Transit Authority apologizes to riders after delays, cancelations cause some to miss work

Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 7:01 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - After a WBRC Fox6 News story about riders being late to their jobs because of MAX transit delays and cancellations, the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) wanted to address some of the challenges they’re facing and their commitment to making things right.

“This is not an easy subject. A lot of people think bus service is very simple,” said Charlotte Shaw, CEO and Executive Director of BJCTA. “It’s a very, very complex subject.”

Shaw said, nationwide, the transit industry is down about 200,000 people.

“So not only are we competing with the industry, other transit authorities, but we’re competing with the school system, we’re competing with other retail and service organizations like FedEx, UPS, and other transportation organizations,” Shaw said.

Couple that with Covid cases and the flu, Shaw said that when a bus operator cannot come in to drive their route, there’s really no plan B.

“Years ago, in the old days, we used to have a huge amount of people on the extra board. If somebody called out, we just put that person on that route. But it doesn’t work like that anymore,” said Shaw. “Now, if we don’t have a driver, we’re scrambling with our supervisors. We have supervisors out running routes and driving buses when their job is to manage an entire route to ensure that it runs properly and on time.”

That shortage of drivers can mean cancelled or delayed routes, leaving people like Canaryl Provitt and Taris Richardson who work at Workshops Empowerment Inc. stranded with no way to get to work.

“I want to apologize to the people who are missing their time to get to work on time,” said Shaw. “We take ownership for our services and I want to ensure that no one or no rider gets left behind.”

She said the BJCTA has new modes of transportation coming online, like the BRT which launched in September, and Via with which the board just approved a contract.

“Via is going to be handling some of our supplemental areas in certain zoned areas where we have missed trips like the number 17. We’d use Via in one area, but we get to free up four new bus drivers to put on the 17 and other missed areas because now we’re supplementing with contracted services,” said Shaw.

For those riders who pay monthly rates who have missed their ride to work because of a delayed or cancelled bus route, Shaw asked that you reach out to her or the customer service department.

“We definitely would consider some type of arrangement if we are at fault to where we need to accommodate one of our riders for a future ride,” she said. “We do that all the time. And I’m willing to do that on an individual case by case basis.”

Shaw said if you’re interested in becoming a bus operator, they have a sign-on bonus for $1,200 for the year, and they offer benefits.

She’s also in the process of creating a Rider Council to hear from patrons to see how they can improve.

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