Of Buses and Bikes
I finally took a bus. For years, I’ve been saying that I need to try out the city’s bus system — both since I occasionally cover MATA in my job as a Memphis Flyer reporter and because learning to use the bus system is a good skill to have.
Last week, I hopped on the Poplar 50 bus near my house in Crosstown and rode to the North End Terminal, and then I transferred to the Levi 12 bus to get the rest of the way to my office near South Bluffs. The bus rides were sort of relaxing.
But the experience wasn’t without a few problems. For one, the Levi 12 bus only runs once an hour, and the wait between my Poplar 50 bus dropping me off is about 15 to 20 minutes, making my entire commute an hour-long affair. I can drive to work in less than 15 minutes.
On the first day I rode the bus, I decided a pit stop in the terminal’s restrooms might be a good idea.
Wrong. Every single toilet in the women’s restroom was dirty. And we’re not talking about “gas station” dirty. We’re talking “porta-potty” dirty. I actually had to walk across the street to the Shell station to use their public restroom, which was surprisingly far cleaner than MATA’s bathrooms.
Since that first day, my bus-riding experiences have gone off without a hitch though. And I was happy to learn that I can bus from my home to the Broad Avenue Arts District, where I most often hang out, in a straight shot on one bus.
It would be nice, though, if MATA had an app. The MATA Traveler mobile site hasn’t worked well for me, so I’ve had to look up routes on the main MATA website, which isn’t designed for mobile phones. It works, but it’s not user-friendly.
On a few days, I’ve had little choice but to drive my car for work appointments and such. It’s nearly impossible to commute across town in a timely manner on a bus or bike.
But my mode of transit of choice this month has been my trusty Electra ladies’ cruiser. I typically take the North Parkway bike lanes downtown and then bike the rest of the way to work on the Main Street Mall.
The mall is relatively quiet in the mornings, but in the afternoons, it’s a bustling testament to everything great about Memphis in the spring — workers enjoying happy-hour cocktails on patios, Blue Suede Brigade members directing tourists to Beale Street, downtowners walking their dogs, other cyclists passing me by, skateboarders riding near City Hall, you name it.
In all my days cycling this month, I’ve only had one negative experience. While biking along Manassas near the city of Memphis public works/engineering department, a man driving a city of Memphis vehicle honked his horn at me and motioned for me to get on the sidewalk. I was a little perturbed that a city employee, of all people, didn’t know that I was legally allowed to be riding in the street.
I actually do ride on the sidewalks along busy streets that don’t have bike lanes, such as Poplar and Union, but Manassas is a side street with light traffic. And this driver had plenty of room to go around me.
But one negative experience in almost 20 days of cycling isn’t half-bad. And while MATA might need to hire a few more janitors at the terminal, at least the bus rides and bus drivers have been overwhelmingly pleasant.