On the Line: Mass Transit

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Bus and MAX on 5th at Yamhill. Steve Morgan photo, 2011.


Critics have called mass transit in Birmingham, a very little –
bit of both: mass and transit. Not many people use it, and for those whose livelihood depend on it there’s not much moving around. Why doesn’t mass transit have mass appeal? Join WBHM’s Steve Chiotakis and and a panel of guests for a two-hour discussion of the future of mass transportation in and around Birmingham.
This edition of On the Line was originally broadcast November 6th from 7-9 p.m.

John Archibald is metro columnist for The Birmingham News, with the job
of covering issues and uncovering mischief in the seven metropolitan
counties. He has worked at the paper for almost two decades as beat
reporter, investigative reporter, database editor and now columnist.
He’s been called a lot of names, but his favorite description came in a
recent letter to the editor: “John Archibald: Public nag.”


Marva V. Douglas is the former Chairman Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Advisory Committee. She has had a varied career as a writer, teacher, actor, model, public speaker and business owner. She is a native of Charleston, South Carolina and a graduate of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina. Marva has done further study toward a master’s degree in public and private management at Birmingham Southern College. In 1991, Marva retired from South Central Bell Telephone Company where she worked as a writer in public relations for 18 years. Prior to moving to Birmingham and working for South Central Bell, she was employed with the New York City Board of Education 12 years.




Paul Vercher was named Public Policy Director for the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce in June of 2000. He was promoted to his current position in November of 2005. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama with a B.S. in Political Science. In 2002, he completed the four-year Institute for Organization Management program at the University of Georgia. He is currently in his third year of a four year Juris Doctorate program at the Birmingham School of Law. Mr. Vercher started his political career serving on the staff of Senator Richard Shelby. He has held governmental affairs positions with the Business Council of Alabama, the Alabama Rural Electric Association, and Governor Fob James.




David C. Hill has over 33 years experience in all phases of mass public transportation. David has served BJCTA as the Director of Operations & Maintenance and Interim Executive Director before being appointed Executive Director in October 2005. Prior to his employment with BJCTA, David held various positions with Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Dallas, TX, and the City of Detroit, Department of Transportation, Detroit, MI. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Relations & Business and a Masters in Business Administration in Strategic Leadership from Amberton University, Garland, Texas.


What’s it like to ride the bus?

WBHM’s Rosemary Pennington – a fond user of mass transit in other cities – used MAX to travel from her home in Vestavia to the WBHM studios on Birmingham’s Southside. What did she find in her trip, and how long did it take? You could say it’s a flashback to her childhood, waiting for the bus – this one not so yellow – on a cold October morning…

Riding the bus

Hmmm…a ride on the thought train.

Take a ride on an ethereal train — built by WBHM’s Steve Chiotakis. It’s a train that’s not running right now, but could be years from now. One that stops in cities all across the Birmingham area, that serves its people, black and white and Latino, school age or elderly. Shoppers or workers. For leisure or mobility. Listen how people in different parts of town feel about mass transit. Would they take this train from one area to another? Is it feasible to construct such a system? And hear why Birmingham can’t (or maybe can) be like other major cities with sprawling suburbs and connect the dots?

Ride the thought train

Private Roads

So here’s a question: we get most of our products and services from private sector — water, electricity, telephones. How about having roads provided privately…would that make things better? You might be surprised to hear that privatized roads began centuries ago in the United States. Two-hundred years ago, there were ten thousand miles of private toll roads. But, by the early 20th century, progressive felt roads would be better run by the government and private toll roads fell out of popularity. They’re making a comeback, though – as documented in Gabriel Roth’s new book “Smart Street: Competition, Entrepreneurship, and the Future of Roads.” Roth spoke with WBHM’s Tanya Ott.

Private roads?

Buses in Mexico

We often assume that everything is better in more developed countries. But when Mexico correspondent Conrad Fox recently visited the United States, he found himself longing for Mexican buses. And he wondered how Americans without cars get by. He sent us this reporter’s notebook.

Mexican busses

On The Line: STUFF

Stuff. Everybody’s got it. Some of us want more. Some of us don’t know what to do with what we already have. Friday (1/28) at noon we open our phone lines for your questions, comments (and yes, even complaints) about the Stuff in your life.

On The Line: Ask The Mayor

The city of Birmingham faces a major financial crunch with salaries and services likely taking cuts. Its mass transportation system remains unreliable. At the same time, there there are success stories such as the opening of Railroad Park and luring the Birmingham Baron’s to a downtown baseball stadium. Mayor William Bell joins us for On The Line: Ask the Mayor.

On the Line: Election 2010

Next Tuesday, Alabamians head to the polls for this year’s mid-term elections. Voters will select a new governor among other state offices. Control of the Alabama legislature and Capitol Hill are up for grabs. WBHM wants to hear your thoughts on the candidates and issues during our special call in program, On The Line: Election 2010.

On the Line: Ask the Mayor

The city of Birmingham faces a major financial crunch with salaries and services likely taking cuts. Its mass transportation system remains unreliable. Big ticket projects have been put on the back burner. A difficult environment for Birmingham Mayor William Bell. Friday (6/18) WBHM’s Bradley George talks to William Bell as we discuss these and other issues during On The Line: Ask the Mayor.

On The Line: Fixing 280

It’s the road you love to hate. But state officials say they have a plan to ease congestion on U.S. 280. Some business leaders like the idea. Local government officials are split on it. And a group of citizens has proposed an alternative plan. Friday (4/30) at noon on WBHM we discuss all this and more during On The Line: Fixing 280.

Michael Krall

Program Director