By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
The City of Birmingham on Tuesday launched its new pilot program that extends public transportation around the city.
Birmingham On-Demand powered by Via will serve riders Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and will operate in marked Mercedes Metris vans. The program will also provide accessible vehicles for riders with disabilities and will hire local driver-partners.
The 6.7-mile service area for the pilot includes parts of West Birmingham in neighborhoods such as Fairview, Fountain Heights, Druid Hills, Smithfield, Bush Hills, Central City, College Hills and others to downtown Birmingham.
“We now have another option for public transportation in Birmingham . . .,” said Mayor Randall Woodfin. “As we continue to move our city forward and be open-minded to other options and more progressive, we are reminded that public transportation should never be limited to fix routes or buses only . . .as it relates to our tool box, we need as many tools within that tool box of making sure we get people from point A to B.”
Woodfin added that the program “allows many of our residents to pretty much touch all of the medical facilities in Birmingham, at least 10 of our schools and universities.”
In September, the City Council voted unanimously to invest $250,000 to launch the service to go with the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham’s $502,000.
“We believe that Birmingham On-Demand will provide affordable, reliable and accessible transportation options to some of our most underserved residents,” said Chris Nanni, President and CEO of the Community Foundation.
Residents can book a shared ride for a flat rate fee of $1.50. Via is the leader in on-demand public mobility which is developing and operating the shared ride program as part of a six-month micro transit pilot.
Councilor Darrell O’Quinn, who is chair of the council’s transportation committee, said approximately 13 percent of the city’s population does not own a vehicle and is reliant on public transportation.
“If you can’t get around town, then you don’t have access to opportunities, healthy foods, places to get exercise, so mobility is a very essential component for quality of life in the city of Birmingham so this has been a very important project for us to accomplish,” said O’Quinn.
Visit the Apple App Store or Google Play store to download the via app in order to book a ride or call 205-236-0768.