Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cars on Main?

Posted By on Sun, May 24, 2009 at 11:10 PM

The Center City Commission recently decided not to return vehicular traffic to the Main Street Mall.

I have to say, I can see both sides of the argument, but I'm a little disappointed.

Though the commission thought added traffic — and turning Main into what's known as a "complete street," with cars, bicycles, pedestrians, and public transportation — would give the mall some much needed vitality, the idea eventually was rejected as too expensive.

(One out-of-town expert estimated it would cost $50,000 to make the switch but the CCC puts that number much higher.)

I don't think the pedestrian only mall works particularly well. It seems to be most successful at either end, where it's closest to vehicular traffic. The businesses in the middle — or the possible business spaces — don't seem to be benefiting as much as they could from their downtown location. That should be prime real estate. Even Main and Union, what should be the heart of the city, has three or four empty storefronts.

On the other hand, a carred Main Street Mall would require smaller lanes, slower speeds, and, the one thing that would be hardest to get, the cooperation of Memphis drivers.

Driving down a certain downtown stretch of Madison, which "accommodates" (in theory) both cars and trolleys, is a complete cluster. At one point, there is a right lane for driving and turning right, and a left-turn only lane for left-turning cars and trolleys, which are going straight ahead.

But people consistently park in the right lane, and drivers are left zigzagging around those cars, while also trying to figure out how to navigate the trolley thing. (The left turn signal turns green, but you're stopped behind a trolley, which, again, isn't turning left. Wait for the next light or drive between the trolley and the parked cars, passing the trolley on the right, and then turning left in front of it?)

Friday night, however, I saw another argument against vehicles on the mall. This was right in front of the Chisca Hotel at Linden and Main, where there is both car and trolley traffic.

8dbb/1243223393-dscn2158.jpg

I don't know how exactly this happened, but the end result was a smushed cab sandwich. If you look closely you can see the car has damage to both the front end and the back end, where the trolley still seems to be lodged.

08bc/1243222455-tsunamidinner-small.jpg

It was kind of a mess. Several cop cars plus a firetruck were on the scene with flashing lights. The rest of the trolley system was shut down (I think there were at least four other trolleys waiting behind these two on Main). And a lot of people — probably those who either wanted to ride the trolley or who were riding the trolley when this happened — were standing around gawking.

I don't know when they eventually got it all cleaned up, but that picture was taken around 9 p.m.

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