Category Archives: Transit

BJCTA hosts public forum on proposed circulator, routes on June 10

newmallbusThis evening the BJCTA will be hosting a public meeting this evening from 5:30 – 7 p.m. downtown at the Alagasco Center for Energy Technology  (20 20th Street South). The focus of the forum will be on taking a fresh look at the development of a downtown circulator route (similar to systems operating in cities like Washington, DC and Nashville, TN).

Odds are if you’re reading this at home on Tuesday evening and not at your desk at work before heading out the door, you’ll probably not be able to attend. (They were also originally asking folks to RSVP – as covered in this piece on last week – but the folks at Clarus Consulting Group will most likely not turn you away at the door.) If you find yourself still wanting to share your thoughts with our local transit officials, don’t worry — there’s an online survey available for you to use.

Deadline for Transit Citizens Advisory Board applications is March 31

newmallbusThe Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority (also known as MAX), has a transit citizens advisory board, and they’re looking for some committed individuals to apply.

While the application states the deadline would not be extended past its original deadline of January 16, the new cut-off is this coming Monday, March 31. The form is available via the authority’s website and downtown at Central Station.

This new committee was established as part of the House Bill Governor Bentley signed into law at the end of the last legislative session. The statute, the first significant changes to the legislation establishing the BJCTA in nearly 40 years, states the appointments to the advisory board will be made by Jefferson County, the City of Birmingham, and other participating municipalities. A recap of a recent meeting of the committee held in December is available to read through via a blog titled Busrider’s Diary. It is part of a growing national trend to include a more formal representation of voices in the process, including recent applications in southeastern Michigan.

The countdown to a new transit center has started

transitgroundbreakingFriday afternoon saw elected officials, BJCTA staff and board members, and representatives from Amtrak gathered next to the building currently serving as Central Station to break ground on Birmingham’s new intermodal transit center. Remarks made during today’s event suggest the new facility will have three times the public space of our namesake (it got some attention if its own recently).

The ceremony took place where temporary structures will be built in the next 2-4 weeks that will be used by MAX buses while the existing structure is demolished and the new $30 million facility is built. Mayor Bell said he expected construction to take between 18-24 months.

The block located between 18th and 19th Streets will contain Amtrak and BJCTA offices. The block between 17th and 18th will serve as the main waiting area for MAX buses, with the last block (the location of today’s groundbreaking) being used for parking (and possibly for Megabus pick-up/drop-off).

A release posted to the City Council’s website shows just how many types of transportation are to be supported by the new complex, “including passenger trains, intercity bus, local bus system, taxis, shuttles, automobiles and bicycles.” A temporary sign sits on the site, located at the corner of Morris Avenue and 17th Street, shows interested bus passengers and curious residents what the facility will look like when completed.

You didn’t dump the pump today? Help catalog bus stops instead

dtp-count-2013-bg-largeToday is National Dump the Pump Day, an effort undertaken by the American Public Transportation Association since 2006 (when the national average price for gas reached $3) to encourage the use of public transportation instead of driving. A report conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute and cited locally on the CommuteSmart website points out the average Birmingham commuter wastes 35 hours a year in traffic and consumes an additional 18 gallons of fuel.

Locally, the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) is participating by making all rides on MAX buses in the system free. The agency has participated every year.

2013bjctabillIt’s not the only changes currently taking place at metro Birmingham’s regional transit agency. A new website greets visitors looking for information digitally as well as a more active fan page on Facebook. They also recently shared news of the passage and subsequent signing of House Bill 627, a transportation bill that passed on the last day of the legislative session that provided for the first major changes to the law governing the agency in more than 40 years. The law consolidates six laws governing the agency’s existence into one in addition making several changes to fiscal policies. The BJCTA has also been invited back to Montgomery (in addition to Mayor Bell) by Governor Bentley to discuss further ways to support the system.

One effort currently underway in the private sector by VIPAAR co-founder Mark Dillavou (and one of the focuses of this month’s Digital City column in B-Metro Magazineis the BJCTA Stop Cataloguer. It’s an attempt to map all of the transit system’s bus stops in order help facilitate the system’s addition to Google Maps’s transit planning service. According to the site, several routes have been completed and added to a smartphone app and website, but there is still more to be done.

Looks like we’re getting new buses

xcelsior_21Smoke bellowed from a MAX Dart shuttle bus during lunchtime in downtown Birmingham today, leading some to turn to Twitter (like this person) to find out what was happening. The fire is leading some to make snarky comments and varying opinions offered about the future of the region’s transit authority, MAX, otherwise known as the BJCTA.

