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Robert Hatfield

Robert Hatfield is a medical laboratory science student at University of Tennessee Health Science Center. He serves on the Cooper-Young Community Association board of directors and is a member of the Memphis Transit Coalition.

Memphis needs to get on the bus

By Published: May 15, 2019 5:54 PM CT

Public transit has taken a back seat in Memphis for far too long. With Memphis 3.0 promising to build up and not out, now is the time for serious investment in Memphis transit.  Memphis institutions need to make policies that promote bus use and become advocates for the Memphis 3.0 Transit Vision. 

It is time for Memphis’ institutions to get on the bus. 

<strong>Robert Hatfield</strong>

Robert Hatfield

I am a student at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. I challenged myself to ride the bus for a week in February 2018 and by the end of the week, I didn’t want to stop riding. I still ride the bus, and I've discovered that if you live in the right place and are going to the right place, the Memphis Area Transit Authority bus system may work really well for you.

MATA’s use of new technologies of real-time bus tracking and Omnilert messaging make the bus more usable than ever before. Living in Cooper-Young, I discovered how great MATA is for getting to many parts of Midtown, the Medical District, Downtown and even East Memphis. With proximity to several bus routes, I have access to one of the most important components of a usable mass transit system: frequency. 

Several new options have improved mass transit in Memphis. The “Last Mile Problem” for transit users has been remedied, seemingly overnight, with great new amenities like Explore Bike Share and electric scooters. Memphis City Councilman Kemp Conrad realized that shared mobility was a vital piece of our transportation solution and jumped at the opportunity to get scooters to Memphis.

With visionary leadership by Suzanne Carlson at Innovate Memphis, a Shared Mobility Ordinance was drafted, and Memphis made other municipalities look like they are in slow motion with our quick adoption of forward-thinking legislation.

Unfortunately, getting to the last mile is still a problem for many Memphians. Stories of two-hour bus commutes are common and most bus routes run so infrequently that missing a bus connection can require waiting up to two hours for another bus to take you to your destination.

So, what role do our institutions play? They need to lead by example. Every college student in Memphis should have bus access provided by their college or university – just like they get parking. Our hospital systems should encourage employees to take mass transit when good options are available. Our corporations located on decent bus routes, like those Downtown or along Poplar, should adopt equitable policies toward bus ridership versus car ridership.

Huge amounts of land are dedicated to surface parking lots where thousands of cars sit idle all day, but there are still many who claim there is not enough parking. But here is the deal on parking: There will never be enough parking until we change investments and incentives.

If there were enough parking for every person to ride one car to their destination and park for free, so much space would be required that the built environment would suffer significantly.  Urban environments would be created that are not people focused.

Our current urban environment is scarred with the surface parking that remains from previous eras of disinvestment and neglect. It is a wasteful use of space, and space is the defining resource of a healthy urban environment. As we focus on revitalization and density, parking lots will become an even larger detriment to our collective quality of life.

The results of our institutions getting on the bus will be two-fold. Immediately, a percentage of people will realize that they have access to a decent mass transit option. We can start to normalize bus travel for more of our population right now.

Secondly, the benefits of an excellent transit system will touch everyone in a way that nothing else can. Memphis 3.0 Transit Vision, along with the dedicated funding source of $30 million, are necessary for all Memphians' quality of life. We need our institutions to be vocal advocates for great transit. I think we would all do well to remember the quote by Colombian economist Gustavo Petro, who said, “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It's where the rich use public transportation.”

It is time for Memphis’ institutions to get on the bus.

If you are affiliated with an institution and would like to know more about how your organization can get on the bus, please contact info@innovatememphis.com. If you would like to learn more about the Memphis 3.0 Transit Vision plan, please visit memphis3point0.com/transit.

Topics

Memphis 3.0 MATA

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