Bar-hopping in Midtown is about to get easier, safer, and cheaper.
A bus route called "The Roo" will connect nightlife hot spots in Overton Square and Cooper-Young, thanks to a new service launching this fall by cab company Premier Transportation Services.
The new vehicle won't be hard to spot, as a giant Kangaroo complete with sunglasses and a martini sits atop the all black bus.
The bus will operate on Thursday evenings from 5 p.m. until midnight, and Friday and Saturday evenings from 5 p.m. until 2 a.m. The 17-person bus will run every 30 minutes and will be wheelchair-accessible. The bus will also feature additional standing room with hand-grips.
Fare will be set at $2. Passengers can board the bus at 10 stops located throughout Overton Square and the Cooper-Young neighborhood. The route begins at the Huey's on Madison and ends at the corner of Cooper and Young. Stops will feature distinct signage to differentiate between the Premier stops and the MATA bus stops. The route will make use of the side street Trimble Place in Overton Square and Union to keep Madison from getting too clogged. The total route will take about 30 minutes to complete.
Ham Smythe, owner of Premier Transportation Services, said that a weekend Midtown bus service is something people have been asking him to start for years.
"For at least three years, there have been people approaching me to do this, so I thought the first thing to do would be to let MATA take a bite at the apple," Smythe said. "MATA didn't see a way to make it feasible, so we decided to take a look at it and see if we could make it work."
Smythe said that the new service will make getting from Cooper-Young to Overton Square much easier and will cut down on people feeling unsafe about walking between the two neighborhoods.
"A good friend of mine was having dinner at Sweet Grass, and he told his wife that it would be great if there was a shuttle that took him from Sweet Grass down to the Playhouse on the Square," Smythe said. "With this new shuttle, you can park in the garage at Overton Square and take it where you want to go. You also don't have to worry about parking multiple times or parking in unsafe neighborhoods."Passengers can track the whereabouts of the bus using the GPS on their smartphones, and the bus will also have a state-of-the-art sound system that Smythe said will play both contemporary and classic Memphis music.
"We love the concept of Memphis musicians making a living as musicians and not as waiters and taxi cab drivers, and if we can find a way to facilitate that, we want to do it" Smyth said. "We are going to be playing all local music, from hip-hop to rock-and-roll. The music will be tailored to the time of night it is. Up until 10 p.m. we will be playing rowdy stuff to get people's engines running, and then after 10 p.m. we will start slowing it down."
Smythe said that if the Midtown bus line is a success, he may add more buses and extend the route.
"If this works in Midtown, we have plans to expand the concept to other parts of town," Smythe said.