Submitted by Livable Memphis and Innovate Memphis

Memphis is known as a transportation city – a hub for global logistics and a major connector for transportation modes, especially freight. Memphis recognizes that increasing transportation choices for residents and visitors will mean healthier people, friendlier and safer neighborhoods, higher property values and business revenues in walkable communities, shorter commutes with more time for family and leisure, and lower impacts on the environment and climate change.

To realize this vision, Memphis-area organizations are working to expand and modernize our transit, build more bicycle paths and trails (and get everyone using them), create safer sidewalks and crossings in our communities, and overall invest in stronger transportation choices. Our collective goals include increasing transportation and mobility options for everyone and improving reliable transportation access to jobs, especially for low-income workers. The groups and projects moving these efforts forward include the City of Memphis, Mid-South Regional Greenprint 2015/40, Livable Memphis, the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce, Innovate Memphis, Bike Walk Memphis, Revolutions Bicycle Co-op, Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, Memphis Area Transit Authority, and The Works, along with others. The collaborative effort of these groups has resulted in exciting developments for active transportation in the Memphis region, including:

  • A Complete Streets Project Delivery Manual for the City of Memphis

  • A growing regional trail network, including the Big River Crossing of the Mississippi River

  • National recognition of local and regional leaders expanding the bicycle and pedestrian network and increasing trips made by bicycling, walking, and transit

Despite this, we acknowledge there is plenty of room to grow. Fewer than eight percent of workers commute using transit, bikes, walking, and working from home combined, while 79 percent drive to work, and another 13 percent carpool. Transportation and housing costs are 52 percent of typical household income, higher than the national livability target of 45 percent. Memphis has grown to cover 315 square miles, with steady population de-centralization and annexation. This car-dependent population has been ranked “fattest in the nation” by several national news outlets.

Providing transit service and maintaining transportation infrastructure across the Memphis landscape is challenging. The Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) has no dedicated funding source and has seen service cuts and maintenance issues as a result. Many see transit as a choice of last resort and rarely, if ever, ride the bus.

Similar issues affect bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure – sidewalks, crosswalks, and paths. It’s common to see people using wheelchairs in the street, as they face physical barriers on the vast majority of our sidewalks. Past land use decisions have left popular destinations and economic opportunities dispersed across the city rather than in a central core, with business doorways separated by parking lots and dangerous roadways. As such, many city leaders have identified household transportation and its costs as a barrier to greater prosperity.

Thanks to increased commitment and investment in bike lanes, bicycle commuting doubled from 2010 to 2012. MATA is working hard to improve its performance and attract new riders. Community interest in expanded transportation choices is growing.

Interested in getting involved in creating a better transportation future? There are lots of ways you can participate:

  • Take the bus, ride a bike, and walk to work and in your community, and invite others to join you.

  • Start a walking group or weekly bike ride and blog about it. Popular fitness apps can be used to track group achievements and even generate competition.

  • Join and support organizations working on transportation, like Revolutions Bicycle Co-opLivable Memphis, Bike Walk Memphis, and others.

  • Stay updated and participate in plans and projects through public agencies like MATA, the Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability.

  • Contact and keep in touch with your City Council and County Commission members and tell them you support transit, and ask them to fully fund transit service for your neighborhood.

  • Use Memphis’s 311 system to alert city departments to maintenance needs in your neighborhood, such as broken sidewalks and unsafe crossings by schools.

Additional Resources

Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA)

Real-time MATA Bus Location Information

Mid-South Greenprint

City of Memphis Bicycle-Pedestrian Program

Explore Bike Share

Revolutions Bicycle Co-Op