Editorial note

This site archives news clippings about Birmingham transit from 1950-present collected by Birmingham Busrider Butch Ferrell. It also records “A Busrider’s Diary,” Butch’s reflections on transit over the years.

Navigate the timeline on the right side of the screen to follow Birmingham transit history chronologically. If you have any questions or additional transit history or notes to share, click here to contact us.

 

 

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A BUS RIDER’S DIARY, By Butch Ferrell

It was suggested to me to maybe think and write more optimistically. The people advising me, naturally, were naive car drivers.

I now look at my title, BUS RIDERS, and then set myself in the year 1972 just after the creation of MAX, with 20 hour service days and 20 minute headways combined with 50,000 riders a day. I have to wonder if my car driving buddies witnessed the Transit Massacre that was about to take place.

I did live through this nearly complete demolition of a once fine transit system seeing what should not have been horrible suffering but actually dynamic growth. Through some events and changes in the world happening 35 years ago, Public Transportation all over was about to bloom as never before, where pennies on an investment brought back gold mines in return.

But naturally what the dummies here in Alabama done was to begin drastically cutting its already small investments in transit, causing it to forfeit other outside transit riches which combined with its own state monies caused horrible torture to that special class of citizens known as Bus Riders. Riders’ lives had become way too isolated, and the quality of which even more straitjacketed.

As Bus Riders were watching their once good transit system slip away, so were they. With the state’s heavy disinvestments the 20 hour service days was reduced to 12 hour days and those 20 minute headways grew to, depending on the route, to sometimes over 200 minutes. The transit week was to shrink from 7 to 5 days and all the while the number of total bus routes were getting reduced by nearly half. This Transit Holocaust is now thriving, and in this massacre the strong that could have helped the weak remained still and did nothing, and ridership plummeted 80% to less than ten thousand a day.

The small initiatives around town to secure better transit also do so without the invited participation of the Bus Riders.  Weld’s recent articles on area transit were fine pieces for their purposes, but dig through them and search for the dependent consumer and the space given to their problems. Then read that Pollyannish article by Board Chair Joyce Brooks in Weld on how soon everything is going to be wonderful at MAX, without ever mentioning today’s Ridership. You better believe something is out of balance

Likewise at the different transit meetings, riders won’t attend them and why should they, since car drivers are the chairs and have been known to not let the riders speak. To say these chairs are out of touch with the grassroots would be to put it kindly as they usually want a member of the MAX management to snuggle up to closely during their meetings, the Ridership be damned.

Optimism anyone? Above is the reason for my hard edge as I’ve seen and experienced more Birmingham Transit than anybody else and can not only speak about the Transit Holocaust but show much of it. In Transit, car drivers have shown no understanding voice to share and it is up to the BUS RIDERS to be the leaders in solving the Transit Quandary.

Read On The Bus, Part 1 (Weld, 2013)

Read On The Bus, Part 2 (Weld, November 2013)

Read MAX Transit: 50 Years Forward (Weld, October 2013) 

                                                        A

                                              BUS RIDER’S

                                                    DIARY

December 7, 2013 Transit Citizens’ Advisory Board Meeting recap

The Transit Citizens Advisory Board had several patriots attend the Saturday meeting at Greater Birmingham Ministries. Coming to us in those horribly cold conditions were demonstrating people that were knowledgeable and caring about transit, and showed a willingness to want to work to make transit first-rate.

Around our table, whatever the subject matter, the dedication of these people attending led to productive and powerful discussions seeking out what the best solutions to the Ridership’s problems should be.

Here are some of the goals we discussed:

1. Temporary facility for downtown riders to replace Central Station during construction period.

2. A permanent office for the Transit Citizens’ Advisory Board (TCAB) at the new Intermodal Station.

3. Publicize information about joining TCAB with current bus riders on MAX materials and on buses.

4. Need for a  Super Stop at Five Points West and possibility of future Super Stops in Roebuck and other multi-route stops.

We also discussed Atlanta’s MARTA system and LA’s Bus Riders Union as possible models of comparison to our own MAX system & organization.

Need for a Super Stop at Five Points West

One of the most dangerous situations that exists in the entire MAX system is the lack of a Super Stop in Five Points West.

Three different routes serve this area, but the riders can’t catch more than one route at a given stop and sometimes hoping to cut down on their wait times will run across 6 or 8 lanes of traffic betting that the other route will come first.

With the creation of a Super Stop the bus riders could get all three routes in one place as this would even cut down on their wait time as they could now just get the first bus.

Above is a video that captures well the vulgarity of this stop in just four and half minutes with an early bus, a late bus, and a lady crossing 6 lanes of traffic missing that early bus and her doc’s appointments.

Administering Unjust Laws Impartially

That has been the practice and the joy that the bullies that rule (ruin) this state take in cruelly torturing the least assertive and self-confident citizens, the dependent bus riders, and since these bullies have had to fear no change they could not have picked a more perfect victim to inflict their pain to steal their ill gotten wealth than the Alabama Bus Rider.

It may be impossible for most of this generation to imagine an efficient transit system meeting the needs of its riders 24 hours 7 days a week and those riders not looked upon any differently than anybody else. But then 60 years ago those oppressing bullies began passing laws aimed only at injuring the progressive advances of public transportation. While those scared whites were fleeing their cities and building their many little safe havens they made damn sure the people of color and those sitting on poverty that they left behind would have to buy a car or walk to get to their front door.

Sixty years later this a Golden Rule that still holds firm. Carless citizens in places such as Trussville and Gardendale and many others suffer in a screaming silence and have been ghettoized are not seen as contributing members of society. But the crowning achievement came, of course, when the state of Alabama didn’t want to be left out of demonstrating their supreme stupidity and the one sure way was to pass a constitutional amendment outlawing the most stable form of funding for transit-the gas tax. I was already on public transit at the time of the passage of this
amendment and all the silent screaming since has been a symphony no conductor can play.

That is the overwhelming problem as silence became the riders identifying trademark and their rights were then robbed from them and their lives were to be so severely shortchanged as though to not have one. No strong leaders from the ridership ever emerged and no powerful voices from their ranks ever took hold. There was no and are no big state engines advancing or protecting the
ridership so those hateful communities and our state could be as unjust as they pleased. And they were.