Long Road Ahead for City to Get Green Cred

Monday, July 30, 2012, Vol. 127, No. 147

Green is complex, we are finding out. It also has some of the same economic factors to consider that non-green undertakings do.

Some who are deeply involved in what others might argue are green initiatives don’t necessarily see it that way.

For some “sustainability” is a better way of getting a handle on the specifics of what began not too long ago as non-specific “green” ideas. That might be the right way of illustrating how those ideas have become more complex as they have become more specific.

The price of gas would have to reach $6.12 a gallon before Memphians who have a car would consider riding a bus instead, according to a scientific poll commissioned by the local Office of Planning and Development for the 2010 Sustainable Shelby report.

The threshold for considering carpooling was under $5 a gallon.

A city that is sprouting bicycle lanes and greenline connections at a political growth rate that is the equivalent of kudzu needs a bus system that is aimed squarely at the commutes to and from work first and foremost. A bus system for those who have no other way to get to work and a bus system for those who choose to leave the car at home or parked somewhere should cease to be mutually exclusive undertakings.

And this is where this becomes more complex.

It was back in December that the Memphis Area Transit Authority released ever so timidly its first steps toward the concept of bus rapid transit – called BRT in mass transit circles.

The 22 Poplar Express Route was a straight shot with fewer stops needed in a move toward that kind of coexistence between those who have to ride MATA and those who might choose to ride MATA. Another BRT route on Elvis Presley Boulevard has federal funding that will include traffic signals for the buses that will help them to move somewhere closer to the amount of time it takes to drive a distance in a car. And MATA continues to study some new Midtown routes and times that could at last acknowledge that Midtown functions on a different schedule than other parts of town.

But next month, the 22 Poplar Express route will go off the schedule – given the ax by the MATA board because not enough people rode it. And not enough people rode it because not enough people knew about it. There was more promotion for the trolley system and the high ozone days when MATA dropped bus fare to a quarter.

Bus Rapid Transit took a serious hit to its credibility with this sad chapter that should have been foreseen.

Get the bus system right and other possibilities begin to present themselves for a city that can move long distances regardless of the weather without a car being the only option.

But we have to know about them first.