Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Bus Rider Union: Rapid Bus Route ‘Long Overdue’ Here

Posted By on Tue, Nov 19, 2019 at 3:51 PM

click to enlarge JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks

A leader of the Memphis Bus Riders Union said a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line is “long overdue” in Memphis.

Officials announced earlier this month that the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) is receiving a $12 million federal grant to create a rapid bus line here.

The $12 million Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant will partially fund Memphis’ Innovation Corridor, an eight-mile stretch between Downtown and the University of Memphis.

The BRT line, dubbed mConnect, will be the first in the region.

click to enlarge Proposed BRT route
  • Proposed BRT route

Justin Davis, organizing coordinator for the MBRU said “it’s really important that we’re talking about changing the city’s infrastructure to accommodate transit better and making it easier to use with new stops and new technology.”

However, he said many bus riders are frustrated that most of the recent efforts to improve the city’s transit have been focused in Midtown and Downtown.

“We still have many neighborhoods where service is so unreliable and inaccessible that people can’t even get to Midtown or Downtown in a reasonable amount of time,” Davis said. “Midtown and Downtown already have the most reliable service. We need high-frequency service going north to south and bus routes that directly address the needs of low-income folks, people of color, and people with disabilities.”

Davis said many parts of the MATA system still need “significant repair.” There need to be more conversations about finding a dedicated funding source for MATA. Dedicated funding will give the system “stability,” he said, making the network “better for everyone, not just the people who will benefit from this BRT line right now.”

At a community meeting on Monday, officials revealed details for the project to the public looking to gather feedback. The public has until December 2nd to comment on the project.

Construction on the project is expected to begin in 2021 with service beginning in 2024.

Here are some other preliminary facts about mConnect:

• The route will include 30 modern transit stations that are well-lit, covered, and ADA accessible

• Buses will arrive every 10 minutes during peak hours.

• All of the buses will be electric and equipped with vehicle health monitoring, collision avoidance, and predictive maintenance technology.

• WiFi will be available at the stations and on-board.

• Dedicated bus lanes will be created on portions of B.B. King Boulevard and Second Street.

• Buses will have traffic signal priority along the route.

• Other features include mobile ticketing, automated voice announcements, and real-time security cameras.

click to enlarge Officials seek feedback at public meeting Monday
  • Officials seek feedback at public meeting Monday

The total cost of the Innovation Corridor is $74 million. The largest portion of the funds, $39 million, are federal dollars. Another $12 million comes from the BUILD grant, $18.5 million from the city, and $4.5 million from the state.

Memphis’s project is one of 55 in 35 states to receive a portion of the 2019 U.S. Department of Transportation's $900 million BUILD grant.

The Innovation Corridor was identified as a potential high-capacity transit corridor by a 2004 MATA study. The study, Midtown Alternative Analysis, looked at transit needs and the potential to provide a higher quality service within Midtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

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