MATA Official Says Rapid Bus Route Would Improve Whole System

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A Memphis City Council committee Tuesday approved the closure of one lane on Second Street and one on BB King Boulevard as part of the city's first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.


John Lancaster, director of planning and Title VI officer at the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) said that bringing a BRT route to the city would be a “slam dunk.”


The area that the route would serve links the key corridors in the city, Lancaster said. “It would benefit everybody in the city from a transit perspective.”


“This improves the whole network,” Lancaster said. “Of the heart, Poplar and Union are like the main arteries. You improve that and you improve the whole system.” Poplar and Union would be part of the BRT but would not get lane closures. 


John Zeanah, director of the Memphis and Shelby County Division of Planning & Development told the council committee that buses would come every three to four minutes on the route, which would run north and south on Second and BB King, and east and west on Union and Poplar, connecting Downtown to the University of Memphis. 


Zeanah said the buses would use the far-right lanes southbound on Second and and northbound BB King between Union and A.W. Willis.


Councilman Worth Morgan asked how the dedicated lanes would affect traffic, parking, and unloading on the two streets. Zeanah said the transit-only lanes wouldn’t inhibit the on-street parking area and curb parking for unloading on either street.


Morgan also asked how the rules for the new configuration would be enforced in order to keep automobile drivers out of the bus lanes. Zeanah said there would signage and striping on the street signifying the bus-only lanes.


Manny Belen, director of the city’s engineering office, said the locations of the stops along the route haven’t been defined yet and that the city will work with stakeholders along the streets to determine the best place to position stops so that they won’t interfere with business deliveries along the corridor.


Belen adds because the current traffic volume on Second and BB King is below capacity, he doesn’t foresee traffic issues arising with the proposed plan.


The full city council, along with the Tennessee Department of Transportation commissioner must approve the dedicated lane before the plan is implemented.

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