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Birmingham City Council May Suspend Fares for Bus Rapid Transit System

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By Ryan Michaels

The Birmingham Times

Riders who utilize both the fixed-route MAX Transit buses and the Birmingham Xpress (BX) Bus Rapid Transit system currently pay separate fares for each. But that could change this week.

Today, [Monday June 12] the Birmingham City Council’s Transportation Committee and the Budget and Finance Committee will consider an item to amend the current agreement between the City and the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority by adding $300,000 to cover the cost of suspending fares for the Birmingham Xpress while the consolidated payment system is being developed.

The agreement is expected to be considered by the full Council for approval during Tuesday’s meeting.

City Councilor Darrell O’Quinn, Chair of the Transportation Committee, said this one-time allocation would be bridge funding while the BJCTA temporarily suspends fares for the BX.

“Having a consolidated payment system for both of these bus systems is really going to help alleviate a problem for some of our riders,” O’Quinn said. “The first few months of the Birmingham Xpress being operational there were no fees and ridership was really high. That dropped off a bit once the BJCTA began charging fares. One of the side benefits of the BJCTA suspending fares is that I think we will see ridership increase again and maybe introduce more people to the Birmingham Xpress.”

Birmingham Xpress (BX), which began service in September 2022, is a bus rapid transit system which operates in about a 10-mile, east-west corridor across the city. While BX was fare-less since it began operation in 2022, paid service began this year.

In March, the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) announced changes to its traditional fixed routes which meant that riders would have to pay multiple fares when transferring between BX and regular fixed routes.

BJCTA Executive Director Charlotte Shaw said, “The proposed amendment will assist BJCTA with servicing customers as our systems continue to expand and grow … [and we] appreciate Mayor Woodfin and the City of Birmingham for moving transit in the right direction.”

News of the temporary fare elimination comes as there is disagreement among some city leaders about whether to collect $8 million from the BJCTA.