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nowyano

Public transit in Alabama

Would You Use Rail Transit?   54 members have voted

  1. 1. Subways, Light or Commuter Rail in Alabama

    • Only in Birmingham
      21
    • Only in Mobile
      2
    • Only in Huntsville
      2
    • Only in Montgomery
      0
    • In Any of Them
      6
    • Not At All
      23
  2. 2. If There Were A Rail Transit System In One of the Big 4 Alabama Metros Would You Use It?

    • Yes
      34
    • No
      12
    • Sometimes
      8

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64 posts in this topic

Do you think a subway or light rail system would work in any of the big 4 cities in Alabama? If there were one which of the cities would it work in? Would you use it?

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I don't think a subway system would work in any of Alabama's cities. One, Alabama's cities just aren't big enough; two, it's way too expensive to build a subway. I think a more practical solution would be light rail in all 4 cities and commuter rail in Birmingham, Huntsville-Decatur and Mobile. However, if a subway does get built someday, I would probably use it.

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the thread was actually suppose to say subway or light rail but for some reason it posted before I finished typing and I could not change the title. So to anyone who votes now think of it as saying subway or ligh rail (streetcars, trolleys)...

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Light rail in Birmingham? Yes. In Mobile? Maybe in another decade or so possibly. Huntsville will be awhile I would imagine. Birmingham is in terrible need of some type of public transit. It has never had any before. :) MAX doesn't count. That isn't transit, it's a joke.

When I was in college in Birmingham, I waited tables (duh), and that was the #1 gripe I heard constantly from people who were visiting the city. How the dadblasted hell are we supposed to get around in this town? Of course, I hated waiting tables and treated my customers like crap, so I would usually tell em to hitchhike for all I care. I was especially mean to the yankees. :D Kidding!

I can see light rail in Birmingham someday.

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Ok, I'll sound off on this one. Two words, no sir. I don't beleive rail would work in any of the Alabama cities because right now the transit system in all of the cities isn't really supported all that well. To many people depend on cars right now and that would be a hard thing for most of the people in the state to give up. Now, that is just my thought. There is no telling what attitude people would take on using the system if it were actually built. The place I think is most likely to get a rail system in the future would probably be Mobile, because the people work together better down there, and the idea of rail service to the beach areas sounds better to me. I definetly don't see it happening in Birmingham; look at what has been happening with the dome, even though they might be getting their act together now. I don't see Huntsville getting it either, because sprawl is taking over. I don't know much about Montgomery, but from what I seen while I have visited there, no.

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it's always funny to me the reliance on cars, especially in Mobile and Birmingham. I have never been to Huntsville, and I'm not too sure if a light rail would work in Montgomery other than in the heart of the city (around the capital, and the historic district). Now Birmingham I thought was installing streetcar but again I haven't been to Birmingham since 2004 or so and all my info comes from the internet which is never too relieable in the cases of city growth or expansion. Mobile I think could work, as Shawn said, goingthrough downtown and the beach areas. I would love to see some sort of light rail in Birmingham, b/c I nneed good public transportation and it is looking more and more like I am going to move to Birmingham in the enxt year or so.

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I havent heard anything in a while, but my understanding is that the trolleys will be restarted (at least on a limited basis) and then service will be expanded based upon the response.

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Light rail I think would work in Birmingham. In the other cities, I am not so sure how well the system would work.

It would be quite easy to build LRT in Huntsville because there is an old railroad that runs north-south from South Huntsville to Downtown parallelling Memorial Parkway; that rail ROW could be acquired fairly easily since no trains use it.

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I believe that light rail would work in the Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan area if we could get rid of those politians that I mentioned in the "Cities Merging" post. Birmingham is capable of having a vast large mass transit system that would cover the 4 of the 7 metro counties that are in serious of alternatives to driving. The region's biggest problem is cooperation.

Huntsvill is also capable of having LRT as well. However, not until the metro area's population reaches at least 800,000 which isn't going to happen for another decade at least. Montgomery, an all around NO! Mobile seems to be more suitable for BRT than LRT.

