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Birmingham-Jefferson County Transportation Authority - Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment Initiative Grant Application - Mobile Proximity Fare Collection

Project Framework

The Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA), branded as MAXTM, is pleased to present this proposal for funding through the Federal Highway Administration's (FHA) Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment (ATCMTD) program.

Context of Our Project

Birmingham, Alabama is currently experiencing a transportation revolution. Long-suffering from geographic transportation choke points caused by limited north/south mobility due to the southernmost ridges of the Appalachian Mountains, both the City of Birmingham and the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority have developed a shared innovative vision for transitioning Birmingham's automobile culture into a thriving public transit and transportation culture, thereby reducing highway congestion along the critical I-65 corridor.

In response to that vision, the following activities have happened or are already underway:

Renaissance of Birmingham's Urban Core

In response to the mayor's vision, "Birmingham Forward," city planners and private developers have made huge strides in transforming Birmingham's urban core into a transit-friendly environment. The city constructed an award winning downtown baseball park for its AA minor league baseball team (Figure 1). The city developed downtown's largest urban greenspace, Railroad Park, and has leveraged programming to make it the most used public park space in Birmingham. Private developers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in mixed use developments around the downtown ballpark and in two other concentrated areas that will soon be served by a bus rapid transit route. The city and BJCTA have developed a downtown intermodal facility that hosts the BJCTA central transfer point along with national transportation partners Amtrak, Greyhound and Megabus. Finally, the city has developed an Olympic-class indoor track and field and swimming complex and a primary private developer has begun re-developing major tracts around the complex.

Image 1. Image of Regions Park Building

Figure 1. Regions Park

Construction of Birmingham's First Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Route

The focus of the BRT system is to connect 25 minority and low income neighborhoods containing roughly 20,000 low income residents to 130,000 jobs, of which nearly 70,000 are concentrated in the center of Birmingham. The BRT system is currently being built as a 10-mile system with 19 stations. There are 58,000 residents, consisting of 27% of the city's population, within a half mile of the BRT corridors. One third of the BRT service area residents are low-income, which is double the regional average. The BRT is funded, in part, by a federal TIGER grant.

Figure 2: Bus Rapid Transit Station Design.  Image of bus station with benches and bus in background.

Figure 2. Bus Rapid Transit Station Design

Development of a Formal Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Program

The focus of the TOD program is to establish necessary systems within the City of Birmingham and BJCTA to empower Transit Oriented Development along the BRT route. This effort is being funded, in part, by an FTA grant and is in partnership with the nation's leaders in TOD, Smart Growth America. This effort is happening amidst an already robust re-development of Birmingham's urban core, and is targeted to focus the continued build-out of the city around TOD.

Figure 3. Recent Mixed use Development: image of building with mix of apartments and stores.

Figure 3. Recent Mixed Use Development

Transit Route Realignment

The BJCTA has completed Phase 1 of a system-wide route realignment. This effort is focused to support anticipated TOD and the success for the BRT route.

Establishment of Inland Port

The City of Birmingham has formally established a port authority in order to establish an inland port to transfer freight traffic from I-65 to the newly designated maritime highway, M-65.

2021 World Games

With such a grand vision for Birmingham's re-development, the city successfully bid to host the 2021 World Games. This Olympic partner event will bring together 4,000 athletes from more than 40 countries and provides a natural driver to complete the various transportation and re-development initiatives currently enacted. The ATCMTD project is timed to coincide with this deadline, providing a unified electronic payment system in time to showcase it to the world and allow the numerous visitors who are familiar with similar systems across Europe to more easily transit across Birmingham.

Figure 4. Birmingham World Games Logo for 2021

Figure 4. Birmingham World Games Logo

Project Summary

The BJCTA is requesting matching funding to develop an electronic payment system, integrating both local and national transportation services into a unified electronic fare collection and payment system, including:

  • Local Services
    • REV Birmingham's Zyp Bikeshare program;
    • The Birmingham Parking Authority's city parking decks; and
    • The City of Birmingham's metered curbside parking along key blocks in proximity to the new Bus Rapid Transit system.
  • National Services Located in the Birmingham Intermodal Facility
    • Amtrak;
    • Greyhound Bus Lines; and
    • Megabus express bus service.
  • Future Services
    • Taxi;
    • Uber; and
    • Lyft.

Project Vision

This project will achieve several critical objectives toward supporting the ATCMTD program vision and goals, including:

  1. Develop a technology platform that will provide detailed, user-specific travel data, across transportation modes, including use of public and private transportation systems;
  2. Establish a meaningful public transit culture in one of the nation's weakest public transit markets; and
  3. Produce detailed metrics on both the project's execution as well as the change in culture, publish project findings and present through national industry-specific platforms to empower other markets facing similar challenges to benefit fully from what is learned through the Birmingham experience.

