A Montevallo Area Express bus stops outside Napier Hall. Photo by Waid Jones

As students move back onto the University of Montevallo’s campus, they may notice signs proclaiming, “It’s time to ride.” These are signs denoting the pickup locations for the City of Montevallo’s new pilot program for a bus system called Montevallo Area Express, or MAX for short. This experimental program took its maiden voyage on Monday, Aug. 13, just a week before students began returning to the University.  

The bus system is a partnership with the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority to provide public transportation for Montevallo. The system is free to ride during the pilot program, which will end at the beginning of 2019, and covers many of Montevallo’s most important stops.  

The bus route currently has stops on Main Street, as well as at Meroney House, the McChesney Student Activity Center and Napier Hall. The route also includes both Oak Park and Cobblestone Apartments and will run from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. In total, the loop should take approximately 30 minutes from beginning to end, and can be monitored using the myStop Mobile app. The app also provides an approximation of the bus’s current location, as well as departure and arrival times for all the stops on its route.  

The buses themselves, as well as all stops, are ADA compliant and allow for wheel chair access. Buses additionally allow passengers to stow bikes on board to aid with longer journeys. Free Wi-Fi will also be available for passengers while on the bus.  

The entire route, as well as the bus’s schedule, is available on the City of Montevallo’s website and will be posted around town. Mayor Hollie Cost hopes to encourage Montevallo citizens to embrace riding the bus instead of walking everywhere, an issue she noted on the bus’s maiden voyage as one of the program’s key struggles. 

In a press release regarding the new program, the city stated it hopes the bus system will help citizens cut down on using their vehicles to make short trips and will allow for the city to be more environmentally conscious, saying, “on average, bus transit routes produce 33% less greenhouse gas emissions than single occupancy vehicles.” 

At a City Council meeting the night of the inaugural voyage, the council appeared optimistic about the success of the program and its ability to help the community and their constituents. 

“I think it’s a great opportunity for Montevallo to have a transit system,” said Jason Peterson, City Council Member for District 4, adding, “I hope we can expand it more.” Peterson also stated that he hopes additional stops can be added into more residential areas. 

In a Public Transit Meeting held July 16 at Montevallo’s City Hall, Mayor Cost stated, “We need to look at the ridership and see how it best services the community,” when asked about adding more stops and investing city money into the program.  

During the pilot program the city will be monitoring the success and use of the bus system so they can better tailor it to the needs of the community. Some changes have already been proposed, with more stops planned to be added on Highway 25 by the end of September.