By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Local, city and state leaders on Friday announced the first phase of the Birmingham Xpress Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system during a groundbreaking ceremony in Five Points West.
Birmingham Xpress will connect 25 neighborhoods along a 10-mile corridor between Five Points West and the Woodlawn community. This is the first bus rapid transit system in Alabama, according to the city. Construction will begin in mid-January on the west transit center in Five Points West near the CrossPlex and expected to be completed in 2022 ahead of the World Games in Birmingham.
“From where we stand [in Five Points West] to the eastern transit center in Woodlawn, the Birmingham Xpress will connect 25 of our neighborhoods to jobs, education, health and government services as well as entertainment,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. “Once completed, the residents of our city will be able to take advantage of a more reliable, fast system that will reduce travel time and lower costs with the seven buses as well as its 32 stops.”
Seven buses will regularly traverse the route and another four will serve as backups.
“It’s important for the City of Birmingham to be very intentional in providing more reliable, alternative transportation options,” the mayor said. “In order for the city of Birmingham and our 99 neighborhoods to grow, we must meet people where they are and provide them with quick and easy access to all areas of our city. Today’s groundbreaking is a big step in that direction.”
Joining Woodfin at the groundbreaking were Frank Martin, Executive Director of the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA); Myeisha Hutchinson, Jefferson County Outreach Manager for the Office of Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell and Birmingham City Councilor Darrell O’Quinn, a member of the council’s Transportation Committee.
“Birmingham Xpress is a game changer for public transportation in the Birmingham-Jefferson region,” Martin said. “It is the first phase of what we believe will be expanded to other communities in the future. We are excited to operate Birmingham Xpress and make it an integral part of the services we provide.”
“This is about moving people,” Martin continued “…it is my vision that the BJCTA will become the mobility manager for the region and that means bringing all of the services together, Birmingham Xpress, fixed routes, micro transit, Uber and Lyft integration, bikeshare, carshare . . . as a team to make that happen.”
The transit service is one of the city’s most significant recent investments in public transportation, O’Quinn said. “I believe the BRT will be completely transformational for public transportation in the City of Birmingham.”
The service will add to the transportation options for residents in the city, he added. “We are embarking on the BRT but we have seen micro transit in place for a little over a year and we have bike share and scooter share coming… we have Birmingham on Demand that has been successful… all of this is about making it easy for people who don’t have the luxury of owning an automobile to be able to utilize services for them to access opportunity, healthcare and just move about the city.”
Rep. Sewell was in Washington as lawmakers worked on the final COVID-19 relief and funding deal. However, she sent a prepared statement read by Hutchinson.
“It’s so exciting to see the $20 million in federal funding we fought so hard to secure in 2015 pay off in a way that directly impacts Birmingham residents’ everyday lives,” said Hutchinson from the prepared statement. “The Birmingham Xpress West Transit Center will improve travel time and decrease costs connecting more Birmingham residents to their places of work and communities and increase livability and opportunity. This critical project will bring us one step closer to ensuring our public transportation systems are both equitable and sustainable.”
The project is a partnership between the City of Birmingham, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration and the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA).
For more information about Birmingham Xpress and the bus rapid transit system, visit www.birminghamal.gov/brt.
Updated at 10:27 pm on 12/18/2020 to add when constructions is expected to begin.