The Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) will be celebrating "Dump the Pump Day" on Thursday, June 18, 2015. This national event celebrates public transportation and serves to promote transit as a travel option. BJCTA will celebrate the event locally by hosting fun events and activities at Central Station. There will be no cost to ride on Metro Area Transit (MAX) system all day and BJCTA will give away gifts and free snacks. For more information on MAX or to find your route, go to www.bjcta.org.
There are already too many barriers to riding. The bicycle itself should be easy.
That's part of the thought behind Birmingham's decision to become the first city in North and South America to launch a bike share system that includes electric pedal-assist, or pedelec, bicycles.
Scheduled to launch in mid-September, REV BikeShare will have 40 stations and 400 bicycles supplied by Bewegen. A quarter of that fleet will be pedelec, with operators having the option of retrofitting others later, depending on demand. The two types of bicycles will look nearly identical, with only a sticker or marking on the fender skirt to let riders know which type of ride they can expect.
"It's appealing as a way to reduce the barriers to access," explains Lindsey West, the director of bikeshare at REV Birmingham, the public-private economic development organization launching the system. "It's about the general person not being intimidated and feeling comfortable enough to try. Maybe they are obese, or just had knee surgery, or have some other health concern."
Even people without concerns as specific as those may be enticed by the pedelec option. Many new or potential riders underestimate their physical ability and the distance they are capable of riding, and the majority of adults are either new or potential riders. Only 29 percent of adults rode a bicycle at least once in the past year, and 30 percent of those who did rode fewer than six days.
"This provides a comfort level, knowing there's assistance for you," says West. "It takes away the, A mile is so long. What if I just can't do that?"
Stan Palla agrees. He's the former executive director of the Alabama Bicycle Coalition and organizer of Le Tour de Ham, a weekly social ride that averages 80 to 150 people and welcomes new riders.
"This will encourage people who haven't ridden in a while," he says, adding that he thinks pedal-assist is especially beneficial for bike share bikes because they are heavier than the average bicycle on the road. "I think Birmingham is ready for bike share."
Having pedelec bicycles isn't the only thing REV hopes will attract people to bike share. West says Birmingham is going with "a more dense system than many people expected" in order to feel accessible.
The combination of this, West believes, might create an especially welcoming system for older riders. REV is already exploring ideas to market bike share to the AARP crowd. In addition to traditional marketing staff, the system plans to hire a community engagement coordinator to focus exclusively on social and geographic goals related to equity.
In preparation for the launch, West and others have been meeting with community groups and introducing them to bike share and pedelec bicycles. While REV is betting on the long-term potential these bicycles have, in the short-term they will have to do a lot of explaining.
"That word 'pedal' in 'electric pedal-assist' gets left out a lot," she explains, "but it's important. It's pedal-assist. There's no throttle. It's not an electric bike."
The pedal-assist feature will be capped at 16 mph because at 20 mph, they would no longer be classified as traditional bikes and therefore subject to different regulations. Furthermore, West still wants people to understand the physical benefits of riding a pedelec.
"You'll feel the additional assistance, but it is still based on pedaling," she says.
The Better Bike Share Partnership is a JPB Foundation-funded collaboration between the City of Philadelphia, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the PeopleForBikes Foundation to build equitable and replicable bike share systems. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or sign up for our weekly newsletter. Story tip? Write firstname.lastname@example.org
A University of Alabama employee is celebrating National Bike to Work Day by riding his bike to work in Tuscaloosa. The catch: he lives in Birmingham.
UA photographer Zach Riggins made the 70-mile trip early on Friday, accompanied by two friends, Jason Bierley and Brian Toone.
The three followed a route of back roads, leaving Hoover around 3 a.m. and arriving on the UA campus about 8 a.m.
Riggins said he loves to ride his bike, and wanted to do this for a number of reasons, including health and promoting an alternative way to commute. Riggins says he realized his daily commute to work was adding up to 40 hours each month in a car.
"I thought how can I get exercise, I don't have enough time to get exercise," Riggins said. "So you know, get up and ride your bike to work, or if you live close enough, ride your bike to work and you get exercise and you get to work."
