The Dart Circulator or DART (originally an acronym for "Downtown Area Runabout Transit") is a trolley-style bus operated by the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) as part of the "Metro Area eXpress" (MAX) system on three routes in the Birmingham city center. The system runs at frequent intervals on Mondays through Saturdays, including evenings for the Blue and Green lines.
Regular fare is $0.25, which allows for transfers between routes. Senior citizens, disabled persons and Medicare card holders qualify for half-fare ($0.10). During certain special events, such as Art on the Rocks, fares are waived. An additional loop around Parkside is added to the Blue line during Birmingham Barons games at Regions Field and other major events in that district.
The system was first created by the BJCTA with Federal Transit Administration funding in 1978. It was initially equipped with six trolley-style buses and fares were 10 cents.
Within two years the project was operating at a $100,000 deficit. The Birmingham City Council partnered with the Downtown Action Committee to bail out the system beginning in 1980. South Central Bell telephone directories distributed that July featured a large photograph of a DART bus on the cover. An image of a DART bus was also incorporated into Eleanor Bridges' monumental "Cyclorama of Birmingham History", commissioned for the lobby of the Brown-Marx Building.
The system was expanded with the addition of seven new CNG-powered buses and service to Lakeview in 2001. The new 28-foot "American Heritage" buses were manufactured by Chance Coach of Wichita, Kansas. The BJCTA hired Visionary Marketing of Riverside, California to create a new logo and route maps for the system. At that time, regular fares were $0.50.
On February 4, 2013 one of the Dart buses caught fire and its compressed natural gas tank exploded on Richard Arrington Jr Boulevard North near the BJCC. The driver and three passengers safely escaped from the coach before the explosion. On March 4, 2014 Pouneh Bahri, a 25-year-old special needs student at Horizons School, was struck and killed at a crosswalk by a Dart bus on 15th Avenue South. The driver was found to be at fault for the accident, but was not charged with a crime.
In March 2017 the north-south Blue route was re-equipped with full-size Magic City Connector buses wrapped in advertisements for sponsor Coca-Cola.
- Blue line (North-South), every 10 minutes daytime, every 20 minutes evenings and Saturday
- Red line (East-West), every 30 minutes daytime
- Green line (Southside Loop), every 10 minutes daytime, every 20 minutes afternoons and evenings
- "Dart may remain on the road with help from business, council" (July 2, 1980) The Birmingham News - via Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections
- Nicholson, Gilbert (July 15, 2001) "New Dart trolley route targets downtown crowd." Birmingham Business Journal
- Robinson, Carol (February 4, 2013) "Natural gas tank explodes on DART trolley in Birmingham; 3 passengers escape unharmed." The Birmingham News
- Robinson, Carol (March 17, 2014) "MAX DART bus driver at fault in accident that killed Birmingham special needs woman." The Birmingham News
- Smith, Mike D. (April 9, 2015) "Free DART trolley service offered for Barons games." The Birmingham News
- Hoppe, Ian (June 4, 2016) "Darting around the center of Birmingham on the Blue Line." The Birmingham News
- Edgemon, Erin (March 24, 2017) "Birmingham unveils fleet of Coca-Cola buses, new downtown-Southside route." The Birmingham News
- West, Ty (June 22, 2017) "Taking Birmingham's newest transit option for a spin." Birmingham Business Journal
- Dart brochure with route map at bjcta.org