New commuter bus service on Highway 280 starts

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer

The Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority launched a new commuter bus service on U.S. 280 on Nov. 17.

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The Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority launched a new commuter bus route along Highway 280 this week that features fewer stops than a fixed route.

The service consists of a bus route with fewer stops than a fixed route and is part of a pilot program the Authority is trying for at least 90 days, BJCTA Executive Director Ann August said.

“It has about six stops on each route,” August said of the service. “We have a 280 bus route, which actually stops at every block or two blocks going in. It has a lot more stops. The commuter route bus operates more like an express.”

The new service stemmed from phone calls the BJCTA office received from citizens complaining about a lack of commuter buses available on U.S. 280, she said.

The service is comprised of two buses with staggered schedules that run in the morning and afternoon.

The cost to ride is $2.50 per day for a round trip, and cash is accepted.

Passengers are urged to arrive at the pick-up locations five to 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure times.

The first bus picks up passengers from Walmart on U.S. 280 near Alabama 119 at 5:45 a.m., followed by a second bus at 6:30 a.m.

After they leave Walmart, the buses stop at The Summit, St. Vincent’s Hospital, the UAB area, downtown at Sixth Avenue and 20th Street North and the Social Security Administration building.

In the afternoon, the buses reverse their routes, leaving the Social Security building, making each stop and then dropping passengers off at Walmart on U.S. 280.

August said commuters could benefit from the service because it reduces the amount of fuel commuters must purchase for their personal vehicles.

In addition, the service includes free Wi-Fi on the buses to allow passengers to use their laptops and mobile devices during their commute.

“It’s not that riding the bus is going to get you to where you’re going quicker,” August said. “It takes you from behind the wheel and being an operator. Quality time is more important for people as well as more disposable income in your pocket.”

Although the number of passengers on the route was relatively low Nov. 17, August said she hopes participation will increase.

“Considering the weather, things went fine,” she said. “We’re hoping as the week progresses that we will see a pick-up in the number of people getting on. The biggest thing is we just want people to try it.”

The new service is being funded out of the Authority’s existing budget, August said.

“We’re stretching things to try to do something new,” she added. “We want people to change the carbon footprint in the region, and they can do that one vehicle at a time by getting on a MAX bus.”