Birmingham has lots of great areas near downtown, but they are all disconnected by physical barriers including mountains and highways. This makes it very difficult for pedestrians to easily move from one location to the next.
Birmingham currently has two forms of public transportation: the MAX bus and the DART bus. Unfortunately, both of these are inadequate for several reasons. The DART bus is a circulator that only runs downtown. It does have the ability to move people between the convention center, UAB, 5 points, and Lakeview, but unfortunately, it only runs about once every 45 minutes, making it inconvenient. This also doesn’t solve the most important goal of the Magic City Connector: connecting great neighborhoods just outside of downtown like Homewood. The MAX is Birmingham’s primary bus system. Unfortunately, MAX is known for having inconvenient routes, long delays, and unreliable buses. This reputation along with the stigma of buses keeps people from riding.
Public transportation is an essential asset to any vibrant city. People want to be able to take advantage of public transportation, but won’t until it is more convenient or more fun than personal transportation. The Magic City Connector’s goal is not to rid Birmingham of cars, but instead provide a fun and convenient method to move around downtown.
An airlift as part of a public transportation system is quite unique and has only been done in a few cities around the world. This project could not only bring in tourism, but also help those out of town visitors move around the city more conveniently. The connector gives tourists without a car the ability to easily move from hot-spot to hot-spot, stop at tourist destinations like the Civil Rights Institute and Vulcan, and visit neighborhoods over the mountain.
In addition, the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) is where many events and conferences are held bringing in many outside visitors. It is located on the far north end of downtown, away from any current entertainment districts and shopping centers. The proposed connector goes directly into the BJCC offering a convenient way to grab dinner, a drink, a show, or do some shopping during free time.
This summer work began on a new entertainment district adjacent to the BJCC which is set to be completed in 2013. Again, the connector would help bring people from the south side of downtown to the new entertainment district.
There are more and more people living downtown everyday. Many of these people are trying to reduce vehicle usage and walk or bike more. Unfortunately, due to the terrain of Birmingham, what would be a short bike ride in distance ends up being a difficult trek and in many cases dangerous due to the lack of convenient and safe routes. While downtown has many excellent bars and restaurants, most of the shopping needs to be done in neighboring communities such as Homewood. The connector would provide a new way for downtown residents to quickly move about their city.
The reverse scenario also applies. There are many families living in neighboring communities like Homewood who work downtown. The connector could provide them a convenient way to work.