Tuscaloosa, Alabama is home to one of the best colleges and college football teams in the United States. It is also home to many people in a variety of stages in life. All of these people need transportation to get them to and from class, work, or different activities, but is there public transportation in this city?
Tuscaloosa, Alabama has some public transportation options, such as a bus and some additional ride-share options for seniors and others with additional difficulty. However, the bus routes and times are limited. Private transportation options are highly encouraged by locals.
Since public transportation is an important aspect of living, especially in a college town, it’s necessary to delve into what is available, the quality of the public transportation offered, and to discuss how to get by without public or private transportation.
The bus system in Tuscaloosa is called the Tuscaloosa Transit and is run by the Tuscaloosa Transit Authority. The bus system has been available since 1971 and mainly serves the area of downtown Tuscaloosa. Some of the different factors that the Tuscaloosa Transit prides itself on is that they serve the students and have routes specifically for game day.
This may seem odd, as most people don’t value college football games like they would professional-level football games. However, people in Alabama highly praise and adore their college football. This is especially true for natives of Tuscaloosa. The main college, the University of Alabama, is known for being the best of the best when it comes to sports.
Oftentimes, the University of Alabama is one of the first places they pull students into the draft for the NFL (National Football League). The University of Alabama has won championships in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017, and 2020 in football. Many natives live and breathe “roll tide”, so it is important to the people that there is a way to get to the games.
On normal days, the bus system is limited. They have seven fixed routes that cover the heart of Tuscaloosa. Two of the seven routes help students move around campus and the surrounding area. In comparison to other bus systems, like the bus system I used in Colorado, this is a dismal and small number of routes. However, in comparison to other areas of Alabama, this is better than average!
Another aspect of bus travel is the hours of operation. The typical hours that the bus runs are 5 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday. Some routes only run from 7 am to 2 pm. These hours are nice when considering the typical school day and business hours. However, when considering the needs of the community, this becomes ineffective. For example, if someone needs to get to work on a Saturday, they will have to find a different way to get there. This can become a complex issue if someone tries to rely completely on the bus to get everywhere.
The nice thing about the tickets is that they are all decently priced, ranging from $.20 to $1. Children under the age of 3 ride for free and college students that are attending the University of Alabama ride for free when they show their school ID cards.
Although there are a few ways the bus system is not as effective as it could be, the city has been trying to improve. In fact, about a year ago, the city asked people to share their thoughts about public transit. This survey is a sure sign that the leadership in Tuscaloosa realizes it could be better and want to improve it.
There are also a few different aspects of the bus system that have been well thought out and helped improve the quality of life for many. There is a section of the bus system called the Demand Response Service. This service is meant to help people with physical and mental difficulties.
The Demand Response Service is often utilized by elderly people. In order for a person to use this service, they have to submit an application, set up an appointment, and pay $2 per ride. This service makes it possible to have a van pick them up and take them directly to places like the grocery store, doctor’s office, or pharmacy. They also have personal assistants available to the riders for no additional cost.
Overall, the bus system in Tuscaloosa is decent for those living downtown but is incredibly limited in routes and hours of operation.
From my experiences traveling around Tuscaloosa, I would not recommend trying to bike around the city unless you are on campus or in a neighborhood. Oftentimes, the roads are two, three, or four lanes of heavy traffic that connect to the highway. There are rarely any bike lanes, so trying to share the road with the cars would be more dangerous. It would be best to try and use bikes in places that have sidewalks and crosswalks.
When ranked by others, Tuscaloosa was named a car-dependent city. It scored 33 out of 100 for walking and 37 out of 100 for biking. These scores mean that most errands require a car to be reached and that there are minimal bike lanes and other bike amenities in the city.
Alabama as a whole is a difficult place to walk, especially as a main way of transport. Often, the only way to get from city to city is by getting on a highway! Some places of Alabama don’t have sidewalks or roadways for foot traffic. However, there are also a few places where walking is possible. Walking is possible and feasible in Downtown Tuscaloosa.
To begin, they have a thriving economic center in Tuscaloosa. This is especially true for the area around campus. I walked around there around November last year, and it was beautiful! There are a large variety of shops and places to go. There are also murals on the walls of businesses that beg foot traffic. The weather was starting to cool down to a happy temperature as well, so I was able to walk without fear of overheating or freezing. In fact, there are several different walking paths. One of those can get people from the Courthouse to the Capitol in just 17 minutes!
However, this is not always true. The weather in Alabama is usually hot and humid, which makes walking exhausting and an unpleasant experience. I walked a lot when I lived nearby Tuscaloosa in a town named Fayette, and I disliked walking for more than fifteen minutes at a time. If a person is wanting to mainly walk everywhere, they should pack or buy clothing that is light and doesn’t trap heat. It would also be highly recommended to always carry water as well. After a while of walking/living there, the heat and humidity become more normal, and walking becomes less miserable.
How to Survive Without Consistent Public Transportation
As we can see, public transportation is currently not efficient enough to completely rely on in Tuscaloosa. It is a great supplement to private transportation. However, some people still cannot afford to own their own car. So, here is a list of different ways you can still get where you need to go without a car.
If you cannot afford your own car, sometimes it is possible to carpool with someone else. This is effective because it saves money and gas for both people.
The most important things to consider are if the person who has the car is willing to pick others up, is heading to the same places that the person needs, and if everybody riding in the car is willing to contribute to paying the cost of gas. If all of these things are true, most people are more than willing to help! This is also a great way to build deeper friendships with coworkers and roommates.
Ride Sharing (Lyft, Uber, etc.)
Ridesharing is a similar concept to carpooling. However, instead of relying on the generosity of others, a Lyft or Uber will rarely leave a person hanging or in an awkward spot. It can end up costing more than a bus ticket or paying a part of the cost of carpooling. However, another benefit is that a person is able to choose their destination and time of arrival more precisely with this method than others.
Oftentimes, the main reason people need transportation is to get basic needs met like getting groceries or medications. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a shift in how shopping happens which helps people when they are unable to be in a store in person. Most big grocery stores like Walmart and Target now have delivery options. People can go on the store website and pick out what they want.
For Walmart, it only costs $12.95 per month or $98 a year for free grocery delivery through Walmart+. This can be substantially cheaper than trying to find a way to the store every other week.
With all of this information in mind, it is now possible to make the wisest decisions when considering relying on public or private transportation in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
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