Baldwin County’s public transportation system, BRATS, is under new direction and considering instrumental changes to its service according to Director Matthew Brown, who assumed his position a few months ago after the retirement of previous director Taylor Rider.
According to an agenda item at Tuesday’s work session of the Baldwin County Commission, BRATS may seek a Federal Transit Administration Integrated Mobility Innovation grant “aimed at making public transit more seamless and user-friendly for passengers.”
Brown couldn’t go into details last week, but the agenda item notes that in late May, BRATS “reached out to the major on-demand transportation companies, Uber, Lyft and Via, to learn more about the technology they use to provide passenger-friendly transportation. The grant allows applicants to identify ‘essential’ key partners who will play an integral role in the innovation deployment. The grant allows up to 12 months to prepare for deployment, and requires at least 12 months of actual deployment to test the innovation. This grant may provide a unique opportunity for BRATS to explore re-tooling its service-delivery model to a more cutting-edge system.”
The Baldwin County Commission recently passed new rate structures and limited service to BRATS, after the system requested $1 million to cover a gap between its revenue and expenses.
“I think we have a great team of drivers who have a heart for serving the passengers and that gives us a good base to find ways to better serve our communities,” Brown said last week. “We already operate a demand-response service … not necessarily taking the same path every day, but one that flexes to what the ridership requirements are.”
Among BRATS’ fixed routes is its BayLinc service, which offers one bus from the Eastern Shore to Bienville Square in Mobile in the morning and two return buses in the evening. The fare to or from Fairhope is $3.50 each way, from Daphne it’s $3 and from Spanish Fort it’s $2.50. The BayLinc fares were raised 50 cents and the schedule was cut late last year as a result of the budget deficit.
At an April meeting of the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization, member Ron Scott keyed in on an opportunity for greater use of public transportation if the proposed Mobile River Bridge and Bayway tolls — as much as $6 per trip — go into effect.
“I would think, long term, if there is in fact a toll … then we’re going to drive some public transportation,” he said. “There’s going to be a demand of which I think the market itself will help pay. I understand that there are budget restraints everywhere each year. But, long term, I would think this toll is going to drive people wanting to ride a more economical way across the bay.”
Asked if there have been discussions within the county about the affect a proposed toll bridge may have on BayLinc ridership, Brown said he recently took the route himself and “was impressed with just how full that bus was.” But he also said it’s too early to say whether demand would increase as a result of the proposed bridge tolls.
“At this point it’s something we kind of have our ears to the track from a public transit perspective,” he said. “Obviously there’s a lot going on with that discussion now, but we’re on standby to be prepared and flexible depending on how that turns out, to adjust our service as needed and at the direction of the Commission.”
BayLinc currently runs along the Causeway and through the Bankhead Tunnel. Mobile Bridge and Bayway spokesperson Allison Gregg emphasized last week the Causeway and Bankhead Tunnel will remain free, and the proposed tolls do not include a separate fee structure for public transportation. Rather, any public transportation that uses the new bridge or Bayway will pay the rate corresponding to the type of vehicle identified in the proposed rate structure.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).