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BrandonTO416

CSX Rail line DONATED TO Memphis for LRT!

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http://www.commercialappeal.com/mca/local_...2899188,00.html

Donor offers to buy CSX line for rail, trail use

By Tom Bailey Jr.

The Commercial Appeal

May 20, 2004

An anonymous donor is offering to buy an old Midtown-to-Cordova railroad line and give it to the city for light rail and possibly a trail for bikers and walkers.

Pete Aviotti, special assistant to the mayor, announced the development Wednesday at the Regional Rail Steering Committee.

The steering committee adopted a resolution to accept the donation. Key approval of a Midtown-to-Cordova light rail line would have to come from the City Council and Federal Transit Administration.

"The donor has said if light rail is not used (on the line) in the next 25-30 years, then he'd like for the city to make it a bike and hiking trail," Aviotti said.

The donor contacted Memphis City Councilman Jack Sammons, who told Aviotti on Monday. Sammons, Aviotti said, "is the only person who knows the anonymous donor."

Sammons could not be reached Wednesday.

The local line of CSX Transportation runs 13.3 miles from near the Union-Poplar viaduct, across East Memphis, under the I-240/40 east interchange, atop the north edge of Shelby Farms and through Cordova before ending at Macon and Lenow.

It's a clear, 100-foot-wide path along one of the city's most congested transportation corridors.

The right-of-way connects neighborhoods like Binghamton, Highland Heights, East Memphis and old Cordova, the 4,500-acres of Shelby Farms parkland, and retail centers along bustling Germantown Parkway.

CSX won federal approval last year to discontinue service on the line.

The railroad has received several inquiries in recent days, including one from Shelby County government, spokesman Meg Scheu said Wednesday.

The railroad declined to give a ballpark estimate of the price tag.

"We have to pay for appraisals," Scheu said. "They aren't made until a level of understanding has come between us and someone offering to buy the property."

MATA has 7 miles of existing light rail, including the new, 2-mile Madison Line between downtown and Cleveland. The transit authority plans within the next eight years to extend light rail 9 miles between the Medical Center and Memphis International Airport.

MATA's long-range plans include building lines south toward DeSoto County, southeast toward Germantown and Collierville, and north toward Millington.

The CSX corridor is not part of MATA's light-rail plan. But that could change, said Tom Fox, MATA's director of planning and capital projects.

Seven years have passed since MATA created its long-range corridor plan, and the agency needs to update it, Fox said Wednesday.

The population density of Cordova's neighborhoods is less than ideal for light rail, but a series of park-and-ride lots might make it work, Fox has said.

"I think it's something that can add greatly to what we're trying to do," MATA president Will Hudson said.

The possibility of a way for cyclists and walkers to go between Midtown and Cordova without competing with cars stirred some excitement Wednesday.

"I think there is a tremendous need . . . for the commuter as well as the recreational biker," said Bill Waters, president of the Memphis Hightailers bike club in 2001-2002.

The community may not have to choose between using the right-of-way for light rail or a trail, said Jeff Ciabotti, director of trail development for the Rails to Trails Conservancy.

"The idea of shared-use corridors is really catching on around the country," he said. "We call them 'rails with trails.' "

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The blue line is the rail line donated to the city:

eastmemrailmap2.gif

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Considering this development, I hope Memphis jumps on it. Using the above mapping software, that is 13.3 miles of free right of way and one whole rail line already completed. This would literally cut the costs down to so little that there is no reason NOT to build this.

Its not the most dense corridor, but it can be developed. And it also can be a backbone of a redesigned bus system that uses rail integrally.

This is just awesome news!

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No, but the Memphis Trolley line - which is LRT ready and fully compliant for new rail cars that Portland uses (I forget the brand) - is barely a few miles from the end of this line, that line would be extended down Madison Avenue and become in its own right-of-way when it meets this new line. Its a perfect combination to create a backbone LRT system with a new north-south bus system making connections to points all over the metropolitan area.

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Its not CSX, it a private donor purchasing it from CSX then giving it to the city. But whoever the person is - they are not coming public. LOL So we have no clue who it is!

