Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority
The Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority, also called MAX (Metro Area eXpress) or BJCTA is the public transit authority of the Birmingham District. The authority provides bus service throughout Jefferson County including the municipalities of Birmingham, Bessemer, Brighton, Fairfield, Homewood, Hoover, Lipscomb, Midfield, Mountain Brook, Tarrant and Vestavia Hills. Currently, the authority operates 109 buses and has 37 routes to serve the county's citizens. Its headquarters is located in the Birmingham Central Station in downtown Birmingham.
Regular MAX bus service is provided to over 2,000 bus stops on 38 routes in the region. Most routes are run hourly Monday through Saturday from 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Downtown DART buses run on a more frequent schedule beginning at 10:00 AM with extended evening hours on Fridays and Saturdays and limited Sunday service. Paratransit services are also provided to qualified individuals by application.
The BJCTA has its origins in Birmingham's earliest mass transit operator, the Birmingham Street Railway Company established in 1884. By 1890 multiple private transport carriers had emerged in the rapidly expanding city resulting in the consolidation as the Birmingham Railway & Electric Company. They would operate Birmingham's first electric streetcar in 1891 and put into operation Birmingham's first motor buses in 1921. In 1948 transit ridership reached an all time peak at 93 million passengers.
In 1951 the company changed its name to the Birmingham Transit Company and began the process of dismantling the remnants of the once expansive streetcar network. By 1973, enabling legislation at the state level resulted in the establishment of the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority that is still in use today.
The BJCTA has struggled throughout its existence to plan routes with the agreement and financial support of the county's numerous independent municipalities. Cost-cutting in any one city can imperil routes depended on by residents of several others. Attempts to establish a stable, region-wide funding source have thus far been in vain.
Prior to 1999 riders had to use an extensive and confusing system of loops made by each route around the central business district to make transfers. The routes still make the loops, despite the fact that Central Station was designed for this purpose.
- Phil Gary, 1994–95
- Art Barnes, 1996
- Paul Ballard, 1997–99
- Wilfred Beal, 1999–2000
- W. Kenneth Gordon, 2000–02
- Mark Stanley, 2003–04
- David Hill, 2004–2008
- William Coplin, 2008–10
- Peter Behrman, 2010–12
The BJCTA board, by 1971 legislation, is comprised of a nine-member board with five representatives from Birmingham, one appointed by the Jefferson County Commission, and one each from the three other participating municipalities with the biggest populations. For many years, the three seats based on population were occupied by representatives from Bessemer, Mountain Brook, and Homewood. Despite populations having shifted years before, it wasn't until 2012 that the rule was rediscovered, resulting in the Homewood and Mountain Brook seats being cleared for representatives from Hoover and Vestavia Hills.
The BJCTA currently operates the following transit vehicles:
- 6 Chance Coach Co. "DART" trolleys, burning compressed natural gas
- 21 Optima Opus buses (purchased in 2004)
- 43 Orion VII low-floor CNG buses (purchased in 2000)
- 20 Blue Bird TC buses (14 from 1995, being phased out as more new buses are purchased)
- 15 Goshen/Ford Econoline CNG Paratransit Vans (purchased with federal grants in 2010)
- 7 shuttles
- 12 NABI CNG buses, built in Anniston (purchased in 2010 as part of a plan to replace the aging fleet with all-CNG buses)
The authority also has five Ford Explorer supervisor vehicles, two Ford F-350 maintenance trucks, and a Ford Econoline facilities maintenance van.
Using federal grants along with matching funds from the Birmingham Economic and Community Revitalization Ordinance, which became effective in January 2008, the authority plans to replace the 75 buses in the fleet with 100 new CNG buses. They hoped to launch the new fleet by October 2009, but city funds were not budgeted. On August 20, 2009 the U. S. Department of Transportation announced that the BJCTA would be awarded $8.7 million in stimulus money for five 40-foot buses and twelve 31-foot buses.
In October 2006 the BJCTA, UAB and Innovation Drive, an Alexandria, Virginia company, received a $5.6 million federal grant to develop a 37-seat hybrid hydrogen-powered bus. The project is set to last for three years, during which time the team will construct and demonstrate the vehicle. (Bryant - 2006)
- See main article at Heritage streetcars
Shortly after taking office, Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford asked the BJCTA board to put together a proposal for a downtown streetcar system. The board suggested a 2.5 mile route that would connect the Birmingham Central Station to the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. They estimated that such a system could be provided for around $33 million.
In April 2008 the BJCTA announced that it would solicit bids for the design and construction of the suggested system. Board members also made plans to travel to Milan, Italy to shop for streetcars which would be used on the route.
- Birmingham Area Regional Transit Authority
- Light rail
- List of MAX Transit Routes
- List of transit proposals
- "Chronology of Birmingham's Public Transit System". (September 27, 2006) .
- Bryant, Joseph D. (October 13, 2006) "Hybrid hydrogen bus plan wins $5.6 million." Birmingham News.
- Hansen, Jeff (January 16, 2008) "Metro Birmingham's transit system needs newer, more efficient buses." Birmingham News
- "MAX bus service runs Monday-Saturday" (April 30, 2008) Birmingham News
- DeButts, Jimmy (April 30, 2008) "Transit authority soliciting streetcar proposals." Birmingham Business Journal
- MacDonald, Ginny (August 21, 2009) "Feds OK stimulus money for new MAX buses in Birmingham." Birmingham News
- Spencer, Thomas (May 15, 2011) "Patchwork governments: Patchwork city makes it difficult to get there, back." Birmingham News
- Natta, André (February 29, 2012) "Another one gets (forced) off the BJCTA bus" The Terminal
- Bryant, Joseph D. (March 1, 2012) "Mountain Brook, Homewood lose transit board seats as Hoover, Vestavia Hills gain." The Birmingham News
- Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority official website