It’s not the first time it’s happened here in town (like this instance in 2010) and there are no reports of injuries at this time. It’s also not as though it doesn’t happen elsewhere with newer buses – like this incident in Seattle last month (video).

The Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham (RPCGB) had just shared on January 25 news the BJCTA had just signed a five-year contract with New Flyer of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, (with production facilities in the U.S.) for as many as 50 of their Xcelsior buses. The contract was probably finalized before January as it was included in the bus manufacturer’s press release listing firm commitments for orders this year at the beginning of the month.

The purchase was funded by a $2.5 million grant BJCTA received from the Federal Clean Fuels Grant Program in mid-September 2012. It was the second time the transit authority had received been awarded funds from the program, the first time being in 2009 when they agreed to purchase buses from Anniston based NABI. They received the first of those buses in 2010 according to this account from The Birmingham News. BJCTA has been eligible for the grants because of the region’s past non-attainment status as it relates to ozone.

The 40-foot buses they’ve agreed to purchase have been seen occasionally driving throughout the metro area in recent months and are also in use in larger service areas like New York City (as pictured above).

The authority has been fairly quiet publicly in recent months, including a reduction of activity on its own 4+ year old website. Its new director, Ann Dawson-August, has only been on the job for one month, replacing former director, Peter Behrman. He left the authority nearly a year ago this month (joining a long list of predecessors).

While we haven’t heard directly from Dawson-August since her introductory press conference late last year, a review of a piece she wrote for Mass Transit Magazine in December 2008 about relations between an agency executive and the board and an interview conducted with her a little more than a year earlier should give you a better understanding of her style – and why we may not hear from her nearly as often as her predecessors.

Photo: courtesy of New Flyer.

Magnetic strips just the beginning of BJCTA changes

Things have been staying busy over at the BJCTA‘s Central Station in recent weeks following Peter Behrman’s recent departure. One of the most recent changes was the recent introduction of magnetic 31-day transit passes. While the announcement was made back in April, a video announcing the change (which was not accompanied by a fare increase) was posted to YouTube earlier this month embedded in this post.

There have also been ads announcing the new cards visible on buses throughout the city.

The county’s transit authority also started accepting credit cards and debit cards for purchases back in early March and launched a fan page on Facebook (though they may want to also claim one of the two place locations already in existence) as well as a Twitter account to share information about the short range plan. Based on what’s been shared on their page so far, the organization has also been making regular appearances on WATV-AM and WJLD talking about upcoming changes to the system. These outreach efforts follow a series of public hearings held in February giving riders an overview of proposed changes to several BJCTA routes.

There will also be continued focus on the system beginning this summer as the fuel-cell bus demonstration project begins where a hydrogen-powered bus will be operated among the regular fleet. The project is one of several National Fuel Cell Bus Program initiatives taking place across the country under the watchful eye of the Federal Transit Administration. Needless to say that the BJCTA’s board won’t be the only ones watching to see how the area’s transit network is re-made.

Meetings to discuss BJCTA service changes continue

BJCTA February 2012 meetingApproximately a dozen regular users of the BJCTA gathered in the transit authority’s board room at Central Station on Friday evening to learn more about proposed service changes.

It was the second of four meetings scheduled through the middle of this week to go over the changes and to receive additional public input. The last two meetings will take place February 21 at the Hawkins Park Recreation Center (8920 Roebuck Blvd., Birmingham – map) from 5:30-7 p.m. and February 22 at the Bessemer Public Library (400 19th St., N., Bessemer – map) from 10-11:30 a.m. The changes will then be voted upon by the transit authority’s board on the afternoon of the 22nd.

Proposed changes (PDF) include: the renumbering and combining of Route 1 (as Routes 10 and 11); the simplification of Route 20 (essentially creating an airport shuttle that runs hourly along Messer Airport Highway, including Saturdays); modifications to Routes 17, 25, 26, 28 44, and 45 that will enable them to stop directly in front of Walmarts located on their routes; and a change in DART service that will provide service up to Vulcan Park.

That abbreviated list of the proposed changes is probably making you want to read about the rest of them as described on the detailed attachment handed out at the meeting, isn’t it? We’ve also got photos of the maps showing the proposed changes in the downtown, western, and eastern sections of the county.