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No, but the Memphis Trolley line - which is LRT ready and fully compliant for new rail cars that Portland uses (I forget the brand) - is barely a few miles from the end of this line, that line would be extended down Madison Avenue and become in its own right-of-way when it meets this new line. Its a perfect combination to create a backbone LRT system with a new north-south bus system making connections to points all over the metropolitan area.

Very interesting.

Has anyone heard the ridership projections for the Memphis Light Rail and compared it to the system thats in Portland, Dallas or St. Louis?

I can't imagine how the light rail will work going down madison avenue considering they move at a sometimes faster speads than trolley cars. (the reason people prefer light rail is because its faster than a car.) Can Memphians drive with a light rail car on the street :P ????

I don't think that we are quite ready for this!!!

We are much too spread out for light rail.

Last population figures show that less than 400,000 people live within the 240 corridor. That doesn't show a very high density urban population.

Please tell me how this is going to work. Our money could be used to bring technology and research driven industry to the area by improving our school system. Instead of a bragging tool for our polititians in promoting our city for tourism.

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I wanted to revive this discussion on light rail. Obviously this donation never happened. Does anyone else know the latest on the CSX line staus or light rail proposals? Or are we no closer than we have been? What is MATA doing these days? Where is MATATRAC? Wouldn't it be great if you could catch a train ride to a ballgame at FedExForum or AutoZone Park from East, Germantown, or Collierville? Don't you think this would increase game attendence by making it easier? Or maybe a ride to the airport without having to drive or pay parking. Maybe this increases O&D. Or maybe this increases the amount of people going downtown to Beale because they don't have to worry about a drive home or having to pay to park. Same with the ballgames. $10 to park to park near the FXF on game days is annoying. If light rail increases conviniece by making it easier to go downtown or the airport, and you can spend the money you would have used to park on something else like shopping or food, then I thin kthat only helps the Memphis economy.

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MATA is currently focused on building the most brain-dead LRT line out of all of the proposals they had. They want Alternative 2 which will go down Pauline, Lamar and Airways, skipping Overton Square, Cooper-Young and the Fairgrounds.

Nobody in their right mind is going to ride a light rail line down Lamar and neighboring streets. This was the worst possible alternative they could have selected. The undoubtedly low ridership numbers combined with a likely crime spree on the trains/stations will effectively doom any further expansion of the system in Memphis for many years to come.

If they actually put it in a part of the city where people wanted to go and might feel as though they would live to reach their destination, then you would see people adopt it once they broke out of the mentality that they need to drive a car everywhere and public transportation is the devil. However, I don't see that happening.

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MATA is currently focused on building the most brain-dead LRT line out of all of the proposals they had. They want Alternative 2 which will go down Pauline, Lamar and Airways, skipping Overton Square, Cooper-Young and the Fairgrounds.

Nobody in their right mind is going to ride a light rail line down Lamar and neighboring streets. This was the worst possible alternative they could have selected. The undoubtedly low ridership numbers combined with a likely crime spree on the trains/stations will effectively doom any further expansion of the system in Memphis for many years to come.

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I think they argued that the Lamar area's urban decline would begin to reverse with light rail, and that alternative 2 was justifiable because the Lamar corridor "deserved/needed" the economic boosts that come with LRT more so than other areas of the city.

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There is no need in wasting millions of taxpayers dollars such an unfeasible route as ALT 2. I would assume political pressures and not sound reasoning has A LOT more to do with ALT 2 getting pushed over the much better options out there. The city should just scrap the whole idea if they are just going to build the thing to be doing it and/or bowing to unsound political pressures.

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The original idea behind light rail systems was to provide high-speed, high-capacity transit in congested areas. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe the NY or Boston subways or Chicago "L" were started in the most impoverished areas of town. The "L", in fact, began as a commercial venture and was later taken over by the CTA.

I'm not even sure we have enough traffic congestion anywhere in the city to justify a light rail system. If we did, though, it would be along the Poplar Corridor.

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From a May 23, 2006 CA article (with my embedded questions):

If Memphis builds a light rail line to the airport, it won't be routed through the Cooper-Young area and adjoining neighborhoods where businesses and residents have voiced concerns [who? when? where?] about disruptions, transit officials decided Monday.

...

