportunities to be radical," he said.
"When you have a great crisis, it is also a great opportunity."

Bogota, which had the reputation as one of the world's most dangerous cities, has a enjoyed a renaissance under a series of mayors, including Penalosa, who restricted car use and launched an initiative to create almost 200 miles of bicycle paths, pedestrian- only streets and greenways. He also instituted a rapid bus system now considered an international model. Known for his often-controversial views, Penalosa has become a sought-after speaker in the world of New Urbanist thinking and among advocates for reviving cities through walking, biking, public transit and city park projects rather than automobile-centric development.

Penalosa, who studied economics and history at Duke University, served only one term as mayor of Bogota. His war on cars generated intense opposition, but since leaving politics, Penalosa has traveled the world advising cities on bicycle, pedestrian and park projects, including advising New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration.

He is among almost a dozen speakers at the daylong conference organized by the University of Alabama at Birmingham and being held at the Double Tree hotel. The conference features national experts, political leaders and representatives from UAB's own faculty.

Penlosa's ride began on the UAB campus and continued through Glen Iris.

He praised Railroad Park and complimented tree planting and some landscaping.

But, speaking to a group at Alabama Power after the ride, Penalosa said sections of the city needed to be rebuilt in a public/private partnership to house current residents, but also to accommodate a new profile of resident.

"If we want an area to be reborn, it cannot just be for the poor," he said. "We have to bring rich people downtown. We should not be shy about this."

He suggested surveying the UAB faculty and other workers in the city center and asking what it would take to get them to move downtown. Don't worry about luring families with children back from the suburbs, he said. Instead, attract gay couples, young people without children, empty nesters and people with money to spend, because they support jobs for others.

"Rich people are good for poor people," Penalosa said.

The city center itself presents opportunities to take back real estate that has been ceded to automobiles and make way for bikers and walkers. "The streets are as wide as highways," he said.

Penalosa advised that streets where traffic jams occur be left alone. "This is wonderful. The worst thing we could do is go run out and make a bigger highway," he said.

Instead, he recommended the creation of a rapid bus lane. That way, motorists stuck in traffic, watching buses whip by, might be persuaded finally to get aboard mass transit.

It's a road many people in our area travel, every day. If you live in Jefferson County or Shelby County chances are your commute, at one point, will take you along Highway 280. If you have driven it, you know just how bad traffic can be.

There are plans to put in an Adaptive Traffic Control System along the busiest stretch of the highway.

The system will help the flow of traffic in the area. It will count the volume of vehicles, allows the traffic signals to communicate to each other and adjust the amount of time that traffic light-share that is green - in areas where the traffic is heavy.

Michael Kaczorowski, with a member of the Metropolitan Planning Organization said, "Because all those signals will be tied together it can sense how much traffic is coming down stream so the signals will be able to talk to each other."

Kaczorowski said the system will cost $2.5 million. Federal funds will account for 80%, with the Alabama Department of Transportation funding the remaining 20 percent.

The bids will go out around May, construction is expected to start in June, and, hopefully that system will be in place by fall.

Bridget Phillips, Medicaid Waiver Program Supervisor

  • Hometown: In all honesty, I do not have a hometown. Up until my mid-20s, I moved around from town-to-town and state-to-state. My birthplace is Jackson, TN but I would say that my roots are in Memphis, TN.
  • Education: In 2000, I graduated from the The University of North Alabama with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and Sociology; before that, I spent two years at Adams State College in Alamosa, CO.
  • How long have you been with the RPCGB?: I have been with RPCGB for 4 months
  • Give a short overview of your job: I supervise 13 staff members for the Medicaid Waiver program. I also monitor client files to ensure proper documentation is present for billing requirements and case management purposes. This includes reviewing and approving care plans for each client on the MW program; as well as reviewing assessments to determine eligibility for new and active clients. I also monitor the quality of services that are provided to MW clients, and will communicate all issues with appropriate personnel in an attempt to resolve any and all problems.
  • What is your favorite aspect of your job?: Working with a talented group of case managers and knowing that I'm apart of a program that has such a positive impact on others' lives.
  • Tell us one thing we don't know about you: I married my high school sweetheart.
  • Finish this sentence: "Ten years from now, I hope to...": be someone that my daughter looks up. Most teenagers run and hide from their parents, but I don't want that to be our situation. I want her to have full confidence in me and to know that she can come to me for anything.

