Unfare System (2012)

By Melissa Crook and Daniel Twieg

A portrait of the challenges facing bus riders in Birmingham, Alabama.

Filmmaker Statement:

Public transit is an entity that plays a vital role in any successful city. It connects people to employment, shopping, recreation, and day-to-day necessities such as health care. In Birmingham, a very car-centric culture, most riders of public transit are dependent on the system. Alabama is one of only four states in the nation that does not fund public transit. Combine this with a population of citizens who largely ignore those who are forced to use public transit, and we have the system that exists in Birmingham-unreliable and unbelievable. We hope that by watching “Unfare System” you will have the opportunity to see what a day with Birmingham public transit is like, and why this issue needs to be addressed.

Discussion Questions

  • What are three major issues that the riders from the film discussed in regards to public transit?
  • What are some ways the Birmingham transit system could be improved?
  • Who is responsible for ensuring that we have a better bus system? 
  • How does this situation reflect the ways in which our city treats/views those in lower socioeconomic status?


Birmingham Bus Riders
BJCTA – Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority
Transit Dependent - A 2005 film from UAB students on the same issue
The Importance of Public Transportation: A Federal Highway Administration Publication on the issue

Further Reading

“Neglected Bus Riders Left All Wet.” The Birmingham News
“Birmingham City, Regional Planners and Transit Officials Meet, Seeking Long-Term Answers.” The Birmingham News
The Benefits of Public Transportation: An Overview American Public Transportation Association.