Monday, June 30, 2008


One of the sessions at last Saturday's Summit for Neighborhood Leaders put on by the Coalition for Livable Communities (more on that later) was entitled "From Here to There: Getting to Work Using Public Transportation."

Not to beat a dead horse, but I've heard (I think directly from MATA pres Will Hudson's mouth) that MATA's system was designed to get poorer workers to their jobs. This was several years ago, and I was asking if a grid system could better serve the larger general population.

After hearing his explanation of the system, I thought, well, okay, they're trying to serve their current market. It's a market that relies and depends on public transportation, so if serving those people — and serving them well — is their mission, I can understand that.

But findings presented Saturday by the Memphis Area Women's Council put that in question.

Deborah Clubb, executive director of the Memphis Area Women's Council, said that transportation was one of the main barriers to employment among the women they surveyed.

"One thing we heard over and over was that using public transportation to get where they need to go was difficult and often impossible," Clubb said.

For example, Clubb related the example of downtown hotel workers who, if they got caught up at work after their shift, would miss the last bus of the night and have to walk home.

Karla Davis of Urban Strategies Memphis HOPE helps the former residents of Lamar Terrace and Dixie Homes work toward self-sufficiency. But Urban Strategies has to hire private transportation to get those families to whatever program they are enrolled in.

"It would be so helpful if there was a public transportation system they could use," Davis said.

Which leaves me wondering, just who is MATA's system designed for?

Does it work well for anybody?

Maybe a full system redesign is in order?

We have one of the leading logistics companies in the world here; maybe they could help come up with something?

In the short term, the women's council is proposing a pilot project in Frayser that would use a mini-hub and community based routing.

They also have an interesting idea to use day care vans. Mothers and their children would both board the day care van. After the children are dropped off, mothers would be taken to a MATA hub. I don't know how feasible it is, but it makes a lot more sense than those alarms to remind drivers to make sure all the kids are off the bus.