Mayor Rusty Jessup of Riverside

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Each month, we will profile a mayor within the six county region. This month's profile is Mayor Rusty Jessup of Riverside.

  • Rusty Jessup, Mayor of Riverside
  • Received a BA in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement from Jacksonville State University.
  • Former police officer in Jacksonville and Anniston.
  • Worked for State Farm insurance for 12 years before opening an Allstate office in Cahaba Heights in 1990.
  • Married Sandra Tyson, a retired school teacher, in 1974.
  • Currently serving his second term as mayor of Riverside.
  • Received advanced certification as a municipal officer.
  • Served as Chairman of the Anniston YMCA Board of Directors, President of the Jaycees and Chairman of the St. Clair County Mayors Association.

Mayor Jessup on the growth of Riverside and survival of small towns: The city realized a 50% growth between 2000-2010. The challenge is to survive as a small town. We want to do two main things: protect residential and commercial property values and we want our city to reach an independent status so it can perform to the demands of its citizens.

Incomes for small towns are limited but police cars, fire trucks and insurance costs are the same for large and small towns, though large towns have much better cash flow. Management of our funds is paramount and our search for businesses and industries that will create tax revenues is essential. That's where our focus lies

In late 2011, the RPCGB began analyzing the potential of electric vehicle (EV) plug-in infrastructure in the state of Alabama.

The Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) was selected by the Department of Energy's (DOE) Clean Cities Initiative to lead a project that will establish a comprehensive, tri-state (Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina) readiness and deployment strategy for electric vehicles and EV infrastructure and begin implementation of the Southeast Regional EV Deployment Readiness Program. As a partner in the project, the RPCGB is helping to locate general areas where electric vehicle charging stations should be located, so that utility companies can analyze impacts on the power grid.

The project supports DOE's goal of bringing electric vehicles to communities across the nation. The RPCGB's Marshall Farmer is conducting the analysis to determine the location for public, workspace and fleet charging stations. The analysis examines variables such as trip length, congestion, transit availability, potential and existing electric vehicle sales and shifts in demographics to present a vision for the future need of charging stations. Results of the study will be available on the RPCGB website in the coming weeks.

Partners include the RPCGB, CTE, City of Atlanta, South Carolina Energy Office, Clemson University (South Carolina Institute for Energy Studies), Georgia Power, Southern Company, Alabama Power, Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition, Clean cities - Atlanta and the Middle Georgia Regional Commission.

Revolving Loan Fund Highlight - Choice Research

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This month's Revolving Loan Fund Highlight is Choice Research.

Choice Research manages clinical development trials in partnership with local private practice physicians, offering the opportunity for individuals to participate in cutting edge research while receiving state-of-the-art medical care.

Based out of Innovation Depot in downtown Birmingham, Choice Research has been providing its trial management services since 2009. Mark Hamilton, CEO of Choice Research, received his Masters in Healthcare Administration and Masters in Business Administration from UAB in 2000. He spent the next nine years working in the healthcare industry before writing the business plan for Choice Research in early 2009.

Choice Research CEO Mark Hamilton

Choice Research manages clinical trials ranging from gout to Type II diabetes. The experienced administrative and research staff manages all aspects of the trial, eliminating much of the headache physicians experience with running multiple trials.

Choice is a recipient of a receivables loan through the RPCGB. This loan program is only for incubator tenants and provides quick, low-cost working capital loans to small businesses using their receivables as collateral over a 30-day term.

"The RPCGB has been a life line," said Hamilton, "Having the resources of the RPCGB to help pay a staff and grow my business is crucial. I had one employee when I got my first receivables loan and now I have three employees."

To learn more about Choice Research and the work they are doing to improve the lives of physicians and patients, visit their website. For more information on the RPCGB's Revolving Loan Fund, please visit the RPCGB website.

RPCGB Hosts Smart Growth Symposium

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The RPCGB hosted a Smart Growth symposium in mid January. Titled, The Rise of Walkable Urbanism, the symposium was led by Chris Leinberger, President of LOCUS and Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America. The two leaders spoke to a crowd of over 100 attendees about new trends driving change in the built environment and what those changes mean for Alabama.

To view video or download a print version of the presentation, visit the symposium page on the RPCGB website.

RPCGB Hosts Annual Meeting

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The Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham held its 2012 Annual Meeting on January 25 at The Club. The meeting included 130 individuals from around the region learning about regional redevelopment and sustainability.

