Birmingham Express is the new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, which is scheduled to break ground soon, is aimed to “Connecting our Neighborhoods to Opportunities.” Think about that statement for a minute; precisely what does it mean, and why is that important to Birmingham. With 99 neighborhoods in our city and the varying levels of income, making sure reliable public transportation is available and affordable to those who don’t have transportation can be a pivotal player to bridging the gap to opportunity and equity for them, and give those who have transportation a chance to travel using another method and participate in their community.
In many cities across the US, public transit has seen a decline in ridership, and research found a key reason being economic displacement. Due to the rising property values and rental rates, people cannot afford to live where they live and take public transportation simultaneously. However, economic displacement has not been seen in cities where bus networks have been redesigned, which shows great promise for the BRT coming to our city.
There is, however, still a stigma associated with public transportation. Where does it come from, and what can be done to overcome the stigma?
The stigma originated from people believing public transportation is only for those who don’t have any other method to use, which namely would be low-income individuals or communities that can’t afford any other mode of transportation. This association certainly makes it difficult for public transit to overcome, but in recent years, the US has come a long way. Thousands to millions of people from every social class solely rely on major U.S. cities’ transportation programs to navigate their daily life, bridging a gap between communities fostering connectedness and humanity. That is what the hope brings for the BRT in Birmingham.
How does the BRT differ from busses?
Buses sometimes get bad rap due to having to suffer from city traffic patterns, unreliable in timing, and frequently make slow progress due to many required stops. However, buses provide an essential method of transportation in many cities, including Birmingham, and are depended on by people of all social, economic backgrounds, and provide transportation when none is available.
The BRT differs because it will use segregated lanes, which are inaccessible to other vehicles, and improved reliability in terms of less time to travel to our destinations. The BRT bus is hooked up to the local traffic light grid, which usually gives them the priority and less likely having to wait for the lights to change. The proposed route for the BRT can be seen in the map below. BRT service travels from Woodlawn to CrossPlex with nine significant stops along the way, delivering fast, reliable, and cost-effective mobility for citizens and visitors.
The budget for the BRT is approximately $44 million and is scheduled to take 60 months to finish. The expected start-up date is in 2021, just in time for the World Games to take place in Birmingham! For more information on Birmingham Express, please visit www.birminghamal.gov/brt.