Mass transit idea a good one

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, October 30, 2013

We’ve all heard it time and again — the assertion that mass transportation won’t work in the Birmingham metro area or in Shelby County.

Despite that, we’ve always supported the idea of local mass transit as long as it was well planned and viable for the long term.

We have hopes that the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs has hit upon such an idea. Pelham Mayor Gary Waters said last week that ADECA is considering creating a commuter rail service linking Birmingham with Montgomery, and the service could include multiple stops in Shelby County.

If the plan is approved, municipalities along the route would be responsible for helping to fund train stations.

There’s no timeline yet for the project because it is only one of several under consideration by ADECA. However, we would like to see the project move forward.

Well-planned commuter rail routes would help cut down on traffic congestion in Shelby County and in the metro Birmingham area, which is one of the most important issues facing the area today. That alone is a good reason to support the idea.

On our Facebook page, a few commenters raised concerns about the cost of ticket prices, which Waters said could be about $4.25 per trip. It is essential that any mass transit solution be affordable — both for the municipalities that will have to contribute money to make the project happen and for the customers who would use the rail service daily.

The train would also need to be easily accessible if it was to become a travel solution for a good percentage of the population. For example, how could working parents use the train if they had to get on at 5:45 a.m. — the time that Waters said the first train of the day would likely leave the Alabaster-Pelham stop? Would there be enough stops in Shelby County to encourage usage from travelers in rural areas?

We hope ADECA moves forward with this plan and can assuage these concerns. However, even if commuter rail service becomes a reality in Shelby County, it is still years away — which means we must continue to work to find other solutions for our traffic congestion problem.

The We Say is the opinion of the Shelby County Reporter editorial board.