Attendees participated in morning sessions including: Going Big: Developing a Regional Plan for Sustainability; Costs of Redevelopment and How to Minimize Them; Bus Rapid Transit, Economic Growth and Redevelopment; and Corridor Planning as a Tool for Redevelopment and Revitalization. After the session, attendees heard from luncheon keynote speaker, Mitchell Silver, the Chief Planning and Economic Development Officer for the City of Raleigh, North Carolina.

Silver spoke about regional change, and the different make-ups of generations and how they will affect the future. Other highlights of the meeting included the unveiling of RPC-TV, the RPCGB's new online video digest and the formal awarding of the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award.

If you could not attend or wish to view all sessions, the Annual Meeting page of the RPCGB website will provide session videos in the upcoming days.

The Science of Traffic

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Everyone likes to complain about traffic. UAB transportation expert Virginia Sisiopiku, Ph.D., is actually doing something about it. Sisiopiku, an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, is following several parallel lanes of traffic-related research that could lead to a quicker, happier, healthier commute for the rest of us--without years of paralyzing construction.

"In the past, the answer to traffic was to build new roads and add new lanes, but we have come to the conclusion that this does not work," she says. "Eventually, your money and available space run out, and the traffic is still clogged. We are looking at ways to reduce traffic congestion and the consequences--everything from increased travel times to pollution--without building more infrastructure."

Here is a quick spin through the science of traffic research--and four potential solutions being pursued by Sisiopiku and other researchers at the UAB School of Engineering.

SimInterstate
Like any scientist, Sisiopiku yearns to test the latest traffic theories in the real world, but that is just not possible in her line of work. "Transportation projects are extremely time- and cost-intensive," she says. "We can't just go out and lay down a new lane to see if it works. We have to determine the potential impacts of that new lane well ahead of time, and to do that without any traffic disruptions we use simulation modeling."

UAB engineers have spent years refining highly detailed models of the local roadways, capturing everything from the peculiar twists of Highway 280 and the relatively high number of trucks operating on Interstate 65 to the lane-changing predilections of Birmingham drivers. "Traffic is much more complicated than it seems," Sisiopiku says. "We construct the environment and flow patterns as realistically as possible, and then we run our models and collect the results: how many vehicles get through the system, travel times, traffic delays, and pollution measures, to name just a few."

Using field data, the researchers calibrate their digitized roadways to match real-world operations. Then they start tweaking, measuring what happens when they add a lane or make other changes in network geometrics, traffic control, or vehicle demand. The more sophisticated models offer 3-D visualization capabilities that can animate the results of the simulation. "The 3-D aspect doesn't change the results, but it definitely gets the public and elected officials more interested when they can experience it firsthand," Sisiopiku says.

While some of her research is focused on the present, "part of our work is also to forecast what the situation will be like in the future," Sisiopiku says. She notes that UAB has a strong relationship with the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham. "We help them collect and manage traffic data for the region, which is very important in any study," she says. "We look at expected changes in demographics, plans for new residential and commercial developments, and business relocation trends to determine if the existing transportation network can continue to serve the community needs in 20 years. Then we make recommendations on required changes in the transportation infrastructure in our region to accommodate those changes in travel patterns."

Solution 1: Shift the Clock
"One possible way to reduce traffic demand is to change driver behavior," Sisiopiku says. Businesses can be encouraged to allow workers to telecommute, or to institute rolling start times, she explains. "Many of the people who work in downtown Birmingham start at 8:00 a.m. If employers allowed flexible work hours, workers would save time and cost during their commutes--and traffic congestion during peak hours would decline as a result. I believe we should and could get more creative in order to better distribute traffic over time and space."

Drivers could also be encouraged to run errands during off-peak times rather than at the height of rush hour. "People will make better decisions if they are better informed--and sometimes just a small shift in the number of users to another mode of transportation, or no travel at all, can make a huge difference," Sisiopiku notes. "In our models, as traffic volumes increase, we see speeds remaining constant up until a certain point, and then there's a dramatic drop. If we can keep traffic below that point, everyone will benefit."

Solution 2: Double Up
Another proven traffic-beater: carpooling. "I realize it's not easy to give up the freedom of driving, but it's good for everyone to start thinking about how they can change their travel choices to contribute to less traffic congestion, less fuel consumption, and less pollution," Sisiopiku says.

