Getting Around Birmingham: Guide to Public Transportation

Birmingham, Alabama
DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Once a hub of steel, iron, and railroad production, Birmingham is a booming modern city and the largest in the state of Alabama. A thriving commercial, educational, and cultural hub, the city is known for its acclaimed art and history museums, beautiful parks, a craft beer scene, award-winning restaurants, and lively, walkable neighborhoods.

While Birmingham does not have a subway system, it does have an extensive bus network: the Metro Area Express (MAX). MAX is operated by the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) and averages approximately 3 million riders annually. MAX offers bus service to points of interest like the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) and the Birmingham Zoo on north-east and south-west routes throughout the county. The system's Magic City Connector, Bus 90, specifically serves tourist attractions, including the Birmingham Art Museum, Linn Park, and the Vulcan Park and Trail on a north-south route from Uptown to Downtown Homewood. The city also has taxis, rental cars, ride-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber, as well as scooter and e-bicycle rentals for visitors not traveling with personal vehicles.

How to Ride MAX Transit

  • Fares: One-way fares are $1.50 per ride for adults, $1 for students grades 1-12, and 75 cents per ride for seniors 62 and older with valid ID and those with disabilities, military IDs, and Medicare cards. Exact fare is required when paying on board.
  • Passes: All-day passes cost $3 for adults and $2 for students grades 1-12, seniors 62 and older with valid ID, and those with disabilities, military IDs, and Medicare cards. Two-hour passes are $2 for all, and two-week and monthly passes are also available.
  • Routes and hours: MAX Transit operates more than 20 bus routes, divided into north-east and south-west lines. Route 20 serves the airport, while Route 43 serves the Birmingham Zoo. Buses run from 4 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. CT on weekdays and 4 a.m. to 12 a.m. CT on Saturdays and holidays. There is no Sunday service. All buses are equipped with free Wi-Fi and bike racks.
  • How to pay: Riders can pay with exact change on board the bus or purchase passes online or at Central Station, located at 1735 Morris Avenue.
  • Accessibility: All shuttles are wheelchair accessible and allow service animals.
  • Planning your trip: Inclement weather and traffic can sometimes disrupt routes. For the most up-to-date information, call customer care at (205) 521-0101, visit the MAX Transit website, or download the MyStop Mobile app.

How to Ride the Magic City Connector

Known as Bus 90, the Magic City Connector route runs from north to south from Uptown to Downtown Homewood, stopping at major points of interest including the BJCC (Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center), the MAX Birmingham Intermodal (train and bus station for Greyhound, Megabus, and Amtrak), City Hall and Linn Park, the Birmingham Art Museum, and the Vulcan Park and Trail.

  • Fares: One-way fare is 30 cents per ride for adults and 15 cents per ride for seniors 62 and older with valid ID and those with disabilities, military IDs, and Medicare cards. Exact fare is required when paying on board.
  • Passes: All day passes are $3 for adults and $2 for students grades 1-12, seniors 62 and older with valid ID, and those with disabilities, military IDs, and Medicare cards. Two-hour passes are $2 for all ages of riders, and two-week and monthly passes are also available for purchase for long-term visitors and residents alike.
  • Routes and hours: The bus runs on a north/south axis from Uptown/BJCC and the Sheraton to Downtown Homewood. There are two spur loops—to the north, it goes toward the public library, and to the south, it goes toward SoHo. Buses run every 20 minutes from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends. All busses are equipped with free Wi-Fi and bike racks.
  • How to pay: Riders can pay with exact change on board the bus or purchase passes online or at Central Station, located at 1735 Morris Avenue.
  • Accessibility: All shuttles are wheelchair accessible and allow service animals.
  • Planning your trip: Inclement weather and traffic can sometimes disrupt routes. For the most up-to-date information, call customer care at (205) 521-0101, visit the MAX Transit website, or download the MyStop Mobile app.
  • E-Bikes and Scooters

    Scooter rentals are available for $15 per hour for adults ages 18 and up at Crosstown Scooters on 6th Avenue downtown. Additional micro-mobility services, including e-scooters and e-bikes, are planned for later in 2021, and docking stations will be available in downtown, North Birmingham, Five Points, and other neighborhoods in town.

    Taxis and Ride-Hailing Apps 

    While taxis aren't as common in Birmingham as in other major cities, they are available 24/7 at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM). Cabs are located on the terminal's ground level directly outside the baggage claim area, and there are a number of independently operated providers, including Yellow Cab. From the airport, the average fare to downtown is $18.50, and the 5-mile trip takes approximately 11 minutes. Cabs can also be hailed from other parts of town, but be prepared to call ahead for service.

    Ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft are also available throughout the city and the suburbs and are the best way of getting around parts of town not on the Magic City Connector or for traveling to nearby communities and suburbs.

    Renting a Car

    While renting a car may not be necessary if you spend most of your trip downtown, it is recommended if visiting attractions like Red Mountain Park, the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, and other activities not in the city center or on the Magic City Connector route. A rental car can also be useful if planning a day trip to nearby cities like Montgomery (a 90-minute drive), Atlanta (two hours and 10 minutes), and Nashville (three hours and 35 minutes).

    Major rental car companies like Alamo, Hertz, and National have outposts at the Birmingham Airport, where rentals are available at section 1B on the parking lot's ground level. Car rental facilities are also available downtown, Five Points South, and other areas of the city.

    Keep in mind that parking rates downtown can be expensive, but there are several short and long-term parking lots and garages available for visitors.

    Tips for Getting Around Birmingham

    • Be mindful of rush hour traffic. While not a large city, Birmingham still gets the occasional traffic jam. There are often delays on major routes like I-20 and I-65 during rush hour (7 to 9 a.m. and 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. weekdays) and high tourist season (summer), so plan your trip accordingly.
    • Plan extra time in case of special events, inclement weather, or road construction. From large annual events like the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama in the spring to highway construction, any number of circumstances could result in road closures or delays. Check the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) website for up-to-date information on traffic and road conditions.
    • When in doubt, walk, use a ride-hailing service, or the Magic City Connection. Exploring the city on foot, with a ride-share, and utilizing the bus network are the easiest and cheapest ways to enjoy your stay.
    Was this page helpful?