All three cyclists said the trip from Birmingham to Tuscaloosa was enjoyable and they encountered no problems. They plan to ride back to Birmingham later Friday.
Copyright 2015 WBRC. All rights reserved.
A new transportation option coming to Birmingham features added technology that planners say puts it among few of its kind worldwide and will make Alabama a base for similar programs in the future.
This fall, the city's first public bike sharing program will go into operation using vendor Bewegen Technologies, Inc., officials with REV Birmingham, the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, the city and the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham announced Monday afternoon at Railroad Park.
Birmingham's program will make it the first city in the Western Hemisphere to use "electric-assist" bikes, or those that use electricity to help with pedaling in hilly terrain, according to REV Birmingham.
Bike sharing is a system featuring a network of docking stations where riders can check out bicycles for short periods of time, usually with cards activated through a low-cost subscription service, per-use rates or paid annual memberships.
The idea has grown in popularity among American cities in recent years as a tool for attempting to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality. Estimates are more than 40 bike sharing programs are active in the U.S.
Across the Southeast, cities including Nashville, Chattanooga and Spartanburg, S.C., have programs, as does Montevallo, where the ValloCycle bike sharing program began in 2011.
How it will work
Birmingham began exploring the program in 2013.
A feasibility study found downtown's largely flat topography, wide streets and high concentration of jobs and people make the city a great candidate for bike sharing. Potential vendors made their pitches in January.
REV Birmingham will administer the program. The local bike sharing network will include 400 bikes and 40 kiosks placed throughout central Birmingham.
Among those, there will be 100 electric-pedal bikes. Those bikes were included to lessen barriers to using the system for people not as experienced with hillier areas of the city said Lindsey West, deputy operations director for the planning commission.
Riders can either buy annual memberships or use their credit cards to check out the bikes. Pricing details are in the works, but similar sharing programs have annual memberships between $50 and $100 per person. The Birmingham program would aim for the middle of that range for annual members, organizers said.
Memberships can be purchased through a website for the new program and a mobile app, both of which should go live this summer, according to REV Birmingham.
The pricing structure, along with GPS technology, will encourage riders to truly share bikes and return them, organizers said.
The station locations are being evaluated and include rider input. Sidewalk decals will be placed in areas across the identified region for the program -- roughly downtown from north of the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex toward Southside, and east toward Lakeview.
"If you build a strong system here, you can always tie to it," REV Birmingham CEO David Fleming said of whether the program could expand to other parts of the city.
The decals will feature codes for potential users to text their thoughts on station locations, Fleming said. REV will work with city engineers to locate where the kiosks will go.
Fleming said the goal is to grow membership every year, and the data that will be collected from the GPS-equipped bikes will help determine where growth is happening and what cycling infrastructure is needed.
The city received a $2 million congestion mitigation/air quality, or CMAQ, grant to start the program, which required a 20 percent local match. The City of Birmingham provided the local match.
"This BikeShare system is another forward-thinking program we're implementing in our forward-thinking city," Birmingham Mayor William Bell said in a statement. "It will provide a fun transportation option for our citizens, and for visitors here on business and pleasure."
The Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham provided funding for site planning work and beginning operations.
Sustaining the program will rely on user revenue, grants and corporate sponsors. Those sponsors will be announced at a future date.
Taking a brisk Monday afternoon walk through Railroad Park, Harriet Lewis said though she doesn't ride a bike, she thinks the sharing system will be good and convenient for the city.
"A lot of people come to the park and ride ... that way they don't have to carry their bikes here," Lewis said upon hearing of the program. "They already have the trails, so it's a good idea."
Work for Alabama
Bewegen, based in Quebec, was one of the vendors who responded to a request for proposals from the planning commission.
Braunyno Ayotte, marketing and communications advisor with Bewegen, said he noticed when scouting out the city that bike sharing is a perfect fit with Birmingham.
"There's just so much hype to the city, you see that it's vibrant, that it's up and coming and a lot of investment going in," Ayotte said. "To be honest, I wasn't expecting that when I first came to Birmingham. This is a city where bike sharing will work."