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Ok, I'll sound off on this one. Two words, no sir. I don't beleive rail would work in any of the Alabama cities because right now the transit system in all of the cities isn't really supported all that well. To many people depend on cars right now and that would be a hard thing for most of the people in the state to give up. Now, that is just my thought. There is no telling what attitude people would take on using the system if it were actually built. The place I think is most likely to get a rail system in the future would probably be Mobile, because the people work together better down there, and the idea of rail service to the beach areas sounds better to me. I definetly don't see it happening in Birmingham; look at what has been happening with the dome, even though they might be getting their act together now. I don't see Huntsville getting it either, because sprawl is taking over. I don't know much about Montgomery, but from what I seen while I have visited there, no.

That's because there isn't a single Alabama city that has decent transit for people to take advantage of. If they did, people would definately use it.

People aren't going to take advantage of a system that doesn't work. Basing Alabama's future transit needs on how people use current transit isn't going to work because no single city in Alabama has a decent transit system now. Most of the larger cities have some type of transit, but they all suck. From Huntsville to Gadsden to Mobile. There isn't a single effective system in this entire state, and there hasn't been since streetcar days.

Transit in Birmingham always has been, and still is, a joke. A flat out joke. That doesn't mean the city doesn't have a need for effective transit, it just means it has never had it before. MAX is the biggest waste of money I have ever seen in my life, in any city in any state.

Birmingham is in desperate need of modern transit. Right now. MAX isn't the answer. Birmingham is not finished growing. In fact, it is just getting started good. Traffic nightmares are only going to get worse in the future if the city doesn't start planning ahead. Right now. City hell, make that the entire region.

The Birmingham metro takes up an enormous chunk of Central Alabama, and as far as sprawl from Birmingam is concerned, you ain't seen nothin' yet. :) They better start planning for future transit now, or the city is going to come to a total stand still.

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That's because there isn't a single Alabama city that has decent transit for people to take advantage of. If they did, people would definately use it.

People aren't going to take advantage of a system that doesn't work. Basing Alabama's future transit needs on how people use current transit isn't going to work because no single city in Alabama has a decent transit system now. Most of the larger cities have some type of transit, but they all suck. From Huntsville to Gadsden to Mobile. There isn't a single effective system in this entire state, and there hasn't been since streetcar days.

Transit in Birmingham always has been, and still is, a joke. A flat out joke. That doesn't mean the city doesn't have a need for effective transit, it just means it has never had it before. MAX is the biggest waste of money I have ever seen in my life, in any city in any state.

Birmingham is in desperate need of modern transit. Right now. MAX isn't the answer. Birmingham is not finished growing. In fact, it is just getting started good. Traffic nightmares are only going to get worse in the future if the city doesn't start planning ahead. Right now. City hell, make that the entire region.

The Birmingham metro takes up an enormous chunk of Central Alabama, and as far as sprawl from Birmingam is concerned, you ain't seen nothin' yet. :) They better start planning for future transit now, or the city is going to come to a total stand still.

EvanK I like your points, but the fact is the government and especially the State of Alabama doesn't like the unknown. Right now mass transit in the metropolitan areas of the state are an unknown. The people of Alabama are not supporting it to the point that there is a desperate need for such a system, so why would the officials in Montgomery throw all of the needed cash at it. We're talking subway sytems and light rail. Right now NONE of the cities are densely populated enough to support a subway system. Maybe Birmingham can support light rail, if it was there. Mobile in the next decade or so could START a system. That is only if the economy of Alabama is doing as well or better than it is right now, in the future. As I said before, Mobile and the coastal area is becoming more and more attractive to a lot of people, so I see a system there before anywhere else.

No one is saying that mass transit is not needed, because it is needed, and people need to start supporting it to justify it's name, MASS TRANSIT.

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We must start small. Get an efficient downtown transit system in place...then expand it to some of the more distant downtown neighborhoods. Eventually, take it to the suburbs and beyond. You cant just start out with a big, brand new mass transit system. People wont trust it or be confident in it if you try to throw it on people all of a sudden. Have to somewhat gradually demonstrate the advantages to mass transit via HOV lanes and the like.

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I read somewhere that Alabama's constitution does not allow the state to use transportation funds for mass transit. If that's the case, then it's just another reason why we should rewrite that document from hell.