"There are several categories of impacts [what are they?] where the (Cooper-Young and Fairgrounds options) were substantially greater," said Tom Fox, MATA's assistant general manager for planning and capital projects.

The costs and projected ridership levels of the different routes "were so close together, it's almost a wash," Fox said.

Twenty-year projections [how historically reliable are these projections?] show the line eventually would attract 10,000-11,000 riders a day, no matter if it's built through Cooper-Young, to the Fairgrounds, or down Lamar.

But a MATA consultant [what's their name? where are they from?] screening the environmental impacts of the Cooper-Young and Fairgrounds routes found they would cause noise and vibration problems for homes and businesses [there are businesses and homes in Lamar/Airways, plus everyplace on earth that that has light rail -- how would this be different?], mar the scenery of the area [how?] and damage historic resources [how?].

Those are among the reasons business owners from Madison and Overton Square to Cooper-Young have voiced concerns [again, who? when? where?] about the light-rail line. They also cited the kind of business disruptions caused by the recent construction of the trolley-system extension on Madison.

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^Yeah it bothered me how they said businesses in CY and Overton Square would object, and cited the Madison extension as an example. The midtown areas they refer to are stronger, more vibrant, and definitely more desirable destinations than the neighborhoods surrounding the med center and the new Madison line. The CY and Overton Sq. comparison to the Madison/MedCenter route might be somewhat unrealistic since IMO the businesses along the alt #1 route might sustain LRT construction schedules a little more favorably than businesses did along the Madison extension.

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I think #1, Overton Square-CY-Fairgrounds, would have been a wiser choice from initial ridership. But I don't think the Pauline-Lamar-Airways is as brain-dead as I had originally thought. It passes by or through many areas that are nice, or could be -- the rebuilt Lamar Terrace (which is looking kind of cool, so far), Central Gardens, Cooper-Young, Glenview, South Parkway, the Airways Shopping Center. It's between Airways/Lamar and I-240 that you might worry about our visitors.

If they emphasize rapid transit, with stops only at the Airport, Memphis Depot/Kelloggs, Airways/Lamar, South Parkway, Lamar/McLean, Lamar/Bellevue, Pauline/Lamar, ???, design the whole process for security, and emphasize 2 core constituencies -- travelers and people on the way to work -- it could be a success.

But if they don't have a vision for the thing -- if they treat it as a bus on rails -- it will be a failure vs. its costs.

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It'd be great if they could take advantage of some of the University population since students would provide a good base of ridership. Does anyone else agree? The premier undergrad colleges in Memphis are U of M, Rhodes, and CBU. Seems like though they are relatively close by, Rhodes and U of M might not be in the vicinity where a light rail line might pass. But wouldn't CBU be close enough to Overton Square and Cooper Young to be a stop on the way to the airport? And maybe it could be a good stop for the Children's Museum and even the Libert Bowl (if it survives) at the same time?

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I found this forum form a post on my blog. I'm glad to hear that people are talking about light rail in Memphis. I have a post on my blog asking people for questions they want to ask the chief planner for MATA Tom Fox about light rail in Memphis. I plan on sending them along to Tom and then posting his reply on my blog. Its a great chance to get those burning questions answered. Just go here and leave a comment with your questions.

I agree that the Lamar Corridor makes the least sense. The problem is that the medical district extension was such a fiasco and disrupted businesses so much that nobody wants to have any to do with light rail. The fear is that it would put them out of business. Light rail may be good for business when its in place but will never win support from businesses if it construction puts them out of business. Portland did it right with their downtown street car system. They partnered with businesses to ensure that disruptions to businesses and shoppers was to a minimum. There is even an anecdotal story of the construction workers stopping to help unload a delivery truck when construction obstructed the delivery vehicle access to the business.

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I agree that the Lamar Corridor makes the least sense. The problem is that the medical district extension was such a fiasco and disrupted businesses so much that nobody wants to have any to do with light rail. The fear is that it would put them out of business. Light rail may be good for business when its in place but will never win support from businesses if it construction puts them out of business. Portland did it right with their downtown street car system. They partnered with businesses to ensure that disruptions to businesses and shoppers was to a minimum. There is even an anecdotal story of the construction workers stopping to help unload a delivery truck when construction obstructed the delivery vehicle access to the business.

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