State of the Stops 

Upgrades to MATA bus stops limited by funding.

Of the 4,200 Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) bus stops in the city, only about 300 — or a little over 7 percent — are equipped with both shelters and seating.

John Lancaster, MATA's director of scheduling and planning, said the number of boards associated with stops is a major criteria in determining where new shelters go.

"We're putting shelters where they are most needed," Lancaster said. "There are very few places that actually merit a shelter."

click to enlarge About 7 percent of stops have shelters and seating. - MATA
  • MATA
  • About 7 percent of stops have shelters and seating.

Lancaster said that 70 percent of the key bus stops seeing more than 25 boards a day have shelter and seating.

But, Sammie Hunter, co-chair of the Memphis Bus Riders' Union (MBRU) and a regular bus rider, said MATA needs to overhaul its stops. Hunter routinely catches the 42 Crosstown, which is MATA's second most popular route, according to the agency's officials. Though the route averages about 2,184 riders per weekday, Hunter said "if you look at the stops along the route, you won't see very many shelters or places to sit."

"People have to stand in the rain and cold," Hunter said. "Sometimes we're tired and still have to wait 20 or 30 minutes at a stop with nowhere to sit down after a long day of work. It can get uncomfortable from time to time."

Using a point system, stop upgrades are prioritized based on factors like number of boards, the demographics of the surrounding neighborhood, and proximity to a medical, civic, or educational building.

Each criteria is assigned a value. For example, if a bus stop averages more than 50 boards on weekdays, then 40 points are awarded.

If a bus stop is a significant transfer point, it is awarded 10 points. The points from each category are then added together and taken into account when prioritizing improvements.

MATA is in the process of making ongoing bus stop improvements totaling $67.8 million, but is "doing it at a trickled pace because we just don't have enough money, manpower, and resources," Lancaster said.

"It's an ongoing process," Lancaster said. "The big thing for all of this is funding."

A basic bus stop with a sign, paved boarding area, street lighting, pavement markings, and sidewalk connection costs between $3,000 to $10,000 without a shelter and up to $20,000 with a shelter. If a real-time display monitor is added, the price rises to between $15,000 and $30,000.

"We would love to have them at all of our stops, but we just don't have the money to do it," Lancaster said. "You can get up to some really, really big numbers pretty quickly."

Lancaster said MATA needs to "grow the pot" with more local funding sources, as local funding is the key to leveraging federal funds.That's where the newly formed Shelby County Ad Hoc Transit Committee comes in, he said.

Comprised of representatives from the city, county, MATA, Innovate Memphis, and the MBRU, the group is exploring dedicated funding source options for the agency.

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