8 months after moving across town, I have finally figured out an alternative to driving to downtown Birmingham everyday. I choose to ride my bike to a local bus stop that takes me over the mountain to downtown. It may not work for everyone and it won't work everyday, but it is an alternative that can get you where you need to go and add a bit of exercise and outside time to your commute. You will also be learning about and supporting public transportation ase well as probably meeting some new people in the process. Sure, not all bus schedules are reliable and altering your schedule may not be for everyone, but that's another conversation.

I lived in Crestwood for almost 9 years and found this same combination to work pretty well. There was a bus that was mostly reliable that went downtown and a bus-stop only about a half-mile from my house. The bus station downtown is also only about 3 blocks from my office, so this was not much of a stretch. For $2.20 a day and an excuse to ride my bike, it worked well. It is also pretty easy to get around downtown by bike without having to pay for or having to find a parking spot. Disclaimer: watch out for crazy drivers and pot-holes, but again, that's another conversation.

Last year, I moved across town to Homewood, and have been eyeing bus-stops and routes since then. I also had to see if I could tackle the mild hill to get home. Once all was figured out, I finally made an alternative commute this week and feel proud of my accomplishment. After day one on Wednesday, I actually did it again successfully on Thursday. Reminder: it is still very hot in Birmingham, and the rides will only get easier as the weather moderates. I use a different route in the afternoon and it affords me a better workout so I'm at least getting a little exercise, which I seem to be leaving out of my weekly routine.

Steps to an alternative commute:

  1. Visit the BJCTA website and look at what routes are near your home. You can also find schedules on the site.
  2. Start watching for the bright blue poles with signs that are bus stops on the route near your home.
  3. Download the schedule or pick up a route sheet from Central station downtown.
  4. Look for the "waypoints" on the schedule and figure out a rough time of when the bus will be by the particular stop near your home.
  5. Dust off the old bicicleta and make sure tires have air, brakes work, water bottle is filled, and your helmet still fits.
  6. Grab a dollar bill and a quarter for each ride you will take. (Once it works for you, you can buy a booklet of 20 tickets for $22 and save a bit.)
  7. Go for it!

I hope you have the same experience I have, which is mostly positive. You will also want to sign up for CommuteSmart and actually find a few incentives through their programs. First time users can actually get $120 over the first 3 months, then $25 giftcards quarterly after that. There are other options as well.

So, I look forward to seeing you at Central. Please share your experiences and if you have additional ideas.