The company has committed to building the kiosks for Birmingham's system here in Alabama. The work will be contracted through Alabama suppliers, Ayotte said.
Bewegen also will build in Alabama the kiosks the company would need for systems as it expands to other markets in the U.S., Ayotte said.
Q: Every day, I travel Valleydale Road from U.S. 280 to Jaguar Drive. Since the repaving work, the traffic backup has been awful! I think this is due to the traffic lights not having been reset. For example, going toward U.S. 280, there usually are several cars turning left onto Inverness Parkway, and cars going north could keep going the same time cars turn left. Sometimes, only three cars have gotten through the intersection before the light turns red! This happens at every light between U.S. 280 and Jaguar Drive. What's going on?
A: It's a problem with the loop detectors, or the wires that run through the pavement at intersections and are tripped by the presence of vehicles.
When they're tripped, they let the traffic signals know a car is there, waiting to go.
As a main artery linking U.S. 280 and Interstate 65, Valleydale Road (Shelby County Road 17) kind of skips in and out of Hoover city limits in this area.
The part between U.S. 280 and Caldwell Mill Road, while some of it is in Hoover, has been resurfaced as part of a county project.
The loop detectors were put back in, but something was off with the connections between the detectors and the signals said Scott Holladay with the county engineer's office. That caused the signals to go on a kind of auto-timed changing schedule. The contractor began correcting the issue on Friday, Holladay said.
Think ahead to 2040: What roadways, trails, freight connections and transit does Birmingham need in the next 25 years?
Here's your chance to weigh in. The Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham is forming its required 25-year plan, which helps prioritize transportation projects in Jefferson, Shelby and southern Blount and eastern St. Clair counties through 2040.
There's a public involvement meeting set for midday Wednesday in conference room 310 at 2 N. 20th St.
Be there. If not, the presentation will later be put online, as will other ways for you to give input for a few weeks afterward. Do it. That way, you have an idea what's being talked about and you can give your ideas and opinions -- rather than waiting until it's almost construction time to speak up.
U.S. 280 commuter service: The Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority's service launches Monday, with two commuter buses inbound from Walmart near Alabama 119 to downtown during morning rush at 5:45 a.m. and 6:30.
Two outbound buses will go from downtown to Walmart during evening rush. Fare: $1.25. For more information, check schedules at www.bjcta.org.
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Though details are still being worked out for a direct transit link between Bessemer and Hoover, there is strong support for a bus connection that would get people between the two cities in one-quarter of the travel time, a transit official said.
The route is one of two main traffic corridors on which the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority plans to soon put some of seven new 25-passenger commuter buses into service.
BJCTA purchased the buses through a federal grant that specifies they must be used for commuter-type routes, or ones with fewer stops.
The buses are diesel-powered and Wi-Fi-enabled.
Two buses each would be used along two main commuter corridors during morning and evening peak traffic periods, with the seventh bus used as a spare.
The idea, BJCTA officials said Tuesday evening at their second meeting on the topic, is those amenities would help commuters rededicate time they would lose driving in traffic to more productive uses such as continuing to work, or preparing for or relaxing from their day.
Discussions are under way to partner up with the "guaranteed ride home" service through the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham's Commute Smart program, meaning users would be provided options to get back to their vehicles during emergencies.
Alabama 150 would be the route linking downtown Bessemer with the Galleria in Hoover, according to BJCTA's plans.
For MAX bus passengers today, getting between the two cities means boarding a bus for MAX Central Station in downtown Birmingham, then transferring there to a bus bound for the other city.
That can take about two hours for a one-way trip said Henry Ikwut-Ukwa, the transit authority's planning and development manager.
A transit authority survey of Bessemer riders showed about 70 percent said they would take advantage of a direct link with Hoover, he said.
"We believe that this proposal will take maybe 30 to 35 minutes," Ikwut-Ukwa said of the new commuter route's travel time. "That will basically address that need," with a chance to grow the service to meet demand, if needed.
Transit officials continue to talk with leaders in both cities to work out potential locations for end-of-route parking areas, Ikwut-Ukwa said.
