The Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority’s motto is “We’ll get you there.” But they might not be able to due to a lack of funding. The BJCTA currently runs 31 lines all throughout the city at a cost of $10.8 million a year.
The authority anticipates a $4 million deficit in October. That would force it to cut half of the bus routes and lay off 45 employees. Bus driver Chris Riffin says it would be a huge blow. “We are in need of transit. We have a lot of people using them to get to hospitals around here, they need the transit.”
For many riders, like Atirica Knickston and Brenicia Carter, the bus is the only way to get around.
Atirica Knickston: “If they cut the routes, I would have to walk a mile and a half just to get my child to school and I won’t be able to get to school so I will have no education and my child won’t either.”
Brenicia Carter: “I see a lot of people riding the bus, back and forth to the doctor’s office, trying to get around, to go grocery shopping if you don’t have stores in your area. It’s really going to affect a lot of people.”
Jarred Johnson sums it up simply, “It’s pretty much the only way you have other than walking if you don’t have a vehicle, you know? It’s the only way to get around.”
Birmingham City Councilor Kim Rafferty says it would be hard on residents and on visitors.
“It’s best for our region to have a transit system that works so that when people come to visit our city they are able to enjoy our city without being burdened with rental cars or taxi cabs.”
Rafferty suggests people who rely on public transit “speak up and speak out. It’s a budgetary issue, that is a direct result of inaction of the administration, and also a direct action of your state nor caring enough for transit.”
In August, the Birmingham City Council found the money necessary to keep the routes running until January. Until then, the BCJTA “will get you there”. After January, it’s up in the air.
~ Kenan Le Parc, September 8, 2011