Birmingham Xpress Launches Alabama’s First Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Service

City of Birmingham leaders joined officials and employees of the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) for the ground-breaking launch of Birmingham Xpress, Alabama’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) system . The ceremony, held Sept. 22 at the CrossPlex Transit Center in the Five Points West neighborhood, was attended by about 150 people, including representatives from the federal and community partners of the $64 million project.

“We have to get people from point A to point B on time,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said. “The city is in the service industry, and it’s critical that we get people to jobs, healthcare and school, as well as retail and entertainment opportunities. Today marks a major milestone in public transport for the city of Birmingham.

Birmingham City Council Speaker Wardine Alexander noted that Birmingham Xpress will use bus-only lanes and special technology to provide “fast, reliable and cost-effective transport”. She likened the service to a “light rail on rubber wheels,” offering rail-like efficiency with the flexibility of a bus to connect neighborhoods along a 10-mile east/west corridor.

“It provides connectivity between our residents, new opportunities and multiple services,” said Alexander.

Birmingham Xpress includes 32 stops traveling between the Woodlawn Transit Center, located across 1st Avenue North from Woodlawn High School, and the CrossPlex Transit Center. It provides access to many of the city’s most visited attractions and services – Sloss Furnaces, McWane Science Center, Alabama and Lyric Theaters, Railroad Park, Regions Field, the Negro Southern League Museum, Red Mountain Theatre, Bartow Arena, Rickwood Field , Bill Harris Arena and Birmingham CrossPlex – as well as the University of Alabama at the Birmingham campus; Brookwood Princeton, the Children’s of Alabama and UAB hospitals, numerous libraries and recreation centers, and the neighborhood business districts of Avondale, Woodlawn, and 4th Avenue North.

Funding for Birmingham Xpress came from the city and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Birmingham provided $44 million, with $18 million of that total provided by the American Rescue Plan Act, while FTA contributed $20 million.

The new service is the latest addition to a growing selection of public transport services in Birmingham which includes the BJCTA’s Max, Magic City Connector and paratransit services, the Ride Share service provided by Birmingham On-Demand, micromobility options such as the scooter and Complete streets with space for walkers and cyclists. Birmingham Xpress uses high-capacity, low-emission or zero-emission buses that feature ground-level boarding to easily accommodate wheelchairs and other disabled users. The buses offer free internet service and chargers for mobile devices.

In addition to the predicted economic impacts of Birmingham Xpress, speakers James Fowler, Director of Birmingham’s Department of Transport, and Dr Yvette Taylor, FTA Region 4 Administrator, touted the role more efficient buses can play in the reduction of greenhouse gases and the fight against climate change. BJCTA executive director Charlotte Shaw noted that the launch of the system is a moment Birmingham should be proud of.

Birmingham Xpress buses now operate in the city. (Mark Kelly/Alabama Press Center)

“Birmingham is no stranger to change and transformation,” Shaw said. “Change does not necessarily mean growth, but growth means change. Our mission is to connect people to places and our vision is to contribute to the quality of life of communities. This is just the beginning.

Birmingham Xpress hours of operation will be Monday to Friday 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Xpress buses do not run on Sundays. The service will be free for the first 30 days – a period during which supporters hope local users will learn what the new service has to offer.

“We have to use it,” Woodfin said. “We have to embrace it and make sure it works for everyone. Please use it – and please tell a friend.

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