The city of Birmingham is served by the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, known by many citizens by its much shorter name, MAX (Metro Area Express). MAX operates the largest bus system in the state of Alabama and recently updated its website to better serve its customers The new site appears to be quite user friendly. There are hundreds of metro area residents that would take the time here to talk about how bad the transit system is and of the ways that we need to improve it. I believe a better issue to point out to the community is a service offered by MAX that is not mentioned at all on its new site and should be.
For those not familiar with the area, Birmingham’s had ozone problems in the past. Click here to view the latest ozone alert level courtesy of our county department of health. Whenever the county’s ozone level reaches a point that is deemed unhealthy, several things are done throughout the region. Notices are placed on electronic signs located on our major interstates. Our local newspaper places a small box at the upper right hand corner of the front page of the paper informing residents of the air quality levels for that day. Local news broadcasts’ weather segments include the current air quality level. A look at the front of some of our buses would provide another source of notification; a red flag with a white hole in the middle. A closer look would show that because of the ozone alert, the fare on the bus for the day is 25 cents! That’s right, one quarter! The question is, at that point is it too late to catch all of the people that would consider riding the bus, as they’re walking to their cars getting ready to drive to work? Wouldn’t it make more sense to place this information on the website to encourage riding the bus?
Some would argue that the system needs to be improved and that the buses are running empty and that it doesn’t matter. Living across from one of the major stops for the system, I would have to disagree on the second point. Look into a bus at 5:30 or 6 a.m. and you’ll see them filled with people going to work. Many people drive by the buses on their way to work, including myself. I drive to work because of the fact that my office is in Woodlawn and my focus areas are in Ensley and West End. In the back of my mind, I know that increased ridership would lead to more frequent service, reducing my need for a motorized vehicle (don’t think I haven’t considered getting a scooter). What better way to encourage ridership than by mentioning the service daily through all of these media. IT would increase ridership, reduce traffic on the roads and help MAX secure more funding for more services.
It could just be a pipe dream. It could also be another use for their website and a way to ensure the necessary expansion of the service. It would show people the potential savings and ease that it could provide. Once I figure out a way to do it, I’d like to try to provide that service on this site. Who knows, eventually it could lead to not having to see those red flags on the front of the buses ever again. And I’m sure that for those that rely on the system, it would be a good thing.