I just got back from Memphis, and Birmingham should really look at their streetcar system for inspiration if they haven't already.

For Huntsville: I think a Decatur-Madison-Huntsville commuter rail line would be cool. The rail's already there; build some stations, get some trains, and voila! And, as codyg1985 already said, there's a rail line from the Tennessee River to Downtown which could be used as LRT. The lines might need to be rebuilt, though. They're in pretty bad shape.

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EvanK I like your points, but the fact is the government and especially the State of Alabama doesn't like the unknown. Right now mass transit in the metropolitan areas of the state are an unknown. The people of Alabama are not supporting it to the point that there is a desperate need for such a system, so why would the officials in Montgomery throw all of the needed cash at it. We're talking subway sytems and light rail. Right now NONE of the cities are densely populated enough to support a subway system. Maybe Birmingham can support light rail, if it was there. Mobile in the next decade or so could START a system. That is only if the economy of Alabama is doing as well or better than it is right now, in the future. As I said before, Mobile and the coastal area is becoming more and more attractive to a lot of people, so I see a system there before anywhere else.

No one is saying that mass transit is not needed, because it is needed, and people need to start supporting it to justify it's name, MASS TRANSIT.

Aaah yes, very true indeed.

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From my (limited) experience, and observing what happens, etc... here's my thoughts on the transit deal:

The problem isn't getting people from place to place downtown, the problem is getting people TO downtown. Not because of a lack of attractions or other draws, but transit. There is no viable transit from out to downtown.

My suggestion? (most of this stems from I-65/31... No real experience with 59, and minor with 459W) (POV is morning rush)

First, examine the traffic pattern, where are most people headed from? (Alabaster is where the worst congestion starts, some issue with 20W around Leeds/Moody, Inverness and south). Where are most people going? (Hoover (150 and 280), Downtown) What routes do they take, what are the main arterial roads? 65N, 459E between 65 and 280, and 280N/S.

The main issue is getting people from where they live to where they work. Solution? Concentrate on that as the first phase of a transit system (I would say light rail with tunnels in places, and elevated in others, since our topography is so mixed, and I believe a pure-subway system would collapse due to the soft soil (don't we have problems with tall buildings due to no almost no bedrock (aside from the FAA)? We have a different ground composite than NYC or Boston).)

What would be involved in Phase 1? 'Park and go' transit terminals. (Jemison has a Park and Ride lot that few people use.) I would say (at first) a line running from Alabaster to DT would be best. Construct it, and use the money collected to help pay for the rest of the expansion. A terminal at or near the Colonial Promenades in Alabaster would be good. Easy access from the interstate, and the roads are being built up to handle the increased traffic from the shopping centers. Also, at the end of the work day, people stop by the stores on their way home... why not make it easier?

The path could include terminals in Pelham, Hoover, Vestavia Hills, Homewood, etc. Develop an initial spur-line to help alleviate the congestion, and to help out with future growth.

From there, buses could run between the station and strategic bus stops throughout an area.

It's a system, thus why it's called a transit system. Not one thing will alleviate everything.

As time continues, develop the other spokes of the wheel, and possibly extend the lines out to further locations, maybe even as far south as Montgomery, and as far north as Huntsville, but the logistics of such expansion would have to be closely considered: is it worth it? Is there enough demand for BHM-MGM, BHM-HSV, and even MGM-HSV lines? What about TCA? (I'm making up abbreviations here).

The Metro in DC extends to the Beltway, and has bus service running from those outer spokes to other locations (like BWI), for example. Would buses between cities be more feasible than rail service? But that's for later, as between cities isn't as big a market as transit into the city.

The same could be said for HSV and MGM.. what is(are) the most needed route(s)?

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Is there enough demand for BHM-MGM, BHM-HSV, and even MGM-HSV lines? What about TCA? (I'm making up abbreviations here).

I can vouch from many trips along I-65 between Birmingham and Huntsville that something needs to be done through there. A transit solution between the two cities may not be such a bad idea. Not sure about between Montgomery and Birmingham, but I would not be surprised if traffic between those two cities may warrent some solution as well.

The question is whether people would use it? Would rising gas prices cause more people to use a mass transit system, given if it were effective? Would a transit system work on such a large scale?

