MATA Takes The Car-Free Challenge

TOM FOX – MATA INTERIM GENERAL MANAGER

I committed 15 days of the month of April to the car free challenge.  I started on April 4 and since that time I have completed 12 days in which I only traveled by bus, trolley, bike or shared ride.  I have ridden 11 buses and 2 trolleys and made 14 bike trips so far.

As a MATA employee I make it a point to ride the bus occasionally, but this month has been more frequent.  Since I work in the office, I usually only hear about a rider’s experience if it is a bad one.  My actual experiences on the bus were pleasant and uneventful.  I found the operators to be very professional and in many cases very friendly toward their passengers.  My buses were generally on time, and, if late, were not so late as to create a problem.  I was not late for any business obligations while taking the bus.

The time not spent driving gave me extra time to catch up on e-mails and read on-line newsletters about public transportation around the country.  I learned firsthand from riders and operators the importance of good transfer connections along the #42-Crosstown route (the one I rode most frequently) since it connects with major routes on Chelsea, Jackson, North Parkway, Poplar, Lamar, McLemore and other east-west streets.

bike at walgreens - poplar prescottBike racks on buses worked fine for me.  A bike rider who boarded after me reported a malfunctioning clamp so the operator (correctly) allowed him to bring his bike on board the bus.  The transit signal priority system on Poplar Avenue is working as advertised.  On my trip between Cleveland Street and Highland Street the bus made 12 of 16 green lights.  My greatest frustration is the fact that the smart bus technology is not fully functional on every bus all the time.  MATA is working on fixing the remaining glitches.

My bike rides have also been uneventful.  Before this month my bike rides have been almost exclusively for recreation or exercise.  This month I can say that all the trips I made by bicycle were trips that I would have ordinarily made by car.  I finally mastered how to lock and unlock my bike.  I also found out that it can be hard to find a pole or railing to attach a bike to at a business (need more bike racks).  I also noted the build-up of trash in the bike lanes in some locations, most notably on Chelsea Avenue.

These experiences have convinced me that I can and should do more in the future to reduce drive-alone car trips.

NIKETA REED – MATA MARKETING MANAGER

Think about the last time you were driving to work. Who was in the car with you? Were other drivers on the road alone in their cars too? Do you know how the HOV lanes work? An average of 40 cars can be taken off the road with one 40-foot bus. Likewise, carpooling can take another 3 to 4 cars off the road. As MATA employees, our first thought for going “Car-Free” is naturally to take the bus, but there is a great benefit in carpooling with our co-workers.

Bus ride commutes were easy to arrange for the week; many of us ride the bus and/or trolley frequently and advocate for public transportation on a regular basis. Carpooling takes a bit of planning. Every department spent a little time mapping out and grouping together co-workers who lived close to one another for a sensible commute. Needless to say, we got to know each other better!

To build on the Car-Free Memphis Challenge, MATA posed a “Selfie Challenge” to share our experiences and involve our ridership. For every “selfie” photo taken at a MATA facility, bus/trolley stop, and on a bus/trolley, we entered the rider’s name into a drawing to win a 31-Day Fastpass.

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On behalf of MATA employees, I extend gratitude and joy in seeing this community event unfold with such effort, enthusiasm, and heart. It is our hope that public transportation grows to become a viable commuting alternative in walkable and bike-friendly communities across the city.

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