All Aboard!: JeffCo Will Pay to Start Bus Service to Several Small Cities

Interim Executive Director MAX
Frank T. Martin. (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Jefferson County is picking up the tab for bus service for some unserved areas through the end of the current fiscal year.

Commissioners passed a resolution at their meeting on Thursday to provide transit for people living in Adamsville, Forestdale, Brighton, Lipscomb, Fultondale, Gardendale and Fairfield.

“This isn’t about MAX (Metro Area Express),” Commission President Jimmie Stephens said. “This is about citizens and being able to serve the citizens. These citizens in these communities have been bypassed and the doors were shut. We’re going to give them the opportunity to receive the benefits from MAX to go to the doctor, to go to and from work, and to go to and from getting their medication.

“If they utilize this, it will be $100,000 very well spent,” Stephens continued. “Right now, we’re looking at it to make sure that those citizens in those communities receive MAX transit benefits that they haven’t received in probably a decade.”

Frank T. Martin, interim executive director of Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, said Brighton and Lipscomb had not been served by the transit authority because of their inability to pay.

“What I’ve heard is their tax base is fairly low,” Martin said. “We can’t provide any service unless someone is willing to pay for it.”

Fairfield’s circumstance was complicated by transit authority litigation against the financially challenged city over its failure to pay for service in the past. That litigation has no bearing on the recently approved service.

Commissioner Sheila Tyson said she and chief deputy county manager Walter Jackson talked with MAX during the past few months about identifying additional service areas in some economically deprived areas.

“It looks like the implementation date is going to be June 10 to the end of the fiscal year, September 30,” Martin said. “Then we’ll be talking to the county overall in terms of fiscal 2020. They’re going to be leading the way in terms of setting up specific meetings with all the mayors in those areas, so we’ll have a collaboration between the county, the mayors and us going forward.”

The routes involved in this week’s resolution are new to Gardendale and Fultondale, as well as the Adamsville/Forestdale area. Buses have run through Brighton and Lipscomb, but the doors of buses didn’t open there.

Amazon Line

The discussed routes do not include one to the Amazon Distribution Center in Bessemer, at least not yet.

“It begins to create that route,” Stephens said. “There’s no reason to go down there now because the facility’s not open. It will be at the end of that particular route.”

Stephens also talked about $2 million the transit authority received from the refinance of school bonds. He said those funds were to enhance the transit system in advance of the World Games in 2021.

Martin disagreed.

“The funds … were to fund the overall MAX operation, not specifically tied to the World Games in any way,” he said. “I’m not really sure where Commissioner Stephens may have gotten that. But if you go to the legislation it says it comes to MAX. There’s nothing in there at all about the … World Games.”