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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority has created a new department of government affairs to monitor legislation and develop a legislative strategy for statewide transit funding.

Officials said the new department is a nine-month pilot program. BJCTA officials will evaluate its effectiveness and determine whether a long-term investment is needed.

BJCTA employee Jacquese Gary was appointed to lead the project along with Adrian Solomon. Jesse Lewis of the Lewis Group, the BJCTA’s communications consultant, will help coordinate the effort.

The total budget is $20,000 for nine months, far less than hiring a full-time staff or an outside firm, Lewis said.

“We are going to take a couple of people who are already there and we’re going to do it in-house at present time to see how it goes,” he said. “If the project works like we think it’s going to work, then you could take one of those people in-house and hire them full time. But in the meantime, let’s test something out ourselves and see if it’s going to work.”

The BJCTA must continue to press for state funding and build solidarity with other transit agencies and providers, said Executive Director Peter Behrman.

While past campaigns and legislation failed to bring the changes desired, efforts must not be abandoned, he said. Behrman said the agency has been stabilized but cannot grow, and could easily relapse into past problems without proper support.

Past efforts from the BJCTA and transit supporters included a statewide committee to evaluate transit issues and make funding recommendations. That 2009 effort was championed by state Rep. Rod Scott, D-Fairfield, and was endorsed by members of the BJCTA and the Birmingham City Council, but never took off.

Article source: http://feeds.stateline.org/~r/StatelineorgRss-Transportation/~3/ieMaPGf9C3U/birmingham_jefferson_county_tr_3.html