Memphis Plans Major Bus System Improvements

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Memphis Plans Major Bus System Improvements

Plus, the EU chips in for a tram expansion, and more in our weekly New Starts.

Memphis Area Transit Authority bus (Photo by Thomas R. Machnitzki)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Memphis Gears Up for Massive Bus System Expansion
The Memphis Area Transit Authority is taking the first step down the road to a major expansion of service on its bus system that could begin as early as 2019 — if it can make the case for the additional funding needed to pay for it.

Making that case is the purpose of the transit vision plan MATA will put together starting next month. The Commercial Appeal reports that the plan envisions 200,000 additional hours of bus service starting in July 2019 if the MATA board and the Memphis City Council approve. The added service could dramatically reduce long waits for buses, which in turn could lead to increased employment and educational opportunities.

Adding all this service would cost MATA an additional $30 million per year, however, in addition to the capital cost of acquiring new buses. MATA CEO Gary Rosenfeld told City Council members that this would require a dedicated funding source. A recently enacted state infrastructure funding bill offers some options the city could pursue, such as a surcharge on rental cars.

In order to pursue those options, however, the vision plan must be created first. That process will start with a Sept. 25 conference of stakeholders, followed by a planners’ conference in October and a series of public meetings after that. MATA seeks to submit the plan to its board and the City Council in January or February 2018.

EU Chips in for Tram Improvements in Riga
Riga, the capital and largest city in the Baltic republic of Latvia, will get an improved and expanded tram system with assistance from the European Union.

Riga tram (Photo by Lvova Anastasiya)

A European Commission news announcement notes that more than 65.5 million euros ($78.9 million U.S.) from the EU’s Cohesion Fund will go toward modernization and extension of the Riga tram network. The new tram line will connect the fast-growing neighborhood of Skanska, near the city center, with the main transport hubs central railway station, the bus terminal and the Freeport (the port). The funding also allows for the purchase of 12 additional tram cars to ensure a minimum 10-minute service frequency on the enlarged system. “Traffic will be smoother, air quality will be better and residents and tourists alike will enjoy a fast ride through the city,” EU Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu said.

The Cohesion Fund supports transportation and environmental projects in many EU member states.

New Metro Extension, Not Yet Complete, Opens in Shiraz
A new, 10.5-km (6.5-mile) extension of Metro Line 1 in the Iranian city of Shiraz opened for service on Aug. 22, the International Railway Journal reports.

Iran’s minister of state, Abdulreza Rahmani Fazli, was on hand for the opening.

The line runs southeast from Vali-e Asr to Shahid Dastgheyb, but only two of the line’s seven intermediate stations are open to passengers at present.

Work on the Shiraz Metro’s first line began in 2001. The initial segment from Ehsan to Namazi opened in 2014. Work on the second line is now underway.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

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Tags: transportation spendingcommutingbuses

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