Birmingham to consider ‘microtransit’ pilot program

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala (WIAT) — Birmingham city leaders are looking into a new form of public transportation that may be more similar to on-demand ride sharing like Uber or Lyft.

The city recently posted requests for proposals in hopes of rolling out a city-wide pilot program in 2019.

There are many people in Birmingham who rely on public transportation, but some have had issues with the service and efficiency of the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority.

“The bus system is kind of hard to deal with at times,” said Aimee Warren.

For folks who rely on a ride, route problems and long wait times can mean trouble getting to work or doctor’s appointments. 

“I depend on public transportation to get back and forth to work I have to take care of a family,” said Keyonna Manning.

Birmingham City Councilor Darrell O’Quinn told CBS 42 that he and Councilman John Hilliard have been exploring alternative forms of transportation that might better serve the community. Many city jobs are not accessible via bus.

“There’s about 60 percent of the city that’s currently not served by the fixed bus routes,” said O’Quinn.
O’Quinn is currently in California at a transportation meeting where he will discuss the issue. 

A microtranasit system is envisioned to be a public-private partnership, O’Quinn said, adding that the city could subsidize the cost of a ride to make the system more affordable.

The city aims to reduce dependency on vehicles, but O’Quinn knows it is difficult for neighbors to accomplish many tasks without a private vehicle.

With a microtransit system, neighbors might share a ride but should have a more direct route.

“I stay in west end so I’ve got to go all the way downtown to come all the way back over here so some of the connections are bad,” said Warren.

Chariot and Via are two companies listed as examples of on-demand ride sharing companies in the city’s RFP.

O’Quinn said he learned about Via and its’ partnership with the City of Arlington in Texas. It is one of many companies the city wants to hear from as it hopes to start a pilot program across the city.

In the RFP, the city has a list of qualifications for vendors. Vendors must operate 7 days a week between 7a.m. – 7 p.m.

The city must be allowed to set fare prices. Wait times must not average more than 15 minutes. Users must not be required to have a smart phone to pay for the service. A vendor must also agree to work with the BJCTA.

For a look at the RFP, click here.

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