By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
Myron Reed, who has been a bus operator for the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) for almost seven years, said on some mornings passengers on his MAX Transit routes don’t seem to appreciate his “good morning” greetings.
“What’s so good about it,” Reed often recalls hearing.
But Thursday was different. It was the first day of operation for Birmingham Xpress (BX), the city’s new rapid bus transit system which operates in about a 10-mile corridor, from the Birmingham CrossPlex in the west, to a transit center in Woodlawn in the east.
Rides on BX for the first 30 days are free.
Reed, who drives the route, said he can already sense rider satisfaction with the new transit service and “people a lot less angry,” he said.
Shortly before Reed began his drive, city, transit and community leaders gathered at the western transit center, across the street from the CrossPlex, to cut the ribbon for the launch of the new transit system, which will be free for the first 30 days of operation.
Mayor Randall Woodfin said the city is in “the service business” citing the BX.
“We need to get people from point A to B on time, we need to get people from their home to their doctor’s medical appointment on time, from home to school on time, from home to work on time and vice versa. That’s the business service we’re in. That should be non-negotiable,” Woodfin said.
Charlotte Shaw, executive director and CEO of BJCTA, pointed out that this year marks the 50th anniversary of BJCTA and that Birmingham are both showing growth.
“It really is not by happenstance, that we happen to create change right in this time and in this place. See, change does not necessarily mean growth, but growth does mean change. You cannot grow and not change but you can change and not grow. You all represent growth here today,” Shaw said.
Birmingham City Council President Wardine Alexander highlighted that BX is the first bus rapid transit system in Alabama and said the system will benefit all Birmingham neighborhoods.
“This update to Birmingham inner-city public transit system provides connectivity among each of our neighborhoods, especially those east and west, while serving major employers,” she said.
James Fowler, director of the City of Birmingham Department of Transportation, said the BX is a huge step toward multi-modal transportation, which includes personal cars as well as bicycles, buses and other forms of mobility.
“We’re here today to celebrate what seems like a very simple bus. This is actually one of the largest multimodal investments that we’ve made in the city of Birmingham, in this region in a century. There’s a powerful impact that comes with that,” Fowler said.
The BX system is a “turning point” for the city, Fowler said, toward more public transportation, which can allow for greater economic, environmental sustainability, as well as safety.
Dr. Yvette Taylor, Federal Transit Administration Regional Administrator for Region 4, which includes the Southeast, said Thursday was a great day for the city as its “journey continues in building thriving communities and expanding your transit network for better connections to opportunities, and those are opportunities for everyone who calls Birmingham home.”
Multiple residents said they were excited about what the BX will bring to Birmingham.
Mary Mallory, who lives in the Ensley Highlands neighborhood, said the project is a “blessing” that could be useful to many in her community.
“I’ve seen people walk this area from Five Points West, even to the Southside. I remember when my husband, before he got his job, he rode a bike to his first interview, so if we had this going on, it would have been easier,” said Mallory, while waiting aboard the first BX bus to begin the inaugural trip.
Keith O. Williams, vice president of the North Titusville Neighborhood Association, said the project could have a way of uniting people.
“People that were at the ceremony and rode the buses, they came from every part of the city,” said Williams, “so that lets me know that the city of Birmingham is embracing this new mode of transportation.”
For more on BX, visit here.