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I think a Birmingham-Huntsville rail line would work if the "rail authority" (or whoever runs it) can convince people that it is faster than driving. They could cut the travel time to, say, an hour (compared to 90 min. driving). Another reason why it could work: there's no commercial air service between the two cities. The same could go with Montgomery.

A Huntsville-Nashville rail line wouldn't be a bad idea either.

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I think a Birmingham-Huntsville rail line would work if the "rail authority" (or whoever runs it) can convince people that it is faster than driving. They could cut the travel time to, say, an hour (compared to 90 min. driving). Another reason why it could work: there's no commercial air service between the two cities. The same could go with Montgomery.

A Huntsville-Nashville rail line wouldn't be a bad idea either.

That would depend on how many stops there would be between the cities and whether the rail lines would use existing rails (the CSX line between Birmingham, Decatur, and Nashville) or use a new ROW that could be developed for high-speed rail travel.

If the existing CSX rail line was used, the travel time would probably not be faster than driving because the trains could not go above 60-65 mph. Also, the CSX rail line does not go through Huntsville, so any trains running between Huntsville and either Birmingham or Nashville would have to use the Norfolk Southern line that runs between Decatur and Huntsville. This would not include any stops between those cities, BTW.

So in order to convince people to use rail travel between those cities, as you said it would have to be faster than driving, and in order for it to be faster than driving, a new railroad would have to be built directly between the three cities that would be capable of supporting high-speed rail travel, and that would be quite expensive.

Not that I think the prospect of it is cool and should not be considered, but it will be expensive as sin to build (think the cost of building an interstate highway along the length of the rail).

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Use the money generated from what would be the existing spur to build the rest of the city-wide, then use city-wide monies to help build the inter-city lines.

I think people would use the rail line into BHM from the southern end due to the cost. They aren't spending most of their gas tank sitting on I-65, fare could be $1.25, and follow DC's idea that transit from an outer station to a station further away from that station (say, Alabaster to the Airport) would be $3.00 (or more, maybe $3.50).

I keep mentioning DC's Metro due to it's the only subway system I've used, and I really liked it. I've also read that it's the better than NYC's. I have no experience with NYC's, thus I use DC's.

Re: Huntsville line. If the line went from BHM Airport to HSV Airport, not following 65, then I think it would be safe to say that travel would take an hour. From BHM to 565 is an hour, from 65/565 to HSV is roughly 30 mins. Using the airport terminals as multi-transit 'hubs' would be wise, because they would be a part of the system. The trains that run that line would only run the HSV/BHM line, and not directly interface with the city systems, allowing the lines to be 'owned' by someone else, besides the cities, and (possibly) allow for leasing of the terminals (or a portion of all fares going to the starting point (ex, a person traveling from BHM to HSV's fare would have a part of it go to BHM, and a lesser part to HSV (if so deemed).)) which would be the only interfacing done with the city-systems. A transfer point, if you will.

I can come up with a system chart illustrating what I believe would work, and if you all want to see it, I can post it. It'd probably end up being more than one chart (details of areas, other hypotheticals, etc).

I'll need to do a bit more research on a few things, though.

One other thing regarding inter-city travel: What would be the main reasons people travel between cities? Attractions? Shows? Airports? Family?

Between Baltimore and DC there is the Amtrak line, and the bus service. Currently, there is a Greyhound bus line from BHM to ATL, and an Amtrak line between the same. AFAIK, the train runs once a day, as does the bus.

What's one thing that people want in a transit system? Convenience. Another? Cost. A third? Aesthetics.

If the system does not look good, or is easily accessible, then people will not shift their spending from their own personal cars to a transit system. If people can get more for their money, then they'll take a chance.

You won't be able to completely wipe out the car travels, but most of the people that would use it (I feel) would be middle (or low)-income. If you make the fares low enough the low income will use it; however, don't make them so low that the mids avoid due to the demographics of the riders (this is Birmingham... it's bound to happen... maybe not as much as I'd think, but it does.)

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With public transportation, baby steps should be taken before going into more expensive projects. If the capacity of buses and city-licensed taxis during the day is over 90%-100%, light rail should then be investigated at the busiest city streets.

