FAIRFIELD, Ala. (WIAT) — On Wednesday, the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) Board of Directors voted to stop Fairfield Service, effctive on July 5.
BJCTA route 41, the route in question, covers Fairfield, Miles College, Western Hills Mall, Crossplex, Fairfield High School, Forrest Hill Middle School and Princeton Hospital. The route stoppage came as a result of the city’s recent trouble with its finances.
“Everybody gets to work, they get to the doctors, this is their transportation. This is their livelihood. Fairfield needs to come up with another idea, a better plan to keep this bus service going” says Tracy Mack who has been a bus driver for the BJCTA for ten years.
“This is not a hasty or mean decision made by the Board of Directors,” said Patricia Henderson, Vice Chairperson of the BJCTA in a press release. “We could no longer continue to carry the $545,000 debt on our books that the City of Fairfield [owes] the transit authority.”
Gloria Matthews, who represents Fairfield’s 2nd district on the city council and serves as the city’s finance chair, said that the city previously had a payment plan worked out with BJCTA, wherein the city would pay $16,000 a month for service.
Matthews said after Fairfield’s Walmart closed, dealing a near-deadly blow to the city’s finances, those payments stopped.
Since then, Matthews said she and Mayor Kenneth Coachman met with BJCTA officials to work out a deal.
“(Coachman) simply said, ‘ We don’t have the money. We cannot afford it, and I can’t tell you when we’ll have the money and there’s nothing that we can do,'” Matthews said. “This could’ve been avoided if the mayor would’ve just shown some good faith to just show he’s trying.”
Our attempts to reach Coachman on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Birmingham Mayor William Bell released the following statement Thursday:
“We are already working on possible solutions to help Fairfield in their time of need. We are gathering economic feasibility and logistical information and working with the BJCTA. We will keep the council informed and are very aware of the time sensitivity and citizens’ needs involved.”
Birmingham’s City Council President, Johnathan Austin, also said Thursday that the city council is, “committed to finding a solution to restore the services as the impact of the termination affects not just Fairfield residents, but so many other citizens as well.”
Matthews responded to the statements from Birmingham’s leaders.
“I’m grateful. I’m happy,” Matthews said. “I would like for them to help us in any way that they can, but they can never have my city.”
The stop of fixed route services also impacts Para-transit services to the city. The BJCTA is urging elderly and disabled citizens to contact Class Tran or Commute Smart to schedule a ride, or to call BJCTA Customer Service at 205-521-0101.
Matthews said she will meet with the BJCTA on June 2 at 1 p.m. at 2121 Reverend Abraham Woods Jr. Boulevard in Birmingham. She said the public is welcome to attend the meeting.
“I’m going in with every dime I could possibly take in there,” Matthews said.