Give Memphis a Lift

By Dan Conaway

CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE. Rather than walking a mile in other people’s shoes, try riding a mile on their bus.

From where I’m sitting, basically Poplar Plaza, to, say, those new jobs at Electrolux is anywhere from an hour and 35 minutes to two hours and 20 minutes with 75 to 116 stops on three buses – with a nice little half-mile stroll built-in.

If you land one of those entry-level jobs at the new Conduit Global call center in Goodlett Farms, that’s about an hour and a half with 41 stops on two buses – and a two-mile walk coming and going.

If I’m going to the FedEx Hub to sort, it’s about an hour and only 29 stops – but that doesn’t matter since the buses don’t run past 10 or 11.

Go to the MATA website and try it, map a route from anywhere to anywhere.

“Getting jobs isn’t it,” Jay Martin said, “it’s getting them to the job.” He’s talking about the young people in the Technical Training Center he and his company, Juice Plus, built for the Boys and Girls Clubs. They turn out about 70 graduates at a time in three disciplines – culinary, logistics and automotive care – and they place 100 percent of them.

Of the 70, two may have transportation, and that’s shared with family, so Jay has to serve as a driving force in more ways than one. “We could easily triple placements if we could figure out how to get them to work.”

They can’t get to the kitchens or the tables out front. They can’t get to the warehouses and sorting facilities. They can’t get to the garages full of the fleets they could fix because they don’t have the wheels.

It’s a sad irony when a city known for getting things from A to B and all the way to Z all around the world by tomorrow morning can’t figure out a reliable way to get people to work this morning.

I’m not asking government to go down this road – they have plenty enough potholes they haven’t fixed already. I’m not asking politically appointed, politically correct task forces for a master plan – we have plenty enough stacked in forgotten corners already. I’m not asking MATA – something that massive is just too hard to move.

I’m asking private business to do what they do every day to thrive – get creative in your own self-interest.

Pay your people to carpool. Give the driver a per hour bump based on number of passengers. Get HR to identify and map employees, and match the findings to those with cars and recruit them. If mapping identifies employee concentrations, consider a small fleet or a bus or two, and recruit and train your own people to drive those vehicles for extra income a month or two a year.


Whatever works, because this isn’t working.

Whatever the cost, you’re losing busloads more in lost hours and productivity every day, and a willing work force is losing hope.

I’m a Memphian, and I need a lift.

Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at