Birmingham Xpress is a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system which was launched on September 22, 2022 in Birmingham. The first phase consists of a single east-west corridor with 32 stations between Woodlawn and Five Points West, through the City Center. Buses are scheduled to run at 15- to 20-minute intervals during service hours, with 7 of the system's 15 buses on the road at any given time.
The Birmingham City Council approved $20 million in matching funds in October 2017 to qualify for another $20 million U.S. Department of Transportation "Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery" (TIGER) grant. The city's portion of the funding was made available from the 2018 Birmingham warrant issue. The Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) is responsible for a portion of the capital funding, and will take over operation of the system once it is in place.
Strada Professional Services' consulting contract with the city for project development was terminated in mid-2018, but the company was soon brought back on board for project management services. The system's development was then placed under the City of Birmingham's Capital Projects Management Office (CPMO), under deputy director Howard Richards. The name "Birmingham Xpress" was announced in January 2019.
The city contracted with Skanska USA Building Inc. of Parsippany, New Jersey for $1.8 million over two years to serve as program management consultant for the system's development, and hired Charlotte Shaw, former manager of capital budget and planning for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) as its internal project manager, with the title of deputy director of capital projects. Shaw left that position in October 2021 to accept the job of CEO for the BJCTA.
The Bus Rapid Transit project includes dedicated bus lanes, which involved removing several stretches of on-street parking. Reducing the "clutter" along the route was a necessary trade off to insure that buses arrived at each stop at 15-minute intervals.
Opening of the first phase, which had been planned to be complete before the 2021 World Games, was delayed, along with the World Games, to 2022 by the COVID-19 pandemic. In June of that year it was reported that the system would not be operational during that event. When the system did begin running in September, no fares were charged for the first 30 days.
City officials have discussed creating an integrated payment system that could combine Xpress and MAX fares, along with payments for ride sharing services operating in the city. A mobile app for Birmingham Xpress passengers is expected to be launched in early 2023. Bus Rapid Transit service has also been proposed for the U.S. Highway 280 corridor, but no specific projects have been announced.
The eastern terminus, called the Woodlawn Community Transit Center, is being constructed at the site of the former Ken Del Building at 5601 1st Avenue North in Woodlawn. The western terminus, the CrossPlex Transit Center, is located near the Birmingham CrossPlex at 4802 Avenue W in Five Points West.
Construction of the system began at the West Transit Station in December 2020. The East Transit Station is set to be completed in 2022. The $26,317,152 contract to construct the route itself was awarded to Brasfield & Gorrie in August 2021. Thirty-six open air raised-platform stations are being constructed along the route, which is divided into segments. An initial idea to construct some of them in road medians was abandoned in favor of all curbside stops.
The In-Town Transit Partnership (ITP) segment begins at the intersection of 1st Avenue and 18th Street North, passes under the Railroad Reservation via the 18th Street underpass ("Rainbow Tunnel") and turns west again at 5th Avenue South, continuing under I-65 to 8th Street South where it curves down one more block to 6th Avenue South in Titusville.
The Western segment continues along 6th Avenue South to Elmwood Cemetery, then turns north on Martin Luther King Jr Drive, then follows Lomb Avenue to Bessemer Road (U.S. Highway 11), continuing westward past the Birmingham Crossplex to Avenue W, where it turns south to reach the CrossPlex Transit Center.
The system was originally planned for 60-foot buses, but later changed to 40-foot buses. The Birmingham City Council approved a $9,037,500 expenditure to purchase 15 buses through the BJCTA in August 2019.
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