Birmingham’s new Xpress rapid bus line gives residents a new option to travel across the city

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Dozens of people took the chance to ride on Birmingham’s new Xpress Rapid Bus Line on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022.

Photo by Rashah McChesney/Gulf States Newsroom , WBHM

Riders took their inaugural trips on the new Birmingham Xpress rapid bus line Thursday, as officials opened the city’s first ever bus rapid transit system. 

The bus line is similar to a rail line, such as with MARTA, Atlanta’s bus and rapid train system, but by using buses on existing streets.  

The Birmingham Xpress is a single route that runs east to west between Five Points West and Woodlawn. Those stops serve as transit centers for the bus line, along with the intermodal station in downtown Birmingham. A total of 32 stops take riders by places like Princeton Baptist Hospital, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Railroad Park and Sloss Furnace. Busses drive in dedicated lanes. 

The stops consist of built-up platforms with bright display screens offering real-time route information. The buses also offer low-floor level boarding that is easier for people with health conditions or impairments. There are WiFi and mobile charging services available on the buses and officials say an app will be coming soon.

Myra Tarver walks onto one of Birmingham’s new Xpress rapid Bus Lines on Sept. 22, 2022, in Birmingham, AL. (Rashah McChesney/Gulf States Newsroom)

Funds for the $64 million project came from the Federal Transit Administration, the American Rescue Plan and the city of Birmingham.

“We need to get people from point A to B on time. We need to get people from their homes to medical appointments on time. From home to school on time. From home to work on time. That’s the business service we’re in,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said during a ribbon-cutting event.

City leaders celebrate after a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new Xpress Rapid Bus Line on Thursday.
City leaders celebrate after a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new Xpress Rapid Bus Line on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in Birmingham, Alabama. (Rashah McChesney/Gulf States Newsroom)

Others during Thursday’s kick-off noted the buses could bring increased safety.

“In the city of Birmingham, every year we have about 40 people that die in car crashes. We know from looking at other countries, other places that have grown with public transportation, they do not have that problem,” director and city traffic engineer James Fowler said.

Residents including Jason Avery are excited about the Birmingham Xpress. He’s been a resident of Woodlawn for almost 20 years and is now the neighborhood vice president. 

“I’ll be able to walk down to the end of my street one block, hop on, check my emails while I’m on the way to work and be dropped off like two blocks away from where I work. And that’s the way I really wanted it always to be,” Avery said.  

James Avery
James Avery stands in front of the Birmingham Xpress digital display board on the bus platform at the Woodlawn Transit Center. (Cody Short/WBHM)

Avery works in public health and loves that the new bus line will be fueled by compressed natural gas, which releases less carbon. 

“Alabama is a car state. I think from the time that you’re 16, you dream about having a car and having that freedom. But that freedom is not always free because you see, pollution,” Avery said. 

Birmingham resident Will Riley is interested in the bus line. But he wants assurance the in-bus technology will work.

“Whatever decisions they make to encourage the use of it, you know, I definitely think having real-time expectations and reliability is going to be huge for that,” Riley said. 

Xpress bus passes are $1.50 one way or $3.50 for multiple uses in a day, but starting Thursday it’s free for the first 30 days.

 

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