The other commuter service routes -- U.S. 280 and a dedicated route between downtown and Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport -- also were discussed Tuesday night.
This past week, BJCTA officials had a similar meeting for "Route 201," the set of commuter buses scheduled to begin traversing U.S. 280.
For the U.S. 280 route, proposed stops would include Walmart -- which would be a park-and-ride site for the service -- The Summit, St. Vincent Hospital, UAB and the downtown business district.
BJCTA officials estimated the service could take half as long as the existing regular bus route along the corridor.
The transit authority has proposed beginning the U.S. 280 route as early as November.
The Alabama 150 route likely would begin in early 2015.
BJCTA also is working with tourism and hospitality interests and the airport to develop the downtown-to-airport connection. That one likely would run all day, Ikwut-Ukwa said.
Among the views expressed by attendees at BJCTA's meeting Tuesday night was whether the commuter buses would take alternate routes. For example, using roads along the U.S. 280 corridor would minimize the amount of time the buses are in the main flow of traffic and potentially make other stops at nearby businesses, they said.
Ikwut-Ukwa said side routes were evaluated. Since those all eventually lead back to U.S. 280, especially to cross the Cahaba River, going on and off the highway doesn't speed up the trip.
They also asked if larger buses could be used. Ikwut-Ukwa said demand will drive the service. As a pilot project, that demand will be evaluated as the program goes into effect.
Michael Crump, of Birmingham, said he would like to see similar service expanded to other long-distance routes. However, he said the express routes only address a portion of what's needed to elevate area transit including more reliability and Sunday service.
The commuter services are a good start, he said.
"But like all good things, they all have good starts," Crump said. "But every good start needs a good finish."
Other meetings are planned as plans develop for the Alabama 150 and airport routes, Ikwut-Ukwa said.
The Birmingham CommuteSmart Vanpool program is pleased to announce its new strategic partnership with Enterprise/Rideshare, as their Vanpool provider. This strategic partnership ensured cost savings for all its vanpool participants in the Jefferson and Shelby County areas.
Enterprise/Rideshare tailors its vanpool program to meet local market needs and brings a dedicated experienced two person team made up of Kelli Davis and Stuart Watson.
The CommuteSmart programs ultimate goal during this process was to provide a smooth transition for its current vanpool participants, while continuing to provide them with the high level of customer service to which they are accustomed to receiving from CommuteSmart.
CommuteSmart Enterprise/Rideshare Vanpool participants will continue to receive the same program incentives including the Emergency Ride Home benefit as well as more extensive fleet options!
We welcome the opportunity to speak with you about how CommuteSmart Enterprise/Rideshare can work together to assist your organization with offering transportation options and provide parking solutions by supplying your employees with great benefits.
Call 1-800-VAN-4WORK to get started!
What is vanpooling?
A vanpool is a group five or more riders who want to save time, save money, and reduce stress on the way to work. They voluntarily travel together to and from work in a shared van and they all share in the cost of their commute. Vanpool management and operations for CommuteSmart are contracted through Enterprise Rideshare.
Who drives the van?
A vanpool coordinator is a voluntary role and they take responsibility for the vanpool, arrange have the vehicle serviced, and is the point person between the vanpool and CommuteSmart. The vanpool coordinator is also the primary driver, but most vans have two to four people share driving duties.
All drivers must be 25 years or older and meet minimum driver requirements, which vary by state. As part of the Enterprise Rideshare driver application process, each driver's motor vehicle record is checked annually to ensure that it is in compliance with our policies.
What are the driver's responsibilities?
Drivers must provide a safe, dependable commute by driving defensively. They pick-up and drop-off passengers according to the schedule set by the group, insist that everyone wear their seatbelt, and clean the van on a regular basis.
What are the passenger's responsibilities?
Each person should be at the pick-up point on time, share in the monthly cost of the commute in a timely manner, discuss and agree on rules for the van, provide 30 days' notice of their intention to leave the group, and wear their seatbelts. Two to four passengers will also need to be approved as alternate drivers to fill in for the primary driver when he or she is ill or on vacation. All participants should work with the vanpool coordinator to help recruit passengers to maintain a full van to keep the cost as low as possible for everyone.
