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mandrws1

Memphis light rail

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I saw a small news segment today about the proposed MataTrac light rail system in Memphis. It makes no sense at all to me. The plan calls for the sleek new light rail trains to meet with trolleys on the Madison Avenue line and stretch from downtown to the airport. This is a stupid idea to me. Memphis isn't a traditional city where most of the business activity is centered around downtown. Business centers are spread around town and concentrated in East Memphis, Downtown-Midtown, the airport area, and the south-southeast corridor (warehouse district). Most of the office buildings in the city are on or near Poplar Avenue from downtown to the Germantown border. I think it would make sense to have an east-west line along Poplar and a north-south line along East Parkway/Airways to the airport. This would allow almost every citizen an opportunity to have a commute to and from work and open up job opportunities for all. The current plan will be a disaster with empty trains running back and forth all day long.

Here's the link....

http://www.matatransit.com/pr_regrail.html

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I thought the Airport line was already under construction??

Construction of the airport line has not started (if you don't consider the current Madison line part of the airport line). As far as the connection with the madison line, I don't think folks understand that the intersection with the trolleyline is not what it seems! I'm sure the trolleys would quit running or reduce frequency on that line to allow faster trains. The rails, if you recall, are built to light rail standards.

As far as the airport route not being the most advantagous to the city, maybe you're correct. However, the current rail lines were paid for almost entirely by folks in California and Maine (U.S. Gov't). I'd venture to say that the airport route has received similar approval by the feds. That line, though, has serious drawbacks aside from possible low-ridership that the original poster questioned. It will either cut apart a neighborhood that currently is seeing an influx of cash (Cooper-young) or travel through a neighborhood that no tourist needs to see (Lamar and airways). Hobson's choice, eh?

From what I understand, the Collierville line is the dream of MATA, although I bet you won't see it for 20 years, if at all. Maybe Norfolk Southern would allow a payoff to move their hub off of Southern Ave and donate the Collierville-bound tracks to Memphis. That's probably a dream as well.

Do you think that a Collierville/Germantown line would really benefit the City? Or would it simply make sprawl easier? Shouldn't we be more worried about infill, such as all areas between Germantown/Frayser/Whitehaven and Downtown?

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It would seem that a East-West line along Poplar out to Germantown/Collierville would make more sense IMO, since it would allow for the most usage by the most folks. I don't see enough ridership from an airport to downtown line for it to be pratical or a good example for further expansion.

Edit: 10:27 - For some reason I always want to spell "Poplar" - "Popular". LOL

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Construction of the airport line has not started (if you don't consider the current Madison line part of the airport line). As far as the connection with the madison line, I don't think folks understand that the intersection with the trolleyline is not what it seems! I'm sure the trolleys would quit running or reduce frequency on that line to allow faster trains. The rails, if you recall, are built to light rail standards.

Do you think that a Collierville/Germantown line would really benefit the City? Or would it simply make sprawl easier? Shouldn't we be more worried about infill, such as all areas between Germantown/Frayser/Whitehaven and Downtown?

On the website, it states that trolley service wouldn't be interrupted at all. I don't know how they're going to pull that off. I think a downtown to Germantown/Collierville line would be the best possible route. I don't know the exact numbers, but I think its safe to say that a great deal of the population is centered around Poplar Avenue from downtown all the way out.

It would seem that a East-West line along Popular out to Germantown/Collierville would make more sense IMO, since it would allow for the most usage by the most folks. I don't see enough ridership from an airport to downtown line for it to be pratical or a good example for further expansion.

I think an east-west line would serve its purpose more. They always talk about running a line along Lamar Avenue to help boost that area's economic situation. Everyone loves to see economic revival of blighted areas, but I thought light rail was supposed to be about creating transportion alternatives, helping the environment, and easing congestion. I didn't think economic rejuvenation was MATA's job.

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Lexy--the Madison line which is 2 miles long and presently carries streetcars was built "LRT ready" in terms of overhead wiring and track. It's the first two miles of the airport line. Presently, MATA is reaching a decision on the exact routing of the rest of the line. They hope to have the thing up and running in 7 years.

According to MATA's FAQ's, the CBD, the medical center, and the airport are the three largest employment centers in the area, which is the rationale for the airport line which connects all three.

http://www.matatransit.com/faq.html

My answer is so what? Why would someone working at the airport have any interest in going to the medical center or downtown just because those are also employment centers?

