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Public transportation in Birmingham

Quebec City, Canada
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Public transportation in Birmingham

Hi everyone,

I am trying to plan a trip to the NCAA Gymnastics Championships, which will take place in Birmingham from April 17th to April 21st, 2014. I am a (poor!) college student and will not be able to rent a car in Birmingham, so I will have to walk/use public transportation.

The event takes place at BJCC, and ideally, I would have booked a hotel within walking distance of the venue. However, the hotels that are within walking distance (Westin, Sheraton, Tutwiler) are way out of my budget. I will not be sightseeing at all - just heading to the venue in the morning and coming back to the hotel in the evening. I'm aware that the DART's blue line could take me from the hotels around University Blvd/10th Ave to the venue, but it doesn't run on Sundays, and there doesn't seem to be a viable public transportation alternative.

Is there another option I'm missing, either hotel-wise or transportation-wise? I'm not too stingy and am willing to pay a fair amount of money for a hotel room within walking distance, but the only hotels that fit this criteria are simply out of my price range. I'm also willing to pay for a cab when needed, but would like to avoid doing it too many times. In that situation, what would my best bet?

Thanks in advance for your help :)

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Birmingham, Alabama
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1. Re: Public transportation in Birmingham

Some hotels may have a shuttle van that takes people within a few mile radius. Check with the places you are considering to see if any have that service available. Only other alternative would be a cab. Some hotels will have some available at most all times. Otherwise, you can call 205-222-2222 to have a Yellow Cab dispatched to where you are. Perhaps after you are there at the event on the first day, you can see if others may be staying near you and may be able to give you a ride.

Helena, Alabama
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2. Re: Public transportation in Birmingham

dbh2's advice is spot on as usual. I would look at some hotels close to the BJCC that are in your price range and then give the front desk a call directly and ask if their shuttle can pick you up/drop you off at the BJCC. There is MAX bus service, but given the infrequency of the #18 and #40 routes, would recommend taking a cab. Your hotel can call a cab for you or call Yellow Cab directly. Taxis in Birmingham are required to use metered rates; there is a $3 start/flag drop fee; from a downtown area hotel you are looking at $10 to $25 one way per taxi trip. Honestly, an option I would consider is wear your school's colors and shirt in your hotel's lobby (and any adjoining large hotels) and look for others from your school or another participating college and ask them nicely if you can share a ride. Us older alumni tend to remember our college days fondly and have sympathy for being likewise broke ;-)

Have a safe trip and enjoy your visit to Birmingham!

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Birmingham, Alabama
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3. Re: Public transportation in Birmingham

I hate to see you in this situation. And I'm afraid I can't offer any better advice than dbh2. I've lived in B'ham for @ 13 years and the lack of any decent public transportation is a very very real negative to the area. If I were you, I would do some serious complaining to the event staff that planned this event in B'ham. Not just about the transportation aspect but about the lack of affordable hotels as well.

I live in a very populated area of Birmingham, and a taxi from my house to the grocery store just 3 miles down the road is $25 one way. I'm sure it want be that way closer into B'ham. But get ready.

And by the way, you must be a very smart college student trying to pre-plan this trip the way you are. Many young people would just show up expecting everything to fall into place.

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4. Re: Public transportation in Birmingham

I know you mentioned renting a car is out of budget, but it would probably be cheaper than a taxi or staying at Westin/Sheraton. Priceline shows an economy car from Hertz at $18/day ($115 total for your stay). Hopefully you will be able to connect with a fellow fan ahead of time and line up someone to carpool with. I am so sorry you are having troubles with transportation! But, I hope you have a lovely time in our city.

Alabama
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5. Re: Public transportation in Birmingham

Oops...that rental price was for Avis, not hertz.

Quebec City, Canada
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6. Re: Public transportation in Birmingham

Thank you for the prompt replies, they are much appreciated!

Cancun4, thank you so much for taking the time to research rental car prices. It certainly would have been a good value, except for the fact that I am under 25 and need to pay an extra daily fee of $27 because I am an "underage" driver, which negates the otherwise interesting savings. It's a tricky puzzle indeed!

I actually ended up finding a massive deal for the Sheraton, which may solve all my lodging problems and would eliminate any need for transportation. That is, if I decide to go - as Blazin65 mentioned, Birmingham seems like a terrible place to hold a major sporting event. Airfare is incredibly expensive, especially coming from Canada, and there aren't a whole lot of affordable hotels in the center of the city (trust me, I've done a LOT of research ;)). I would love to complain to the event staff, but it's in the NCAA's hands, so it's not exactly an easy decision to argue! It does make sense gymnastics-wise, as the SEC is a strong conference in gymnastics and the University of Alabama is a major gymnastics power. However, it's not convenient at all for those of us who don't live in SEC territory.

Oh, and another question - how safe is the center of the city? It wasn't even a concern of mine to begin with, but after a couple days of research, I've come across a lot of posts and travel info mentioning that it may be an issue. How safe/dangerous is it? Any specific precautions I should take?

Thanks again everone, your help has been wonderful!

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Alabama
Alabama
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Birmingham, AL
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7. Re: Public transportation in Birmingham

You asked about safety. Sadly, downtown is not a walkable city at night in the "downtown" area, although I think you would be fine amid the crowd at the tournament. I have two daughters, both in their 20's, who have grown up in the area. Neither would feel safe walking around the BJCC area on weekends alone. We have some lovely suburban communities and fun nightlife, but I wouldn't feel good about you accessing any of that without a car. Our downtown is still redeveloping, and you might find yourself in an area in which you feel unsafe if you're by yourself. I don't want to discourage you -- or say anything bad about our city -- but I don't want you to have a bad experience.

Quebec City, Canada
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8. Re: Public transportation in Birmingham

Thanks for the reply, it is much appreciated. I have a flexible reservation at the Westin, and am now looking at hotels in Homewood, as I seem to understand that it's a better area. Is it more walkable? Is there a reasonable amount of things to see/stuff to do if we'll be spending three full days in the area?

And, more importantly, around how much would a cab be from Homewood to the BJCC? What about Homewood to the airport?

Helena, Alabama
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9. Re: Public transportation in Birmingham

I would really stay at the Sheraton in your situation as the main reason you're here is for the gymnastics championship. Downtown during the day is fine; I have walked all around and never had a problem other than panhandlers. Unless you have a specific destination downtown and are going with a group, I wouldn't just wander around at night. Use the DART system or share a cab to get to local dining and entertainment; the DART Blue Line serves the Sheraton and the Five Points area.

Homewood is the first suburban community south of downtown and the airport. I have no idea what the cab fares would be; sorry :-(

Homewood is very nice but I'm not sure I would call it walkable to a great extent, dependent on where you stay.

Helena, Alabama
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10. Re: Public transportation in Birmingham

Again, I'm sorry you're having so much trouble getting to B'ham. If you're coming from Canada, have you considered flying into Atlanta, GA and then taking Megabus over to Birmingham? I don't know if your Canadian origin airport has US pre-clearance; but Atlanta obviously has ample Customs and Immigration facilities for regularly scheduled flights. Megabus runs from Atlanta to Birmingham; it will take a couple of hours to drive between the cities but you may be able to piece together a better deal that way. The same service is offered from Memphis, Tennessee.

http://us.megabus.com/routemap.aspx

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