In new role, Atkinson wants to expand alternative transportation on campus

atkinson streamBrian Atkinson, program manager for transportation demand managementBrian Atkinson wants to help change the world — starting with UAB transportation.

As UAB’s new program manager for transportation demand management, Atkinson will focus on strategies that help UAB save money, sustain our environment and provide access to alternative transportation. Doing that, Atkinson said, will improve UAB and the entire Birmingham community.

“UAB is a leader in innovation and created the first dedicated employer-based, transportation demand-management program in the state,” said Atkinson, referencing the newly created program he’s leading. “If we can be successful in changing the culture at UAB, the impact will radiate across the entire area and beyond.

“I mean, the UAB tagline is ‘knowledge that will change your world.’ I want to be a part of that change.”

Expertise and experience

Atkinson is no stranger to understanding transportation in Birmingham. Before joining UAB in March, he spent four years as the business outreach manager for CommuteSmart, part of the Regional Planning Commission.

“We need to identify where people are coming from, where they need to go and how to get them there better.”

In 2015, the average commuter in Birmingham wasted 34 hours and 16 gallons of fuel waiting in traffic. That’s the equivalent of missing 22 tee-ball games or more than four full nights of sleep or releasing more than 314 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — all to sit in traffic going to or from work.

“During that time, I heard thousands of first-hand stories of the difficulties people have juggling their commutes to work, getting kids to practice and running errands. I’ve heard the needs and hopes of drivers, cyclists, carpoolers and transit users. All of this feedback and my previous experience are important for figuring out how to make UAB’s transportation services better and more responsive to get people where they want to go,” he said.

It’s no surprise that Atkinson sees potential in non-driving transportation options. To do that, there’s a step-by-step process to follow, Atkinson said: “We need to identify where people are coming from, where they need to go and how to get them there better.”

commute graphic insideClick to enlargeLooking toward the future

Atkinson’s experience extends beyond his time with CommuteSmart. While serving in the U.S. Air Force from 1994 to 1998, he worked in logistics. He’s also managed public programs, sales and marketing and consulted on public issues across the state.

“According to my friends, I’ve had almost every job. They’re not exactly wrong,” he said, adding that all that experience has better equipped him to manage the program at UAB.

“Transportation, especially managing the demand for it, involves innovation, sustainability, marketing, health, design and so much more,” he said. “For transportation to work well, you almost need to be part-administrator, -salesman, -futurist, -consultant and -psychologist.”

So what does the future of transportation at UAB look like to Brian Atkinson? A renewed focus on safety and security improvements at existing parking facilities, better services from Blazer Express and a refocused effort to help Birmingham develop a world-class, comprehensive transportation network.

Save time on your work commute and reduce air pollution in Jefferson and Shelby counties with help from CommuteSmart. Earn as much as $70 in the first 90 days and $25 per quarter afterward for logging your alternative commutes by carpool, bike, bus, walking or teleworking.

“The success of developing a better system for getting people to, from and around UAB is very much intertwined in the success of developing a comprehensive transportation network,” he said.

Additionally, pursuing alternative transportation options is a fiscally responsible choice for UAB in an urban real estate market in which a single surface lot space costs UAB about $4,000 and a deck space about $30,000, Atkinson said.

“That’s a lot of money that could instead be invested in things that better contribute to the cutting-edge research and innovation taking place on campus,” he added. “If we are successful, we will be able to ensure that less money goes towards building car condos and more money goes to the development of knowledge that changes the world.”