I agree that the best plan would have been the current RR right of way from Collierville, going up the Poplar corridor through Germantown and East Memphis. There are tons of mid and highrises along there where people work. At Perkins Avenue that line begins following Southern Avenue which takes it right past the Univ. of Memphis. From Southern it could connect to East Parkway, then connecting with the airport line up Madison to downtown, which is what the map below shows. And believe it or not, downtown Memphis is still the largest employment center in the region according to downtownmemphis.com. So, you would have plenty of commuters taking the train. And my opinion is that once you get wealthy suburbanites using an LRT line--which I think they would (you know, a Starbucks in the Germantown station. lol), public funding and support for transit would increase significantly.

Here's a map with the LRT in purple. The Collierville line is the one coming in from the far right:

32570458.jpg

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Even if the existing rail road tracks aren't used, I think if they're built on the street that a Poplar Avenue line would work and be cheaper than acquiring existing properties. It would only work though if the trains had the right of way and every light that it approached automatically changed for it instead of the trains stopping at lights like the trolleys do. I don't think overhead trains would be too pleasing to the eye, especially if they decide to route a line through the picturesque Cooper-Young area. IMO, they need to fire whoever is planning the whole thing, because throwing out the statistics that they're using just doesn't make sense. As sleepy said, who cares if the airport area and downtown are the biggest business centers, this should be about connecting as many people as possible in a sensible manner.

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^ Exactly its about economics and making a viable system that will actually be used by folks, sustain itself, and serve as a real public service. I don't see how a north-south line from the airport to downtown (and perhaps further north) would have the economic viability to support itself or the ability to spur economic redevelopment. I mean what companies and small businesses are sitting around looking at those areas going, "if only they had light rail...."?

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Let's not forget how important the airport is to Memphis' economy--FedEx and Northwest. You've also got the tourism part--tourists flying in to Memphis would want to get downtown or to the casinos. On the map posted by Sleepy, a route is shown proposed down I-55/Hwy 51 and something would probably be worked out to extend it to Tunica. Of course ridership will be benefited more from a Poplar line, but that route will still rely on airport connectivity. You've got to build a connection the airport sometime. The city is just working backwards (downtown--airport--east). This is probably the easier extension at this time as well. Getting Collierville and Germantown on the same page as Memphis takes some very patient people. I also think a line out to Cordova via the dead line that goes through the penal farm/Shelby Farms/several County Offices and near to one of the main SW Community College campuses would be beneficial, but it is secondary in MATA's planning behind the airport, south, north, and southeast routes.

I think they are just taking this in stages. To have a viable LRT in Memphis, you have to connect the major parts of Memphis and the airport is one of them. I personally believe a downtown-Collierville route would be much less successful without the airport connected between them.

The biggest concern ought to be which route to the airport they choose--through Orange Mound or through Midtown. Cooper-Young takes you to that commercial district and very near the Fairgrounds/Liberty Bowl/Coliseum and Christian Brothers University, Libertyland, and the Childrens' Museum. The Orange Mound route would take you through a fairly run-down neighborhood, possibly improving the area slightly. Ridership would be pretty even with the Midtown residents being more environment friendly thus prone to public transportation and the Orange Mound residents mostly being lower income and perhaps riding out of need.

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Let's not forget how important the airport is to Memphis' economy--FedEx and Northwest. You've also got the tourism part--tourists flying in to Memphis would want to get downtown or to the casinos. On the map posted by Sleepy, a route is shown proposed down I-55/Hwy 51 and something would probably be worked out to extend it to Tunica. Of course ridership will be benefited more from a Poplar line, but that route will still rely on airport connectivity. You've got to build a connection the airport sometime. The city is just working backwards (downtown--airport--east).

I think they are just taking this in stages. To have a viable LRT in Memphis, you have to connect the major parts of Memphis and the airport is one of them. I personally believe a downtown-Collierville route would be much less successful without the airport connected between them.

I agree that the airport line is needed. As I stated in my first post, I think the east-west line along Poplar should meet up with a north-south at East Parkway.

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The airport connection at some point is important, but IMO it would not be the most ideal line to start off an LRT system in Memphis. I feel that it would be worth the time to get Germantown and Collierville onboard for the east-west line, since it would be the best line to start off a more comprehensive LRT system and show that it will work and be used. If they build the airport-downtown line first and it struggles, you are going to have a heck of a time selling the idea of expanding the LRT system to Germantown and Collerville, or for that matter anywhere else.

I just don't see there being the commuter traffic on a downtown-airport route to start off the system and show it can work without having the more affluent populations of Midtown, East Memphis, Germantown, and Collierville also being fed into the line.

