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Birmingham Xpress begins Alabama’s first bus rapid transit service

City of Birmingham leaders joined officials and employees of the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) for a ribbon-cutting launching Birmingham Xpress, Alabama’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) system.

The ceremony, held at the CrossPlex Transit Center in the Five Points West neighborhood, attracted about 150 people, including representatives of the federal and community partners in the $64 million project.

“We need to get people from Point A to Point B on time,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. “The city is in the service business, and it’s critical that we get people to jobs, healthcare and school, as well as to retail and entertainment opportunities. Today marks a major step in public transportation for the city of Birmingham.”

Birmingham City Council President Wardine Alexander noted that Birmingham Xpress will use dedicated bus lanes and special technology to ensure “fast, reliable, cost-effective transport.” She likened the service to “light rail on rubber wheels,” providing rail-like efficiency with the flexibility of a bus in connecting neighborhoods along a 10-mile east/west corridor.

“It provides connectivity between our residents, new opportunities and multiple services,” Alexander said.

Birmingham Xpress includes 32 stops traveling between the Woodlawn Transit Center, located across 1st Avenue North from Woodlawn High School, and the CrossPlex Transit Center. It provides access to several of the city’s most-visited attractions and services — Sloss FurnacesMcWane Science Center, the Alabama and Lyric theatres, Railroad ParkRegions Field, the Negro Southern League MuseumRed Mountain TheatreBartow ArenaRickwood FieldBill Harris Arena and the Birmingham CrossPlex — as well as the University of Alabama at Birmingham campus; Brookwood Princeton, Children’s of Alabama and UAB hospitals, numerous libraries and recreation centers, and the neighborhood business districts of Avondale, Woodlawn and 4th Avenue North.

Funding for Birmingham Xpress came from the city and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Birmingham provided $44 million, with $18 million of that total provided by the American Rescue Plan Act, while FTA contributed $20 million.

The new service is the latest addition to a growing selection of public transit services in Birmingham that includes the MaxMagic City Connector and paratransit services of the BJCTA, the Ride Share service provided by Birmingham On-Demand, micromobility options such as scooter, and Complete Streets with space for walkers and bikers. Birmingham Xpress uses high-capacity, low- or no-emission buses that feature floor-level boarding to easily accommodate wheelchairs and other disabled users. The buses offer free internet service and chargers for mobile devices.

In addition to the anticipated economic impacts of Birmingham Xpress, speakers James Fowler, director of Birmingham’s Department of Transportation, and Dr. Yvette Taylor, region 4 administrator of the FTA, touted the role that more efficient buses can play in reducing greenhouse gases and fighting climate change. BJCTA Executive Director Charlotte Shaw noted that the launch of the system is a moment in which Birmingham should take pride.

“Birmingham is no stranger to change and transformation,” Shaw said. “Change does not necessarily mean growth, but growth does mean change. Our mission is to connect people to places and our vision is to contribute to the life quality of communities. This is just the start.”

Operational hours for Birmingham Xpress will be Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The Xpress buses don’t run on Sunday. Service will be complimentary for the first 30 days — a period when supporters hope local users will learn what the new service has to offer.

“We have to use it,” said Woodfin. “We have to embrace it and make sure it works for everybody. Please use it — and please tell a friend.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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