MAX Transit leaders discuss funding, frictions and the future

MAX Transit leaders discuss funding, frictions and the future
(Source: WBRC Video)

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - BJCTA Board Chairman Darryl Cunningham says the board is about 80 to 90 percent complete to meeting three key demands from Birmingham mayor Randall Woodfin in order for the city to provide funding next fiscal year.

Those demands focused on leadership stability, board training and term limits.

"We applaud him for his concern and we thank him for identifying those key areas we were already focused on.  And by him highlighting those key areas it just sharpened our focus more," Cunningham said.

Mayor Woodfin put forth his mandates just weeks after the board suspended then executive director Barbara Murdock for misuse of a company credit card.  Murdock has since been fired and filed a lawsuit against MAX.

When asked if he felt Murdock's departure was addressed in a fair way, Cunningham said all those things are being considered.

"If there's anything that can be learned from that process helps us build a better team, then we're going to pull from those things," said Christopher Ruffin, who served under Murdock and was named interim director when she left.

Some have criticized him for not having the experience to lead, but he points to his movement up the ranks and his passion.

"I know the needs of our drivers. I know the needs of our riders and our 319 employees," Ruffin said.

Over half of board members have served for a year or less and at times, there has been friction between old and new factions. But Cunningham says the goal is to work through those in a positive way while remaining focused on the mission to serve.

"We're in a pivotal position right now and we're asking the public to allow us to give them a great reset. That's what we're doing right now," Cunningham said.

One key area that the system is focused on right now is the new Rapid Transit System which will give riders a direct shot from the east to west side of town.

Ruffin says the $40 million project is being funded through a grant pairing federal and local dollars.

He believes rapid transit will be a precursor to light rail in the city and will be ready in time for the World Games in 2021.

"What we'll have is 1.8 miles of dedicated lane. It sits on a 10-mile corridor. The people at the Crossplex can board the bus and ride to Woodlawn. We worry about efficiency. We worry about frequency and now the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority is going to bring that to the citizens of Birmingham," Ruffin said.

Ruffin says MAX hopes to roll out the system as early as 2019.

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