Railing Against Light Rail

To the Editor:

MATA's consultant on light rail in Memphis claims that economic development follows rail development because trains "demonstrate permanence" ("On Track?" March 21st issue). One prominent permanent economic consequence of light rail will be the enormous operating subsidies that local taxpayers will have to provide to maintain the system.

If we truly wanted to invest in a cost-effective and flexible mass-transit system that fits the density of land use and patterns of travel in the metropolitan area, we would expand and modernize our bus system and consign light rail to another century -- whether the 19th or 22nd, I'm not quite certain.

Outside of the MATA brass, a few construction firms salivating for fat public-works contracts, and some well-meaning and influential folks who've been seduced by the romance and aesthetics of light rail (a phenomenon urban planners have called "the Lionel effect"), the demand for a light-rail system in Memphis seems quite small -- probably about the size of the demand by commuters for a couple of enormously expensive fixed train routes that will fail to improve air quality and fail to mitigate traffic congestion in any meaningful way.

Dean Hestermann


To the Editor:

More than five years ago, MATA general manager Will Hudson brought his light-rail dog-and-pony show to Germantown, and I was appalled to learn then that MATA was even considering putting a light-rail system down the Poplar Avenue corridor. Evidently, the bureaucrats at MATA haven't gotten any smarter over the ensuing five years.

First, land-acquisition costs will be astronomical, not even including the cost of land for station parking. Second, MATA plans a rail system that will run at street grade, ensuring even more car/train accidents. Third, no light-rail system in the country is self-sufficient, and all are perpetually subsidized by the taxpayers. Light rail is a giant money pit. Finally, nobody in Germantown or Collierville is going to give up their Lexus or Acura to ride the train, primarily because fewer and fewer of us work anywhere near where the train will run.

Given that FedEx has just moved its world headquarters and more than 7,000 jobs to the Winchester high-tech corridor, MATA's proposal for light rail is about two decades too late. If the downtown trolley and the Madison Avenue extension are an example of how efficiently light rail is going to be constructed and operated, we are all in for a world of trouble.

John E. Bowders


The Word On Mike

To the Editor:

John Branston and I haven't always seen eye to eye, but he hit the nail on the head with his column about Mike Tyson (City Beat, March 21st issue). I have enjoyed all of the Flyer's stories about Memphis possibly hosting the fight, but Branston's column was especially good. Memphis is a major-league city now, and it's time that we act like it and enjoy it.

Joe Cooper


To the Editor:

Memphis proved it has no morals by taking this fight. I, for one, will not watch it, and I hope nobody watches it.

Vincent A. Zalloco


No Starr?

To the Editor:

I can't tell you how disappointed I was to pick up the last two issues of the Flyer and see that you totally ignored the just-released new album by Garrison Starr -- Songs From Takeoff To Landing. How could the Flyer totally ignore one of Memphis' great songwriting talents? Is it because Garrison lives in L.A. now? Well, she does come home to visit quite a bit, so that's not a valid excuse.

Give the album a listen.

Sharon Koelle


The Memphis Flyer encourages reader response. Send mail to: Letters to the Editor, POB 1738, Memphis, TN 38101. Or call Back Talk at 575-9405. Or send us e-mail at All responses must include name, address, and daytime phone number. Letters should be no longer than 250 words.


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