Starting Sunday, April 2, the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) will introduce three new fixed bus routes and implement several timing and frequency changes to existing routes.
The new routes to Shelby Farms, IKEA Way, and Memphis International Airport and the multiple existing route tweaks account for an estimated $500,000 worth of service additions.
In the case of the new routes, MATA received a boost from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ), a federal program that aides local public transit entities in implementing projects that aim to reduce traffic congestion and increase air quality.
According to MATA's planning and scheduling director, John Lancaster, CMAQ funding can only be allocated to new bus routes. With this stipulation and the recent boost in employment opportunities along the I-40 corridor in East Memphis, Lancaster feels that IKEA Way 44 makes sense.
"The 44 completes the network to an area that has seen a lot of job growth," said Lancaster, who pointed out that in addition to IKEA, the route also serves as a conduit to densely populated apartment complexes in East Memphis and multiple call centers located on Appling Farms.
Though job growth along I-40 has been significant, the bulk of the CMAQ assistance will go to the new Airport Shuttle 64, which will link the American Way Transit Center, Memphis International Airport, and by extension the FedEx Super Hub.
The 64 was included in MATA's 2012 Short Range Transit Plan, and like the IKEA Way Route, Lancaster points again to job access.
"That's the big picture of all the CMAQ routes," said Lancaster. "The emphasis is connecting jobs and employment to people."
The Shelby Farms route, 47, stands out as the exception in the CMAQ routes in terms of job access, but Lancaster said the route was in the works for quite some time, as the massive urban park contacted MATA a few years ago to request service with the hope that it would alleviate traffic congestion and the associated air pollution.
"Because of the park's emphasis on environment and sustainability, they see that as a way to alleviate congestion," said Lancaster.
The 47 will only run on weekends, when the park sees its highest number of visitors.
April 2 will also see changes to some existing routes, including modified trip times on the Crosstown 42 that will ideally improve arrival and departure times.
The full summary of service changes can be found here.
To promote the new routes, MATA is partnering with Neosoulville to showcase spoken word poetry at the William Hudson Transit Center in Downtown, Memphis.
The poetry slams are free to attend and will take place every afternoon from 2-5:00 p.m. from March 29-31. The Chinese Connection Dub Industry will pair their music with spoken word.