The Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority has proposed two new bus routes though Homewood–including a new circulator route serving Samford University that could replace Route 42–to resolve a nearly year-long discussion over transit costs, use and efficiency. Transit chief Ann August and the transit planner were present at tonight’s Finance Committee meeting, where the routes were mentioned only in passing while the committee talked about finding the $65,967 to fund BJCTA service through the end of the budget year.
The council’s history with public transit has been a long and adversarial one for most of FY2014-15, beginning with Mr. Wright’s September Finance Committee proposal to slash the $263,000 budget by half to “get the attention” of transit leaders, who the committee believed to be overcharging and under-serving the city. The council followed up the next week, Sept. 22, with a 10-1 vote in favor of the cuts (Mr. Hawkins dissenting).
Regular bus service was continued, but under the threat of carrying out those cuts, during months of subsequent Finance Committee meetings, with BJCTA executives providing hours of information on system finances and bus routes–sometimes down to hourly detail and names of special needs riders–to council members.
The fate of the BJCTA paratransit service for special needs and elderly riders figured heavily in the committee’s questioning, as corresponding cuts would have been made in that service as well.
A reconciliation of sorts was reached Jan. 26, 2015, with the council voting 5-4 (Limbaugh and Moody absent) to extend funding through March; Four members wanted a longer extension. Meanwhile, BJCTA planner Henry Ikwut-Ukwa agreed to work with Homewood staff on new routes, as follows.
Mr. Ikwut-Ukwa was on hand tonight with Ms. August, BJCTA’s nationally recognized transit chief. Ms. August said she would present the bus system’s funding request well before the mayor presents his budget, by Sept. 1 of this year.
LAKESHORE CIRCULATOR, SERVING SAMFORD
Recent transit history, link by link
October 20, 2014 The BJCTA presents its case to the Finance Committee.
November 10, 2014 The BJCTA continues its defense, provides detailed information on the system inner-workings.
Dec. 1, 2014 Councilman Thames presents his own plan for city bus routes.
December 8, 2014 Finance and transit, continued.
Dec. 15, 2014 Council votes to continue service through January 2015.
Jan. 7, 2015 Special transit work session.
Jan. 26, 2015 A 3-month reprieve is granted.