BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — In her two years on the job, Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Association Executive Director and CEO Charlotte Shaw has made it her mission to bring the organization up to speed and that has required some difficult decisions.
“We are in the midst of redesigning bus routes that have been in existence for the last 20-years. So, those routes don’t work anymore because the demographics and communities have changed,” said Shaw.
One change has to do with how public transit responds to riders who choose to go the route of Uber or Lyft.
BJCTA offers a similar micro-transit option, on demand rides, that Birmingham resident Tabitha Jephunneh calls a game changer.
”I do my grocery shopping, all kinds of shopping. I like it because it picks you up close to where you’re going,” Jephunneh said.
Councilor Hunter Williams has been outspoken about his desire to focus more on micro-transit options that meet riders where they are.
”I’m going to keep being vocal. I want to see a metro wide via systems or if it’s not via a micro-transit system that works very similar to Uber or Lyft,” he said.
Shaw agrees, but only as it makes sense and works in tandem with the larger fixed route buses.
”Micro-transit actually works if we can supplement, it’s not a replacement for a fixed route,” said Shaw.
Where there is no disagreement is on traditional bus routes and methods that are a waste of taxpayer dollars and lead to empty buses. Something that councilor Darrell O’Quinn says nobody wants.
”We want the public transportation to actually function and work for people. You know, we have no interest in seeing empty buses go up and down the street,” O’Quinn said.
Numbers provided by the BJCTA show Birmingham on demand growing in popularity. Ridership was up 50% last month, compared to last year. Growing from 8,000 riders last September to 12,000 this September.