When making over one's image, it's common to start from the ground up. But the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) is looking to revamp and rebrand, and they're starting squarely in the middle.
In a public meeting last week, MATA representatives announced plans to revamp bus routes in Midtown and the surrounding area. Introducing their Midtown alternatives analysis study, called "MATA in the Middle," transit officials invited the public to voice opinions on how bus routes in the city's core can be improved.
Before hearing input from the community, MATA representatives introduced some goals that they hope "MATA in the Middle" can achieve. The study is looking at ways to make Midtown transit service better and more reliable and how to connect neighborhoods and improve local circulation by improving access to jobs, civic attractions, visitor destinations, and cultural assets. MATA is hoping to create more cost-effective transit solutions.
The study is an extension of MATA's short-range transportation plan. Howard Robertson, CEO of Trust Marketing, a public relations firm helping MATA promote the study, pointed out that revamping the Midtown corridor involved working with some of the most-used bus routes in the city.
"Just as your backbone is the center for movement and activity in your body, this area is the center of movement and activity for MATA," Robertson said. "It's where the two busiest lines intersect, so we've got to get it right."
After a short presentation and a small group exercise, members of the community voiced their concerns over the current Midtown bus routes. Most said they wanted more reliable bus service that ran on time, and some wanted transfers eliminated. Others said they'd like to be able to bring their bicycles onto the bus, rather than strap them onto the bike racks in front of the bus. And some said they wished buses ran later than 11 p.m. for those who work night-shift jobs.
Taiwo Jaiyoeba, project manager for "MATA in the Middle," said that involving the community in the changes coming to the Midtown bus system was the first step in rebranding MATA.
"We want to create something where people say 'There goes the new service.' It needs to have a distinctive appearance in the community," Jaiyoeba said.
But toward the end of the meeting, MATA user Ray Brown urged the transit authority to stop selling the rebranding idea and just make it work.
"Rebranding won't help if people don't believe in the system," Brown said. "If you present a system that actually works, and people are convinced that it works, the rebranding will take care of itself."
Also at the meeting, MATA board member Chooch Pickard announced that MATA is working on developing a new app.
"We are also developing an app to show where the bus is in real time. There will be a little red dot on your phone that tells you exactly where your bus is." Pickard said. "The University of Memphis already has it on their buses and we are hoping to have it available in the fall."
The next "MATA in the Middle" public meeting will be held in the fall.