Birmingham City Manager Bob Bruner helped us put it in perspective in an e-mail: "There is no such thing as 'free' parking. If the driver does not pay it just means someone else does! Free parking has contributed to auto dependence, urban sprawl, extravagant energy use, and a host of other problems. Fair market pricing for parking actually makes parking easier." Nonetheless, even if it isn't free in the existential sense, Bruner ventured to guess that Birmingham's nearly 5,000 public parking spaces top Royal Oak and Ferndale combined. While there may be demand for more parking spaces in downtown Birmingham at peak times, the cost of providing them currently outweighs the benefits.