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Not sure their capacity %s, here's the route maps, though.

http://www.bjcta.org/fileadmin/user_upload...tes/dartbig.jpg

and

http://www.bjcta.org/fileadmin/user_upload..._system_map.pdf

109 vehicles, which is made up of 10 trolleys, 24 Paratransit vehicles, and the rest in buses.

Most of the stops I've seen are just signposts with which route it is. Nothing else. And it's usually a grassy area away from anything... There's one at the 280 Walmart that has a bus shelter, and it's the only one I've seen. No information in it, though (I've seen bus shelters in DC... route map included).

Most of the routes appear to be 'filler', off the main roads, going from central lines to housing, work, and shopping centers.

Also, not all of these bus routes run all day. I will be looking at this information more in depth, now, trying to see what I find.

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From my (limited) experience, and observing what happens, etc... here's my thoughts on the transit deal:

The problem isn't getting people from place to place downtown, the problem is getting people TO downtown. Not because of a lack of attractions or other draws, but transit. There is no viable transit from out to downtown.

My suggestion? (most of this stems from I-65/31... No real experience with 59, and minor with 459W) (POV is morning rush)

First, examine the traffic pattern, where are most people headed from? (Alabaster is where the worst congestion starts, some issue with 20W around Leeds/Moody, Inverness and south). Where are most people going? (Hoover (150 and 280), Downtown) What routes do they take, what are the main arterial roads? 65N, 459E between 65 and 280, and 280N/S.

The main issue is getting people from where they live to where they work. Solution? Concentrate on that as the first phase of a transit system (I would say light rail with tunnels in places, and elevated in others, since our topography is so mixed, and I believe a pure-subway system would collapse due to the soft soil (don't we have problems with tall buildings due to no almost no bedrock (aside from the FAA)? We have a different ground composite than NYC or Boston).)

What would be involved in Phase 1? 'Park and go' transit terminals. (Jemison has a Park and Ride lot that few people use.) I would say (at first) a line running from Alabaster to DT would be best. Construct it, and use the money collected to help pay for the rest of the expansion. A terminal at or near the Colonial Promenades in Alabaster would be good. Easy access from the interstate, and the roads are being built up to handle the increased traffic from the shopping centers. Also, at the end of the work day, people stop by the stores on their way home... why not make it easier?

The path could include terminals in Pelham, Hoover, Vestavia Hills, Homewood, etc. Develop an initial spur-line to help alleviate the congestion, and to help out with future growth.

From there, buses could run between the station and strategic bus stops throughout an area.

It's a system, thus why it's called a transit system. Not one thing will alleviate everything.

As time continues, develop the other spokes of the wheel, and possibly extend the lines out to further locations, maybe even as far south as Montgomery, and as far north as Huntsville, but the logistics of such expansion would have to be closely considered: is it worth it? Is there enough demand for BHM-MGM, BHM-HSV, and even MGM-HSV lines? What about TCA? (I'm making up abbreviations here).

The Metro in DC extends to the Beltway, and has bus service running from those outer spokes to other locations (like BWI), for example. Would buses between cities be more feasible than rail service? But that's for later, as between cities isn't as big a market as transit into the city.

The same could be said for HSV and MGM.. what is(are) the most needed route(s)?

That is the best plan that I have hear yet. I've ridden DC Metro also, and it is one of the best in the nation. DC Metro also has one of the highest riderships of any mass transit system in the nation.

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I'll expand on my original post here...

Why I proposed what I did...:

Providing a true alternate to vehicular travel. A bus is nice, it is also less expensive. It uses the same means of travel as Birmingham: the road.

Yes, the proposed routes use side roads (not interstates), decreasing overall possible speed of travel. The only real convenience a bus provides is for people that don't want to drive.

Let's take a situation and analyze driving time.

From 31/65 in Alabaster (exit 238) to the main bus terminal/amtrak station: (these figures are all using average travel speed)

via I-65: a distance of 22.5 miles, takes roughly 32 minutes to travel.

As the Crow Flies: 20.5 miles

via Hwy 31: 25 miles, 46 minutes (which, is actually the time the proposed bus route would take to get from the Galleria to Downtown).

