Friday, August 15, 2008


Usually I don't do this, but after I read Friday's story in the Commercial Appeal about MATA having a problem with unruly MCS students at its downtown hub, I was a little perplexed.

A MATA road supervisor apparently ordered several MCS students off a bus, saying they couldn't go to the North End terminal and would have to find an alternate route. MATA representatives had also sent a letter to area schools saying the MCS students were not allowed at the MATA terminal after school because of safety and security concerns.

I'm sympathetic to MATA and its more mature customers' concerns, to a point. Large groups of teenagers anywhere can become loud, unruly, rude, and intimidating.

But if you have a system that filters almost everybody through a central hub, that means teenage riders are going to be filtered through that central hub, too. If you have a system that concentrates people at a central destination, you have to expect that people will concentrate at a central destination.

And under MATA's system, the direct bus route is almost unheard of.

A short trip from Midtown to downtown often means a transfer at the downtown hub.

A trip from Germantown proper to Wolfchase Galleria mall sometimes means a transfer at the downtown hub.

So in my mind, MATA's partly to blame. I'm not saying that all the students are behaving themselves, or getting on the earliest bus they can, but my guess is the reason they're at the downtown terminal in the first place is because they're waiting for a bus.

(Why else would anyone want to go there?)

Not to mention that you can't bar a group of people from using a public service. Luckily MATA seems to realize this. In reporter Jody Callahan's story, MATA spokesperson Alison Burton was quoted as saying that MATA could not prohibit students from using the terminal.

Earlier this year, I collaborated with my colleague John Branston on a story about MATA and how it was handling the opportunity of rising fuel costs. You can read that story here.

But this latest information calls into question something that I continue to wonder about: Who does MATA's system work for?

It doesn't seem to work for people who have other means of transportation, but who might want to take public transit.

I had heard it was designed to get Memphis' working poor to their jobs, but that recently was called into question.

And it doesn't seem to work for students.

Who's left?

And before you answer MATA management, I've heard it doesn't work for them, either.


sherman said...

Fire 'em all, starting at top, with incompetent Hudson. Start all over from scratch.

Polar Doney said...

I'm going to have to side with Sherman on this. MATA sucks.

i'm not sure if you have looked into this, but who are the board members of MATA and what are their backgrounds? Is there much expertise? Do any of them ride MATA?