Transit study a step in the right direction

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

I spent a good bit of time this week looking over traffic and transit studies and plans recently conducted by the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham.

In the studies, the commission recommended high-occupancy vehicle lanes and a bus transit system serving central Shelby County.

The Planning Commission obviously put a lot of effort into going over the results of the transportation study, and considered all the alternatives before making their recommendations.

The bus routes outlined in the study served many of the high-traffic areas of Alabaster, such as U.S. 31 and the Colonial Promenade, and seemed to include plenty of stops in easily accessible areas.

Darrell Howard, the Planning Commission’s deputy director of planning, told me the transit buses serving Shelby County would be much different from the ones currently used in downtown Birmingham and its surrounding areas.

He said they would be charter-type buses complete with mobile wi-fi, storage bins and more.

The study painted a pretty nice picture of what could one day exist in our city. Right now, with gas prices shooting through the roof, the idea of public transit sounds especially appealing.

And even if fuel costs were not on the rise, I think you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks the rush hour traffic on I-65 and U.S. 31 is not a major issue.

Realistically, it could take several years for anything in the Planning Commission’s study to get done, as funding is a problem for pretty much any project in our current economy.

But I applaud the commission for taking a step in the right direction by studying the traffic dilemma and trying to find the best way to handle it.

Things may not be moving forward at a blistering pace, but one thing is for sure: If we don’t do anything to address the congestion, nothing is ever going to change.