Now, a train would go, what... 55/60? Or more, depending on type of system (light rail, monorail, elevated/typical, etc). No traffic, with between 6 and 8 stops of at most 3 mins each (yes, stops are typically pretty short)... could take 50 minutes.

Compare that with DC.. the route I took was from Greenbelt to DuPont Circle, a distance of 11 miles, that took 30 minutes. That included a transfer to a different train line, and about twice as many stops. Cost was also $3.30 (due to the distance & the transfer).

Also, let's look at travel times during morning rush hour. Anyone have different experience than me?

For me, my experience has been... in order to get from Alabaster to Liberty Parkway... I would need 1.5 hours, and I'd just barely make it to the office. That's trying different routes each day, too. I got it down to 1.25 by detouring everywhichway to get past Alabaster and Pelham, past the heaviest traffic (though I usually hit it in Pelham.. because everyone else was detouring as well)... But still. That route (65 to 459) at any other time usually takes 20 mins.

Essentially, the trains would wind up getting people to their destination in the time that they would be used to if they drove that route any other time of the day.

Personally, I wouldn't really be able to use the system going to work (it takes me ~10 mins to get to work as it is... I'm fine with that); however, if I were to decide to go shopping, watch a movie, or visit friends... I'd use the system, especially if I was going at or around 5. As it is, I usually wait til 5:45 when traffic has cleared... I get to my destination at the same time as I do if I leave from work... it's fun. lol.

I wanted to add this...:

The system shouldn't be started in Alalbaster, it should be started downtown and expanded from there. Stations and all can be built, but the working/active line should start from downtown and radiate out. This just makes more sense, too.

I did some searching around... in Chicago, for every person that rides the "L", two people ride the buses. It's similar in New York.

Why does that happen?

The buses serve more areas than the trains, and the buses are more 'localized' transit than the train. The train gets you from A to C, while the bus gets you from A to C by way of B. If the systems could be designed to feed each other, it would benefit both systems... (or all three.. trolley included), and it would be more efficient, which in the end is one draw of a transit system: is it effecient?

Design the best system possible, and concentrate on building out from the center, out from the core. What places need transit assistance more? What areas need less cars on the road?

BTW, when I was in DC, I visited my Aunt and Uncle that live in MD. They told me to go to a certain station, and they'd meet me there. I went from Foggybottom to the end of the Yellow Line. From there we had an hour drive to their house. For these type situations, that mass transit system worked wonderfully. It got me to a point where they were able to meet me. It took me 30 mins to make that trip, before we got to their car.

Similar: I can see a traveler arrive at the airport, and decide not to rent a car, but to continue to the transit station. From there, they take the train to a station near their hotel on 280. From here, depending how far the hotel was from the station, they could ride the hotel's shuttle to the hotel (or ride fromt he airport... but I think Hilton is the only one actively doing so). Another traveler takes the train to the CBD and goes to a job interview. A family drops off their teenage child with a group of his/her friends at the nearest station. The mother/father had too much going on to drive them to the concert at the BJCC/Verizon Wireless Music Center (as did the other parents), but the kids are trusted to get there and back by themselves. Other similar situations can exist... trips to downtown art museums, McWane Center, parks, concerts, sports games, etc, anywhere across the city. Would you be more likely to travel somewhere if it were easier to get to and you weren't relying on yourself and second-hand instructions on how to get somewhere new if you had a transit system that would put you within a few blocks of what you were looking for?

:)

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Phil Gary resigns from BJCTA

I'm just glad that corrupt nitwit is gone. I hope they do find him guilty of something so his sorry ass can go to jail where he belongs. He has been a thorn in the BJCTA board's side from Day 1. Bye Phil, don't let the door hit you where the dog should have bit ya!

http://www.al.com/news/birminghamnews/inde...3850.xml&coll=2

It seems that BJCTA executive David Hill will lobby the local legislators to get a $100 million earmarking of state funds for mass transit statewide. It would be mostly allocated to help the system not go through what happened in 2005 with the potential shuttering of the system. They also hope to use it finally match some of the federal funds set aside by US Senator Richard Shelby to improve the existing system and future expansion.

It is a start, but at least it a step in the right direction. :thumbsup:

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