Streetcars and bicycles: Memphis' transportation reforms getting attention

The headline on a piece that ran over the weekend on DC.StreetsBlog shows that some observers are already impressed with Memphis' progress in implementing more sustainable transportation policies: "Who Knew? Memphis on Track to Add 55 Miles of Bike Lanes in Just Two Years." The article itself continues the theme, and gives a lot of the credit to the city's current administration:

It seems nowadays you aren't truly a bike-friendly city until you've had your first civic dust-up over bike lanes. And by that standard, Memphis, Tennessee has arrived.

Last month, this mid-sized Southern city fought back challenges by business owners to install a bike lane on one of its main major commercial thoroughfares, Madison Avenue. That street was just the latest in Mayor A C Wharton's ambitious plan to add 55 miles of bike lanes in just two years.

...

Wharton issued his 55-mile challenge in the summer of 2010, saying the plan "is critical to the livability and health of our city." Since that time, the city has been making laudable strides toward that goal. According to its bike planner, the city now has 30 miles of bike lanes, 70 miles of shared roadways and 40 miles of multi-use paths.

A transportation amenity introduced during the tenure of Mayor Willie Herenton gets a tip of the hat on Twin Cities Daily Planet, in a piece advocating a closer look at streetcars for public transit in North Minneapolis.

Lest we dismiss Toronto's system as a byproduct of the desire to get away from the insane cold and/or Celine Dion music, we can head south to Memphis, Tennessee.  In 1993 they started with a 2.5-mile line downtown.  Since then, another 4.5 miles were added and ridership has gone from 500,000 in 1993 to 1.5 million in 2004.  In Memphis ridership was a mix of workers and recreational users, but contrary to common perceptions about mass transit, ridership was heaviest on Saturdays.  Surveys showed that almost half of the riders could have made the trip by car, but chose streetcars "for the experience."  Eighty-three percent of riders said they did not ordinarily use public transit.  In an interesting contrast to Minneapolis, Memphis streetcars paved the way for a light rail system.

Leave a comment


Type the characters you see in the picture above.