One concrete way to encourage drivers to use the buddy system is the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane. "This can be a new lane or even an existing lane that is converted to only allow vehicles with two or more people," Sisiopiku says. UAB researchers have studied the impact of HOV lanes and similar measures on Interstate 65, Birmingham's main traffic corridor.

"HOV lanes have worked well in other cities, either by themselves or in conjunction with a toll system in which single-occupancy cars are allowed to enter if they pay a fee," Sisiopiku says. "Another thing we tested was to add truck-only lanes--an outside lane that is designated for larger vehicles. We also looked at temporary use of shoulder lanes during peak hours."

The results: "For Birmingham, the HOV lanes seem to make the most sense," Sisiopiku says. UAB researchers have passed along their data to the Regional Planning Commission, which is continuing the study.

Solution 3: Get the Word Out
Sisiopiku was involved in the early stages of research in the United States on "intelligent transportation systems." These are high-tech methods used to improve the transportation system efficiency and safety. A familiar example are the digital message boards that have been installed on Birmingham interstates in the past several years, offering estimates of travel times and warning drivers of accidents and construction ahead. "Those are very important," Sisiopiku says. "We are trying to optimize travel in the network by making sure that all relevant information is available to the users.

"The ability to instantly communicate with drivers could not only improve traffic operations but even save lives in the event of a major accident--or a natural or manmade disaster," she adds. "We have developed a large-scale simulation model of the Birmingham region and used it to see how we can better manage traffic to help emergency vehicles get to a site faster and actually reduce the congestion related to the incident."

Solution 4: One at a Time
A major factor in highway traffic congestion is the stream of new cars entering from on-ramps along the route. "That's why we considered the potential of ramp metering to regulate the entrance of those vehicles into the main line of traffic," Sisiopiku says. Ramp metering is used extensively in Atlanta and other cities with deep traffic issues. It can be as simple as adding a traffic light--one that only displays red and green--to the end of key on-ramps. Each time the light shows green, one car is allowed to enter the highway. Sisiopiku evaluated the impacts of various ramp-metering options on selected corridors in the Birmingham region through a microscopic simulation study and cost-benefit analysis. "Ramp metering appears to have an excellent potential to ease congestion in the Birmingham region and is justified by the benefit-cost analysis," Sisiopiku says.

Researchers provide their results and recommendation to policymakers, who must make the ultimate decisions about how to spend the public's money, Sisiopiku notes. "These solutions will take commitment from the public and decision-makers, but they will certainly require less financial commitment than building new roads."

Via UAB Magazine

Made in Alabama: Bike racks

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What do a WWII battleship, pipes and steel have in common? A vibrant bike rack that's locally-made and helps support alternative methods of commuting right here in Birmingham. Local Bike Racks Company also ignites the local multiplier effect and keeps more dollars right here in our community because they use local craftsmen to help build their final product.

Homewood native Foster Phillips is the lead designer for Local Bicycle Racks Company. Equipped with a degree in Industrial Design and experience as a product designer for consumer electronics and medical products, Phillips decided to strike out on his own and design secure bike racks. He worked alongside Andrew Thomson to design the prototype. Annah Carrigan and Elisa Munoz of Bici Coop, a local bicycle cooperative, were instrumental in perfecting and testing the prototype.

The bikes are made with the support of local craftsmen. D. Brooks Bending in downtown Birmingham takes Phillips' design and bends a straight pipe to match the shape of the bike rack. Raw carbon steel is put inside a bending machine that came off a WWII battleship, and then the machine bends the pipe into a bike rack.

Coyote Coatings in Hueytown are powder coaters. They take the raw steel and go through an intense process where steel is media blasted--similar to sandblasting. The powder coating is stronger and longer lasting than regular paint and electrically bonds to the metal.

There are two bike rack models: the eponymous 'Local 2 for 2 bikes' and 'Local 4 for 4 bikes'. If you're biking around town, you can catch a glimpse of the royal blue racks on the campus of Samford University. The cherry red racks can be found at Alabama Power as a part of their bike sharing program. The bright colors of the racks make them visually appeasing to business owners. The finish is very smooth and doesn't scratch bikes like galvanized metal.

The company has plans to place two racks at the Birmingham News and another at Southern Research. This program is sponsored by Commute Smart.

If you are interested in ordering a custom bike rack, please visit Local Bicycle Rack Company's website or contact Foster Phillips at foster@localbikeco.com or 205.291.8353.

Via Magic City Post