By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
The City of Birmingham and MAX Transit will launch a new app on Tuesday that will rebrand the city’s service with Via, a company which has provided a low-cost ride-booking service in the city for almost four years.
The new app — “Birmingham On-Demand – promises to be improved with “fast, easy booking,” according to the city and transit agency.
Since BJCTA approved its own contract with Via four months ago the co-branding with the city is an effort to bring more energy to the public transportation in Birmingham, said Christina Argo, a division manager for the city’s Department of Transportation (BDOT).
“We’re both financially committed to the service, and we’re working together to provide the service, so it made sense for us to go ahead and do a rebrand and try to line things up with the branding that BJCTA is already rolling out, just to get some synergy to transportation options in the city,” Argo said.
Since 2019, Birmingham users of Via have used an app developed by the transportation company to request rides. Though the Via service will not change, users will need to switch to the new app, which launches about a week after the city announced that BJCTA and the city jointly won an $800,000 federal planning grant for “reconnecting communities.”
“We’re not only thinking about cars, but we’re thinking about transit, we’re thinking about bikes, pedestrians, so that aligns us too with goals that BJCTA has of moving people through the city,” Argo said.
Sam South, BJCTA’s director of communications, said the partnership has worked well for both sides.
“We’re utilizing our resources, working as a team so that we can provide a better level of service for our citizens,” she said. “We want our riders to have a more efficient service and a more reliable service, so if we look at the various ways that they can ride and give them options for how they can ride, that can help with efficiency and reliability.”
The co-branding of the services allows MAX to show off the variety of transportation options it now offers, South said.
“I think people have traditionally thought, ‘When I think MAX, I think fixed route or paratransit’…but now we want them to get the bigger picture of the wide range of services that we can provide,” South said.
As part of the rebranding, new wraps for the Via vans will be unveiled. While the previous wraps featured only branding from Via and the city of Birmingham, the new ones will feature a MAX Transit logo and the city’s seal, in addition to a prominent “X,” across one side of the vans.
Via is a global provider of transit software that was founded in 2012 and is headquartered in New York City. Via’s software enables transit agencies and municipalities like Birmingham and BJCTA to provide low-cost, on-demand public transportation services, which are designed to extend the reach of existing mass transit offerings.
In Birmingham, Via provides ride-booking services for residents.
Via first came to Birmingham in December 2019 and started as a pilot project paid for by the city and the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. The pilot offered $1.50 rides in central and western Birmingham. However, the service map has been adjusted and now includes a separate service area in the city’s East Side.
In November 2022, the BJCTA board voted to approve its own contract with Via. While the city’s service ended at 7 p.m., the new contract would have Via service continue from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Additionally, the BJCTA’s contract increased the size of the service map during the nighttime hours to hopefully capture some of the nightlife of areas like Forest Park-South Avondale.
For more information about Via in Birmingham, go to https://city.ridewithvia.com/birmingham.
Updated at 1:43 p.m. on 3/7/2023 to clarify the description of Via Transportation and include link for more information.