Why Should I Vanpool?
Vanpooling saves the average commuter 50%-75% versus driving alone, plus it saves time and is less stressful. It also reduces the number of cars on our roadways, saves thousands of gallons of fuel, and drastically reduces air pollution on an annual basis.
How Much Does it Cost to Vanpool?
Pricing varies based on the size of the van, the round-trip distance, and the type of equipment in a van. Compared to the cost of driving alone for long distance commutes, vanpooling will save on average 50-75%. The monthly cost of each vanpool is shared among all the participants in the vanpool.
The cost to vanpool is often comparable to what you pay for just gasoline. When you consider the wear and tear, maintenance, tires and the entire incidental costs associates with driving alone, vanpooling is very economical. Call 1-800-VAN-4-WORK for specific pricing.
What Types of Vehicles are Used?
We offer a variety of late-model vehicle options for vanpools including minivans, passenger vans with standard bench style seating or fully converted passenger vans with individual reclining captain's seats. We also offer a line of crossovers and SUVs.
How is Vehicle Maintenance Handled?
The vanpool contractor, Enterprise, covers both minor and major repairs, as well as all scheduled servicing. Each vanpool van is delivered with a maintenance card. Appointments for service are arranged at a vendor location convenient to the vanpool coordinator. The vendor performs the work requested and invoices Enterprise for the service/repair. If the van needs to be kept in a shop overnight, Enterprise will provide a loaner vehicle in most instances. There are no "out-of-pocket" expenses as the repair shops bill Enterprise directly.
What Type of Insurance Coverage is Provided?
Our comprehensive insurance coverage is provided through the contract for vanpooling and includes "1 Million Combined Single Limit Auto Liability, Comprehensive/Collision, and Uninsured Motorist" coverage.
What else should I know?
CommuteSmart Commuter Services also includes an Emergency Ride Home Program to help get you home in the event of an emergency. You have made the wise choice to leave your car at home and we want you to feel comfortable having made that decision. The Emergency Ride Home Program will provide you with the confidence you need to continue vanpooling.
Tax Advantages to Vanpooling. The IRS enables employers to provide up to $130.00 per month per employee toward the cost of vanpooling or riding mass transit (bus, train, rail). This benefit is tax-free to the employee and tax deductible as a business expense to the employer.
Reducing Air Pollution. It is no secret that the City of Birmingham has experienced its share of air quality issues; though improvements have been made over the years the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is continually strengthening the standards. A leading contributor to bad air quality or "smog" is auto emissions so utilizing CommuteSmart can help our community reach these standards. And, unfortunately, Birmingham ranks second in the nation in vehicle miles traveled per day! Only folks in Atlanta drive more than we do! While everyone cannot be expected to give up his or her car, if you are commuting to a heavily congested area, there is a good chance that someone else from your neighborhood is doing the same thing. We all need to do our part to reduce Single Occupant Vehicle (SOV) traffic and reduce air pollution. Jefferson and Shelby Counties are beautiful areas; we want to do everything we can to make sure it stays that way!
CommuteSmart's Vanpool Program is a service of Enterprise Rideshare which is supported by funding from the Alabama Department of Transportation and the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham. The program is intended to reduce single occupant commute trips in and around the Jefferson and Shelby County areas. This information is provided as a guide and may be appended, modified, or changed at any time without notice. -- October 2014
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- City council adopted a revised transit code Tuesday that officials have said will allow app-based companies to do business in the city.
Representatives with one app-based commuter service company, Uber, have said the revisions make it difficult for them to operate.
While it isn't clear whether new rules would prevent Uber from ever coming to Birmingham, figures show the metro area's 15-year-old public ridesharing program is growing.
About 20,000 people who live or work in Jefferson and Shelby counties now participate in CommuteSmart, which began in 1999 and is administered by the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham.
Modified programs also exist in Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery.
CommuteSmart matches riders with similar commutes to take advantage of alternative transportation including carpools, vanpools, bus rides and biking to reduce the number of vehicles on roadways.
