Newbie's Take on MATA
I am new to Memphis and a huge proponent of public transportation, so why have I yet to set foot on MATA (In the Bluff, January 14th issue)? Convenience and my own laziness.
I voluntarily went carless for four years while living in Washington, D.C., (easy) and Colorado Springs (not as easy, but possible). I could always get where I wanted to go — be it work or play — with a little planning. I believe that MATA is taking the right steps with FastPass and Smart Bus technologies and that I may be able to go carless here in Memphis. And that's a great thing.
Why should we get out of our cars? 1) Traffic: Memphis doesn't have real traffic yet, but it will if we don't make smart decisions. Building more roads is an ineffective and ever more expensive band-aid that never solves the problem. Just ask L.A. 2) Expense: Compare a $50 monthly bus pass to car payments, registration, insurance, maintenance, parking, and gas. 3) Community: Taking the bus or train regularly meant that I met my neighbors and knew my local businesses. I also got to know the drivers and other regular riders, at least by face. You miss a lot, zooming along behind the wheel. 4) Health: More walking equals better fitness. I also had less stress by exercising regularly and letting someone else do the driving. The health of our environment gets a boost through reduced air emissions, and we all benefit by lower dependence on fossil fuels. Keep going, MATA!
Maybe I don't know a lot about how this stuff works, but isn't the problem with Overton Square — and a lot of Memphis in general — due to greedy landlords? Isn't it true that if someone has a vacant property, they can write it off for taxes, making it just as profitable for them to let it sit vacant than to lease it?
Why can't they keep the rents low enough so that people who live in the area can afford to own businesses? People who own businesses are more likely to take pride in themselves and their neighborhoods. I personally would rather see a bunch of eclectic mom-and-pop businesses than a big corporate grocery store in my neighborhood. This is how you build communities.
It's too bad we don't have squatters' rights, like they do in parts of Europe. You leave your building vacant for too long, and someone can legally occupy it. Wouldn't it be great if we could take our neighborhoods back from landlords who just want to sell it all to some big corporation? Wouldn't Memphis be a much more beautiful place if we had had the foresight to save our beautiful old buildings from the "urban renewal" of the 1970s and 1980s? If we're not careful, Midtown will get turned into another Wolfchase area, which is the next Hickory Hill.
What We Need
After reading Sonya Baskerville's letter to the editor (January 14th issue), I felt a response was needed. While I am glad she returns "home" for the holidays, she apparently has been gone way too long and has not been able to experience all that Memphis has to offer. And this is just in the way of restaurants.
A Trader Joe's would be a great addition to Midtown — as would any grocery store, really. We do, however, have Whole Foods and Fresh Market, so a Trader Joe's is not that farfetched for us Memphians who apparently need a "taste of something different in their own homes."
Memphis has as good a selection of ethnic cuisine as any city I have visited. In fact, my choices of restaurants include Blue Fin for sushi, Pho Vietnam for Vietnamese, and Rio Loco for Mexican. We also have Bhan Thai and Bangkok Alley, India Palace, Abyssinia for Ethiopian, Bari for Italian, and there is so much more. Memphis isn't just barbecue and Southern-style cooking anymore.
As far as an Anthropologie store, if we had one, great. We don't, but I am sure we will survive. Memphis has many great eclectic and stylish shops.