Project Eligibility

The BJCTA project is eligible under the following project eligibility classes:

  • Transportation system performance data collection, analysis, and dissemination systems; and
  • Electronic pricing and payment systems.

Alignment with Federal Program Goals

The BJCTA project, through its primary objective to create a strong transit culture in Birmingham, Alabama, and thereby increasing public transit ridership and reducing automobiles on the highway, as well as its objective to develop an advanced data platform that will provide detailed individual user data across all transportation modes, is aligned to support the following Federal program goals:

  • Reduced costs and improved return on investments, including through the enhanced use of existing transportation capacity;
  • Delivery of environmental benefits that alleviate congestion and streamline traffic flow;
  • Measurement and improvement of the operational performance of the applicable transportation networks;
  • Reduction in the number and severity of traffic crashes and an increase in driver, passenger, and pedestrian safety;
  • Collection, dissemination, and use of real time transportation related information to improve mobility, reduce congestion, and provide for more efficient and accessible transportation, including access to safe, reliable, and affordable connections to employment, education, healthcare, freight facilities, and other services;
  • Monitoring transportation assets to improve infrastructure management, reduce maintenance costs, prioritize investment decisions, and ensure a state of good repair;
  • Delivery of economic benefits by reducing delays, improving system performance and throughput, and providing for the efficient and reliable movement of people, goods and services;
  • Integration of advanced technologies into transportation system management and operations;
  • Demonstration, quantification, and evaluation of the impact of these advanced technologies, strategies, and applications towards improved safety, efficiency, and sustainable movement of people and goods; and
  • Reproducibility of successful systems and services for technology and knowledge transfer to other locations facing similar challenges.

Alignment with Federal Program Priorities

The BJCTA project is aligned to support the following Federal program priorities:

  • Unified Fare Collection and Payment System Across Transportation Modes and Jurisdictions; and
  • Infrastructure Maintenance, Monitoring, and Condition Assessment.

Description of the Entity that Will Be Entering Into the Agreement with FHWA

On April 3, 1972, a certificate of incorporation was filed for the BJCTA pursuant to Act 993 of the 1971 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature, which enabled the formation of publicly operated transit authorities in Alabama. The BJCTA is the public transit operator in Birmingham and is overseen by a nine-member Board of Directors appointed by Jefferson County, the City of Birmingham, and other communities within the service area. The BJCTA is managed by Executive Director Barbara Murdock, a former management consultant who has worked with the United States Department of Transportation on projects for the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Highway Administration. As a public transit agency, the BJCTA is an eligible organization to compete for funding for the Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment Program (ATCMTD).

The BJCTA depends on local funding, federal funding, mandated funding, and fares to operate. The BJCTA provides fixed route and demand response service to a 200 square mile area with a demand population base of nearly 400,000. The cities within the service area include Birmingham, Bessemer, Fairfield, Homewood, Mountain Brook, Midfield, Tarrant, Center Point, Hoover, and Vestavia Hills. The BJCTA's 38 fixed routes serve an average of 12,000 weekday riders and approximately 3,000,000 annual riders.

The BJCTA is working to improve its transit services and expand its vehicle fleet to achieve its vision for growth. The Downtown Area Runabout Transit (DART) circulatory provides options for travel around Birmingham's downtown and Southside areas. The fleet of vintage trolleys runs six days a week on three interchangeable routes. The BJCTA also sponsors a bike and ride program. The program has advanced with the City of Birmingham's Bike Share Initiative. The BJCTA's fixed route transit vehicles are equipped with bike racks. Additionally, the BJCTA's intermodal transportation facility and key BRT stations will host a Zyp Bikeshare station.

Furthermore, Birmingham is constructing a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system focused on connecting many of the city's transportation disadvantaged neighborhoods to employment and education opportunities. The BJCTA is assisting the city with implementation of the BRT system through a memorandum of understanding.

Implementation of the BRT system will create additional demand for buses throughout the region. The introduction of the BRT system to the BJCTA fixed-route service offerings has led the BJCTA to begin optimizing its regular fixed-route bus services. The route optimization program will improve services, enable greater access to geographic locations that were previously not served by transit, and provide greater transportation choices and convenience for residents. These efforts will result in better access to employment opportunities and services to low income and minority areas. The BRT hopes to help accomplish this, in part, through its fare collection system. This will be accomplished through the Mobile Proximity Fare Collection Tool introduced in this proposal.

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