Riders work out travel arrangements among themselves and share the costs of their commutes. CommuteSmart is a public service and participants aren't paid.
Compensation has been at the heart of a nationwide discussion in recent years about whether services such as Uber, with paid drivers, count as ridesharing programs.
Changing the definition, some say, would have unintended impacts on public programs by adding requirements for participants.
CommuteSmart is funded through the Federal Highway Administration as a ridesharing program.
Riders can keep track of their alternative commuting miles and earn incentives. Costs are shared among vehiclepoolers. For vanpools, that includes insurance for the vans, which are provided by a contractor who performs background checks.
In 2013, the Birmingham-area program added more than 4,000 new riders, growing by about 20 percent figures show.
In fiscal year 2013, the program reduced vehicle miles in the metro area by 15.2 million -- about 10.5 million through alternative forms of transportation and about 4.7 million through vanpools, records show.
The figure translates into about $6.3 million in savings and a carbon dioxide emissions reduction of about 6,000 tons, according to program figures.
The added benefit is that vanpool miles are reported to the National Transit Database, a national logbook used to allocate Federal Transit Administration funds said Scott Tillman, planning and operations director for the regional planning commission.
The planning commission gets a reimbursement for vanpool miles. That money is used for area transit, Tillman said.
Last year, the reimbursement totaled about $400,000, he said.
If the ordinance had changed -- especially grouping Uber under the rideshare definition -- planning officials fear that would have made it difficult for participants to continue using CommuteSmart.
Those changes, Tillman said, would have required drivers to get permits, business licenses and extra insurance.
Tillman said companies such as Uber are helpful because they add options for commuters.
"We are all for different transportation options as long as they fall within the guidelines of city codes," Tillman said.
Commuters can now utilize the Shelby County Park and Ride lot which is located adjacent from the Shelby County Airport. This lot features 125 to 130 parking spaces for commuter to to link up and share the ride. Shelby County officials expects most people utlizing the Park and Ride lot will be heading into Birmingham or Montgomery to work.
Federal money under MAP-21 was used to build the lot was approved by the Birmingham Metropolitan Planning Organization with Shelby County paying the local match. This project was completed because Alabama Department of Transporation (ALDOT), Shelby County, and the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham all worked together to move this forward. Shelby County has now joined Blount and Chilton counties in hosting park-and-ride lots just off Interstate 65.
County and state officials expect this lot to start out as a spot for carpooling, but have hopes that the lot could become a spot for other forms of mass transit. Visit www.commutesmart.org to begin receiveing incentives to carpooling or vanpooling during your work commute!
May is National Bike Month and CommuteSmart celebrated National Bike to Work Day on May 16, 2014. The CommuteSmart team welcomed 63 bike commuters who made the choice to cycle to work. This year, instead of having a fun ride around the city, CommuteSmart hosted 7 "energizer stations" around the Birmingham region. CommuteSmart's goal was to celebrate commuters taking a healthy alternative form of transportation to work while also reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions. Local coffee shops around the city posed as "energizer stations" and donated a cup of coffee and provided an opportunity to meet up with other riders who biked to work. Those who biked to work were rewarded with free coffee at various coffee shops around Birmingham, as well as free t-shirts and bike gear.
"We've done this 11 or 12 years now and usually see about 40-60 cyclists participate," explained Lindsey G. West, Deputy Director of Operations at the RPCGB. "In the past, we've done a group ride in the morning, but instead of a group ride this year, we're doing the energizer stations at the coffee shops so it will really be a bike-to-work because people don't have to worry about doing one specific ride."
Special thanks to Lucy's Coffee & Tea, O'Henry's Coffee, Urban Standard, Crestwood Coffee, Church Street Coffee & Books and Starbucks in Irondale for participating this year. Also a special thanks to Redemptive Cycles whom provided free bike tune-ups to those who biked to work that day.
RPCGB hopes to expand Bike to Work even further into the region next year, please reach out to Jeniese Hosey at email@example.com if you are interested in getting your community involved in 2015 and visit the Bike to Work website at www.b2wbham.com for more information!