Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mad Dash

Posted By on Wed, Nov 11, 2009 at 11:03 AM

Last night, armed with wine, cheese, and homemade bread, members of the local arts community, the Midtown Development Corporation, and transportation advocates got back on the bus.

The bus ride was a test run for Go M.A.D. Transit, which stands for Midtown and Downtown.

"For the past several months, we've been trying to find ways of linking Midtown with Downtown," said Playhouse on the Square's Jackie Nichols. "Tonight, we're taking the route and enjoying each others' company."

With 24 stops, the M.A.D. Dash would link four colleges, eight neighborhoods, 10 arts venues, and eight cultural sites, and, if last night was any indication, take about an hour to make the full loop.

The bus' double loop, which would be centered on Overton Square, would go west on Linden, south on Main Street to the National Civil Rights Museum, east on Madison, then head north on Cooper and around Overton Park, south on East Parkway to Cooper-Young, and then back to Overton Square.

"If there's too many stops, people get mad," Nichols said. "If there aren't enough stops, not enough people get served."

Organizers don't know when such a service might start, or what the hours of operation would be, but want to see the shuttle operate each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

They're also not sure how much MATA would be involved or if funding would come from the public sector, the private sector, or a combination of the two.

They hope the fare for the shuttle would be between 50 cents and $2.

Other cities, such as Birmingham, Chattanooga, and Philadelphia, have similar shuttles. Chattanooga's Downtown Electric Shuttle loops around downtown and is completely free. Birmingham's DART costs 25 cents a ride, and serves both the central business district and the UAB area.

Ham Smythe says they would like to have a driver with a lot of personality.

"The destination isn't important here — it's the trip," he says. "There are lots of easy ways to get around. You could call a cab."

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