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any light rail the airport-downtown. might be feasible.

rails to the suburbs are useless. no one would ride them. because every single person has a car. and theres already nonconnah parkway(sp?).

just look at the bus system in east memphis. how many riders do they get on an average trip... 2? 3? out of the 60,000 people who live in Cordova, 50,000 or so in germantown, and another 30,000-40,000 in collierville.

Memphis mass transportation should stay in downtown, and midtown. otherwise its just another thing to eat up money from the city.

that and light rail looks alright in downtown.. but in the suburbs it'd just look weird.

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I disagree, I think alot of those well to do folks out in Germantown and Collierville would be open and willing to ride a nice shiny clean train to work that is marketed as such, but you are right they aren't keen on riding what they see as "dirty buses" with folks they might not think they should be around. I think buses fail, and will continue to, due to image problems. Most people would rather drive and pay high gas prices than ride a bus which they view as dirty and full of poor folks who might "bother" them.

I think a well marketed and image concious LRT system could be sold to those folks with the mindset that buses are dirty and an undesirable means of transportation. If not, then LRT probably is not a good investment for the city.

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ya but still, think about how a suburbian community is built. wherever you build a station in the suburbs, how many people are going to be within walking distance of it... 200--300? And even if Memphis goes on a good PR campain to say hey theyre clean sleak and totally cool!(exaggerated example) whos goign to get in their car, drive to a train station, and then downtown. I could see people going to airport in that manner. but to me it doesnt seem like a light rail system to germantown,collierville, or cordova would feasably reduce street traffic.

another thing it could do is bring shoppers more out of the city which is what the city doesnt want. a light rail station to the new mall in collierville might take midtown shoppers to collierville instead.

i just dont see light rail feasable in the eastern part of the county. theres just not enough density in my opinion.

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I think it's feasible in spite of lower density, but I don't think it is a smart move yet until all the pieces are in place. Before suburbia will ride, there has to be places connected that they need to ride to. Downtown is important, the medical center is important, Midtown is important, and the airport is important. Get those connected and then take the routes out by U of M through East Memphis, out to Cordova, and out to Collierville/Germantown via the Poplar/Nonconnah corridor. Then worry about Southaven, Olive Branch, Millington, and Tunica.

But for now, the majority of this country, Memphis included, is an automobile-dominated society. The suburbs will not give up their cars so easily. Give it time, and work to get the pieces connected for when it catches on in a big way.

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ya but still, think about how a suburbian community is built. wherever you build a station in the suburbs, how many people are going to be within walking distance of it... 200--300? And even if Memphis goes on a good PR campain to say hey theyre clean sleak and totally cool!(exaggerated example) whos goign to get in their car, drive to a train station, and then downtown. I could see people going to airport in that manner. but to me it doesnt seem like a light rail system to germantown,collierville, or cordova would feasably reduce street traffic.

another thing it could do is bring shoppers more out of the city which is what the city doesnt want. a light rail station to the new mall in collierville might take midtown shoppers to collierville instead.

i just dont see light rail feasable in the eastern part of the county. theres just not enough density in my opinion.

I disagree as well. I think LRT running up the Poplar corridor to downtown from Collierville would do very well. Yep, there's Nonconnah Parkway, but how long now does it take to go from Collierville to downtown in rush hour? And how long will it take 10 years from now?

As far as people not being within walking distance of a transit station---that's what Park and Rides are for. To give you an example--Houston has a wonderful BRT system, and all the stations are surrounded by Park and Ride lots. People hop in their cars, drive 5 minutes, hop on a Greyhound type bus and make the 20 mile trip downtown in 20 minutes. My wife worked as an attorney in downtown Houston, and half the lawyers in her office used it. Downtown parking fees alone paid for the trip.

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I disagree, I think alot of those well to do folks out in Germantown and Collierville would be open and willing to ride a nice shiny clean train to work that is marketed as such, but you are right they aren't keen on riding what they see as "dirty buses" with folks they might not think they should be around. I think buses fail, and will continue to, due to image problems. Most people would rather drive and pay high gas prices than ride a bus which they view as dirty and full of poor folks who might "bother" them.

I think a well marketed and image concious LRT system could be sold to those folks with the mindset that buses are dirty and an undesirable means of transportation. If not, then LRT probably is not a good investment for the city.

I don't think people don't ride buses because of image. The system just doesn't make sense. Having buses come every 30 minutes or so makes more sense than every hour 1/2 to me. I would ride the bus if it was convenient, its just more convenient to drive in Memphis if you can afford it. I just hope that the LRT system isn't as dumb as the bus system. An airport line before an east-west line would be dumb IMO. If the airport line and an east-west line are built together, I think it'll work.

