Tag Archives: BJCTA

UPDATE: BJCTA to hold public meeting on proposed new U.S. 280 commuter route

UPDATE: 9/23/2014, 4:15 p.m. – The original headline for this piece, and information contained within, was based information provided during and after the presentation suggesting it would take place on September 23. While preparing to re-share the piece this afternoon, we learned that it will instead be held on a new, yet to be confirmed date in the near future. It will be shared here once it is finalized.

newmallbusBirmingham area residents living along U.S. Highway 280 may soon have another option to consider during their morning and evening commutes. Members of the Birmingham City Council’s Transportation and Communication committee heard from Henry Ikwut-Ukwa, manager of planning and development for the BJCTA, on Wednesday afternoon about proposed commuter route along the perpetually congested thoroughfare.

The proposed route, which would be known as Route 201, would run four times a day initially (two trips inbound at 5:45 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. and two trips outbound at 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.). The buses would operate between the Walmart location along Highway 280 near Lake Purdy and State Highway 119 and the BJCTA’s Central Station (soon to be replaced by the intermodal facility now under construction), stopping at The Summit, St. Vincent’s Hospital UAB, the central business district, and the Social Security Building (located at the corner of 14th Street North and Abraham Woods, Jr. Blvd). It was stressed that the route is only proposed at this point and is subject to changes.

It is one of three routes currently under consideration for pilot commuter service in the area. One of the other proposed routes would operate during peak morning and afternoon travel periods between downtown Bessemer and the Galleria in Hoover. A third route would serve as the long-talked about shuttle service between downtown Birmingham and Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

bjcta280boundThe seven new buses being used for the pilot effort were purchased using grant monies obtained with local matching funds provided by the city of Hoover originally intended to provide assistance for a city circulator. It was later changed to allow for the purchase. (It is one of several orders for new buses received in recent years by the BJCTA.) A restriction on the how the grant could be used prevents them from being added to the existing fixed routes. Ikwut-Ukwa placed the estimated cost to operate the service at $101,400 and that it could be accommodated in the current operations budget. He told the committee the authority was anticipating an estimated early usage of 25-35 riders; each bus can hold 26 people and are ADA accessible. He also informed them the authority’s board was looking at the system’s fare structure and that the cost for riding on this particular route had not been determined as of yet.

There will be a public notification meeting held on Tuesday, September 23, in the Arrington Auditorium on the fourth floor of the Birmingham Public Library’s central branch from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. in the near future. It’s hoped those in attendance will help them to refine and develop the pilot route and schedule.

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 AL.com 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.

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.

Another one gets (forced) off the BJCTA bus

07172006-max-bus-close-upThe announcement that Peter Behrman will be leaving the BJCTA at the end of March was still a surprise to some despite the insane number of recent closed door meetings.

More disturbing is the number of people who’ve held the position. The transit authority has had 25 directors in 25 years.

We decided to take a quick look at the list of individuals who’ve served since 1994 – all nine of them. Why? Because the official National Transit Database website helped make it easy to do so…

The list is a pretty impressive one when you look at where some of them have ended up. Mr. Copling is currently a general manager for First Transit in Washington, DC, the folks responsible for the DC Circulator. Mark Stanley – he just became the executive officer for the Watershed Conservation Authority in California; he’d been serving as the director of planning for the Riverside Transit Authority since 2006. David Hill still serves as the deputy director for transit services for San Fransicso’s Muni system – a position he returned to after serving as that organization’s acting director of transit for just a little more than five months beginning in October 2009. If you want to visit Paul Ballard, just head up the road to Nashville. He’s been RTA’s CEO since January 2002. Looks like they like him a lot too.

Incidentally, you can also read one of Jerry Haight’s short stories about his days as BJCTA general manager on his website or check out Jay Saxon’s thesis (or maybe even this entire day of programming about transit) examining why he believes the system isn’t functioning to its full potential. There are also fleeting references to Alfred Richards and Frank Martin online if you dig deep enough (including how the authority benefited from the 1982 beer tax).

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.