Opinion » Letter From The Editor

The Museum of Terrible Ideas

Water taxis are the latest in a long series of misguided proposals.

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A couple years ago, Flyer writer Chris Davis wrote a funny piece about Beale Street Landing, suggesting that it would be a great place to house the "Museum of Terrible Ideas." I guess there was something about the giant corkscrew boat-landing ramp and the Lego-colored elevator shaft — and the long-delayed project's $40 million price tag — that led him to make that suggestion.

Now that it's built, I have nothing against Beale Street Landing. It's a nice facility with great river views and a decent little restaurant. The Flyer even held its Best of Memphis party there last fall. So I guess the Museum of Terrible Ideas will have to find another home.

Maybe the Mid-South Coliseum could house the MTI. It's certainly big enough, and it's in the center of another possibly terrible idea — the Fairgrounds TMZ — a top-down project with few supporters outside of city hall.

Think of the possibities: There could be an exhibit showing how the feds once tried to put a freeway through the middle of one of the city's great historic neighborhoods, a project that would have destroyed Midtown, the Sears Building project, Overton Park, and the Memphis Zoo. There could be an exhibit showing the thwarted plans to destroy the historic buildings of Overton Square and put in a low-end grocery store. There could be a section devoted to all our dead malls; a section honoring the former Airport Authority for its deft negotiations with Delta Airlines. Hell, there could be a whole wing dedicated to the terrible ideas of Senator Brian Kelsey.

And now there's a new terrible idea that's being, er, floated: water taxis. The Riverfront Development Corporation has ponied up $200,000, and gotten the feds to ante up $800,000, for a study on the feasibility of water taxis that would "ferry people from Bass Pro to Beale Street Landing and Mud Island."

A 2013 report states: "Taxis are currently imagined as traipsing up and down the Wolf River Harbor, but the only water taxi that is likely to be effective at attracting people to Mud Island will be one that functions like a bridge, free of charge, zipping back and forth across the channel, always in sight, and never more than a few minutes away."

This presumes that there are people who want to get to the tip of Mud Island. And that you can "zip" around the harbor. Both are out-of-town-concocted fantasies.

I have a little boat that's docked in the Wolf River Harbor. It's a no-wake zone, limiting boats to a speed that a casual jogger can easily surpass. If you speed up, you get ticketed by the harbor patrol, and you provoke the Asian carp to start jumping. There are kayakers and canoeists and fishermen in small jon boats. You can't zip. A no-wake trip from Bass Pro to Beale Street Landing would take 20 minutes.

If water taxis were a good idea, someone would have started a water taxi business. It is, in fact, a terrible idea and the MTI should start clearing space now for its water taxi exhibit.

Here's a good idea: Get the damn trolleys running before May, when Music Fest starts and Bass Pro opens and the Grizzlies are in the playoffs. Call 'em "land taxis" if it makes you feel better.

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