It's NOT Easy Being Green in Memphis 

Adventures in "Mass Transit"

At 8:00 this morning I dropped my car off at a repair shop on Madison, near the Medical center. Since the trolley runs right by the place, I figured, hey, I'll take "mass transit" to work.

So I walk to the nearest station, about a block away at Pauline and Madison. I wait for about 10 minutes before I see a trolley headed my way. Hmmm, I think, "Wonder how much it costs?" There are no signs at the stop indicating the price of a trolley ride; and no change machines. All I have is a $5 dollar bill and 46 cents in change.

I climb on the trolley and see that the fare is $1.

"Do you have change, Ma'am?" I ask the driver.

"No," she says. "You have to have correct change or I can't let you on."

"But, there's no way to know how much it is before you get on ... " I sputter.

"Sorry, sir. You'll have to get off."

So I do. And now I'm standing in the middle of Madison, 12 blocks from Downtown, and about 20 blocks from my office in the South Main area. It's 8:15 a.m. "Rush hour." I've wasted 15 minutes on Memphis mass transit and I'm no closer to work than I was when I started.

I walk back to the repair shop and get five $1 bills. Since I'm still fuming, I decide to start walking west on Madison, figuring it'll help me calm down and I'll catch the next trolley whenever it shows up.

Twenty-two minutes later, I'm at Main and Madison, downtown. I still haven't seen another trolley on the Madison route. I've just missed one headed South on Main. So, yes, I start walking. And no, I didn't see another trolley going my way. I did see a co-worker, who gave me a ride the rest of the way to work.

Total "commute": 16 blocks of walking; four blocks of "carpooling." Time to get from Madison and Pauline to South Main: 44 minutes. During "rush hour."

The MATA website didn't work this morning (quel suprise!), but another site I found on the Internet said MATA claims trolleys run every 11 minutes. This is a joke and a lie. There is NO discernible schedule for the downtown trolleys. I've tried to use them at lunch. You'll see three in a row rolling north and wait 20 minutes in vain for one headed south. Or vice versa.

Trolleys are strictly tourist sight-seeing buses, useless to anyone wanting to get somewhere on a schedule. Used in this fashion, they are an obscene waste of tax dollars, especially the worthless Madison line. MATA either needs to get these rolling boondoggles on a reasonable and reliable schedule or quit pretending they are supposed to be anything other than a parody of mass transit.

(For more on MATA, read John Branston and Mary Cashiola's Flyer story from June.)

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