FACT: If they do take the line through the Lamar/Airways part of town, no one from the burbs (or anyone else who values their safety) will be on those trains. Its sad, but its true. Why don't MATA officials realize this?

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You're quite right about that Lamar/Airways route. Taking it through Midtown and near the Fairgrounds makes so much sense for that route. Apparently many small Cooper-Young businesses and residents are not thrilled with the idea of a line. Sort of surprises me, because I'd tend to place many of the environment and energy friendly residents of Memphis in the Midtown area. I guess it has to do with opening the area up to more people and potentially losing its small, neighborhood appeal. That's probably why the Lamar alternative exists--and the false hope of revitalization.

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You're quite right about that Lamar/Airways route. Taking it through Midtown and near the Fairgrounds makes so much sense for that route. Apparently many small Cooper-Young businesses and residents are not thrilled with the idea of a line. Sort of surprises me, because I'd tend to place many of the environment and energy friendly residents of Memphis in the Midtown area. I guess it has to do with opening the area up to more people and potentially losing its small, neighborhood appeal. That's probably why the Lamar alternative exists--and the false hope of revitalization.

I think the small business people in the Cooper-Young area don't want the line built because the construction will drive away customers. Just look at how many small businesses shut down or were forced to move while the Madison Avenue line was being built. MATA says that a line through the Lamar/Airways area will boost revitalization... Madison Avenue looks about the same as before, new businesses and developments aren't popping up everywhere like they would have us to believe.

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I didn't respond to this post initially because, well, I wasn't sure what my opinion was. Emotionally, I like the idea of LRT in Memphis. I guess it's one of those "big city" things like pro sports, tall buildings, and airline hubs that are just cool even if they don't make the greatest sense economically or socially. When I actually think about this logically, it is much less appealing. I'm afraid the downtown-airport route would be as appallingly empty as the current Madison trolley line is.

The number of people moving between the airport and downtown should not be exaggerated. There are only 16,000 or so passengers moving in and out of the airport on an average day. At least 50% or more of those are connecting, and never leave the airport. Of the maybe 8,000 who do, the majority are either residents from some other part of the area besides downtown/midtown, relatives of residents, or business travellers. Yes, some of the business travellers may be headed downtown, but based on the percentage of office space in the city the majority of business travellers would not be headed downtown or midtown...they're going to the Poplar/240 area, 385 Corridor or perhaps Mississippi. What does that leave? Maybe (generously) 1,000 people move between the airport and downtown/midtown daily. If EVERY one of those people used the LRT during the 6:00am to midnight time window in which flights operate, that's a whopping 56 riders per hour in both directions, or just 28 in either direction!

I'm not sure there are any location-pairs in the area that could justify building such a fixed transit system. Designing an LRT network in Memphis is made exceedingly difficult by the fact that the city has such dispersed employment centers, meaning there's no one, two or three places where most people are headed. Instead of connecting a central district such as downtown with 4-8 distant points, you're forced to try and connect literally dozens of points to each other in a criss-cross pattern. And when you do that, few if any of those routes individually have enough volume to make a rail line economically feasible.

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I seriously think you'll see something similar happening with MataTrac that happened with Marta in Atlanta. I'm told by some Atlanta natives that the original idea for Marta was to take it to Alpharetta, but the towns opposed it b/c it would bring the "city riff-raff" to their cities. That's why Marta stops at Sandy Springs. I can imagine MataTrac stopping somewhere near Winchester and Hacks Cross or somewhere near Poplar in East Memphis as far as the Eastern route goes.

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The number of people moving between the airport and downtown should not be exaggerated. There are only 16,000 or so passengers moving in and out of the airport on an average day. At least 50% or more of those are connecting, and never leave the airport. Of the maybe 8,000 who do, the majority are either residents from some other part of the area besides downtown/midtown, relatives of residents, or business travellers. Yes, some of the business travellers may be headed downtown, but based on the percentage of office space in the city the majority of business travellers would not be headed downtown or midtown...they're going to the Poplar/240 area, 385 Corridor or perhaps Mississippi. What does that leave? Maybe (generously) 1,000 people move between the airport and downtown/midtown daily. If EVERY one of those people used the LRT during the 6:00am to midnight time window in which flights operate, that's a whopping 56 riders per hour in both directions, or just 28 in either direction!

MATA's FAQ link which I posted on the previous page estimated that only 4% of airline passengers would take the train to downtown, but that the rationale for the route was still to connect downtown and the airport as employment centers.

I still don't buy into that. Again, why on earth would somone working at the med center/airport/downtown want to get to another of the two employment centers? Doesn't make any sense to me.

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