Ride the new Birmingham Xpress bus rapid transit system
This fall, our Skanska Integrated Solutions (SIS) team celebrated the ribbon-cutting for Alabama’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) system, Birmingham Xpress. The $64 million public transportation project is our SIS team’s first BRT project. Explore the new 10-mile route and its impact on Birmingham’s transportation network.
As a BRT project, Birmingham Xpress is changing how the community of Birmingham travels.
Thirty-two stations and two transit centers make up the newly completed east/west route running through downtown.
The project is funded by the City of Birmingham, American Rescue Plan Act and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
Started during the pandemic, SIS sought the engagement of key local stakeholders from the outset.
“We met with the mayor and requested champions from each department be assigned to support,” says Scott Penton, regional director—SIS. “We wanted to ensure we were working with the right people from the beginning.”
Though the first project of its kind for SIS, embarking on a BRT project fits their vision for portfolio growth.
SIS regularly seeks out projects that better our environment and drive inclusivity. Birmingham Xpress uses high-capacity, low- or no-emission rapid buses.
At the ribbon-cutting event this fall, Dr. Yvette Taylor, region 4 administrator of the FTA, alluded that efficient buses can accelerate efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and fight climate change.
Buses in the system also feature floor-level boarding to easily accommodate wheelchairs and any riders who may be disabled.
Many people compare BRT projects to light-rail systems because of their ability to move passengers from Point A to Point B efficiently.
Equal efficiency doesn’t mean equal the financial strain.
The City of Birmingham says these types of projects can be completed for approximately one-third of the construction costs of a light-rail system.
BRT uses transit signal priority (TSP) and automatic vehicle location (AVL) technologies to make it easy for buses to hit more green lights.
“Technology transforms how buses move around the city,” says Scott. “With BRT, buses and traffic signals communicate with each other. This allows buses to keep moving and not get stuck at red lights constantly.”
Each station is equipped with light columns that shine brighter as buses are approaching.
“There is a lighting process that starts at the bottom of these posts when a bus is still off in the distance,” explains Scott. “The light continues to climb up the column, so by the time the light reaches the top, the bus is arriving.”
Technological touches throughout Birmingham Xpress are evidence of how the system is built with the rider in mind.
Stations are lit and contain passenger information displays, maps and more. Once onboard, riders have access to free internet and chargers for mobile devices.
Embarking on this project has been an opportunity for SIS to engage the community on multiple fronts.
During the pandemic and the project’s earliest phase, SIS involved the community of Birmingham through virtual events.
As work started to come together, they partnered with Disadvantaged Business Enterprise firms to tackle key parts of the construction package.
“We were committed to partnering with this city and making this a positive experience for everyone,” says Scott.
Contrary to what some might expect, BRT projects like Birmingham Xpress are incredibly complex.
“I’ve worked on a range of different projects, from deep-water oil rigs to healthcare. This was one of my most challenging projects,” says Scott.
Scott shares that it’s the coordination aspect of the work that adds a layer of complexity.
“Working on a 10-mile corridor in a downtown area, you’re required to coordinate everything,” he says. “From utilities to foundations and working on more than 30 separate real estate acquisitions, we really had to consider everything.”
Birmingham Xpress’ ribbon-cutting was an emboldening moment for the city. Now with the milestone in the rearview, riders are enjoying a more connected Birmingham.
Simultaneously, the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority already has its sights on expanding the bus system soon.
Additionally, a north/south route is in the planning phase with the aim of creating a pathway to the airport.