On Smart City Memphis, many of us make things sound easy.  Let’s just build dense, walkable neighborhoods.  Let’s just remove bus fares and make the routes go here or there.  Let’s tear down the rest of the public housing and humanly integrate “those people” into “normal neighborhoods”.  We know why things are messed up, how to make things right and are mad as hell that things aren’t changing faster.

Well, sometimes real life creeps up on you.  Today I was reading A Coordinated Human Services

Transportation Plan for the Memphis Area of 2007 (don’t ask why).  Several facts slapped me in the face and screamed, “SEE, THIS IS REALLY HARD TO FIX AND MAY TAKE A REALLY LONG TIME!”

There are people in the Memphis Metro Area that desperately need transit options.  Depending on which populations are included, this number is somewhere between 70,000 and 430,000 people.  Few of them live close to each other or close to where they need to go.  Few destinations are clustered in a logical way to make any transit option viable other than the personal automobile.  The challenge to serving our residents is far more wide-spread than people realize.  And, we are making decisions about public housing, new neighborhood development and the location of services that may be exacerbating the problem.

What is transit?

Transit covers a lot of bases.  The trolley, city buses, taxicabs, private vans and school buses are some modes most people would recognize.

Who currently uses transit in Memphis?

  1. The elderly and disabled who cannot drive
  2. Low-income residents who cannot afford to own or operate cars
  3. Tourists

Where are the most in-need target populations?

Surprising to me, the regional population of people over 60 years old are the most centrally located.  The greatest concentration is within the 240-Loop but pretty evenly dispersed throughout it.  People with incomes below the poverty level reside largely inside the city limits of Memphis but outside of the 240-Loop.  The population with disabilities is much more spread out across the six-county region.

Where do most transit trips originate?

Trip origins are spread out all over the region.  Origins based on Families First, the Food Stamp program and Medicaid caseloads are concentrated in three locations.

  1. Mainly in the Memphis city limits but outside the 240-Loop
  2. West Memphis
  3. Northern Tipton County

Origins based on elderly and disabled caseloads are concentrated in South Memphis, Fayette County, West Memphis and Desoto County.  The top 60 overall origin points are listed in the table below.




(17 Locations)

Agnes Place -Grove Street, Memphis

Airways Villa – 2305 Pendleton Street, Memphis

Alexmire Apartments – 347 E. McLemore Avenue, Memphis

Alpha Renaissance Apartments – 1471 Genesis, Memphis

Apartments at LaPaloma – 1394 LaPaloma Circle, Memphis

Cane Creek Crossing – 100-114 S, Main Street, Memphis

Cleaborn Homes & Foote Homes – S. Lauderdale, Memphis

College Park – 838 Walker Avenue, Memphis

Frisco Court – 1756 LaPaloma, Memphis

Gastalia Heights – 1999 Carver & 1768 Keltner, Memphis

Knob Hill Apartments -1059 Florida St. Memphis

Parkway Commons – 1524 S. Parkway East, Memphis

Salem Manor – 2220 S. Parkway East, Memphis

The Commons at Brentwood – 640 Aspire Lane, Memphis

Thompson Courts – LaPaloma, Carver, Keltner, Memphis

Turrell Meadows, 67 2nd St. West Memphis

Wellington Place – 1005 S. Wellington, Memphis



(13 Locations)

Chelsea Corridor, Memphis

Elvis Presley Corridor, Memphis

Frayser, Memphis

Hickory Hill, Memphis

Lamar Corridor, Memphis

Midtown, Memphis

Poplar Corridor, Memphis

Raleigh, Memphis

South Memphis within I-240 Loop

Summer Corridor, Memphis

Third Street Corridor, Memphis

U.S. Hwy 51/Thomas Street Corridor, Memphis

Winchester Corridor, Memphis




(30 Locations)

Barry Homes, 255 Lauderdale St. Memphis

Barry Towers – 255 Lauderdale Street, Memphis

Belmont Village of Memphis – 6605 Quail Hollow Road, Memphis

Borda Towers – 21 Neely St. Memphis

Camilla Towers – 256 S. Camilla, Memphis

Carestone at Bartlett – 3345 Kirby Whitten Road, Memphis

Cleaborn Homes – 430 S. Lauderdale St. Memphis

College Park Senior Building – 838 Walker Avenue, Memphis

Ecumenical Village – 217 W. Jackson Ave., West Memphis

Exxum Towers – 3155 Sharp, Memphis

Franklin Park – 3393 Kirby Road, Memphis

Highland Towers – 400 S. Highland, Memphis

Hollywood Senior Center – 1560 N. Hollywood, Memphis

Independent Apartments – 875 Linden Avenue, Memphis

Jefferson Square, 741 Adams Avenue, Memphis

Latham Terrace Senior Housing – 295 E.H. Crump, Memphis

Luther Terrace – 3907 James Road, Memphis

Lutheran Village Condominiums – 3589 Covington Pike, Memphis

Memphis Tower – 1081 Court Avenue, Memphis

The Parkview – 1914 Poplar Avenue, Memphis

The Villas of West Memphis – W. Jackson Avenue, West Memphis

Venson Center – 439 Beale Street, Memphis

Wesley Graceland Gardens – 1430 Graceland Pines, Memphis

Wesley Highland Manor – 3549 Norriswood, Memphis

Wesley Highland Meadows – 3517 Andy Way, Memphis

Wesley Highland Place – 3550 Watauga, Memphis

Wesley Highland Terrace – 366 S. Highland, Memphis

Wesley Meadows -1325 Mclingvale Road, Hernando

Wesley Millington Towers – 5077 Easley Av., Millington

Wesley Stage Park -2779 Battle Creek Drive, Memphis

Where do most transit trips end?

Again, I was surprised by the density maps.  While destinations are spread all over the place, an East Memphis corridor going north to south from Bartlett to Hickory Hill stood out.  As well, the Collierville area had a similar density.  The top sixty destinations are listed in the table below.

Career Centers





Memphis Messick Adult Center

Tennessee Career Center – Somerville, Fayette County

Tennessee Career Center at Memphis – Covington, Tipton County

Tennessee Career Centers – 5 locations in Shelby County

Tennessee Technology Center at Memphis – Alabama Avenue Location

Tennessee Technology Center at Memphis – Tchulahoma Rd Location

William R. Moore College of Technology, Memphis

Cultural and



Downtown Memphis – Various Locations

Graceland, Memphis

Memphis Zoo/Overton Park

Midsouth Coliseum, Liberty Land Park, Liberty Bowl Stadium



Christian Brothers University

Mid-South Community College – West Memphis

Rhodes College

Southern College of Optometry

Southwest Community College- Millington Center, Memphis

Southwest Community College- Somerville, Fayette County

Southwest Community College- Southeast Center, Memphis

Southwest Community College- Whitehaven Center, Memphis

Southwest Community College-Gill Center, Frayser

Southwest Community College-Macon Cove Campus, Memphis

Southwest Community College-Union Avenue Campus, Memphis

University of Memphis

University of Tennessee




County Health Department – Shelby, Tipton, Fayette, Crittenden, DeSoto

Memphis Housing Authority

TN Dept of Human Services – 3rd St. & Mitchell Avenue, Memphis

TN Dept of Human Services – Jackson & Macon Avenue, Memphis

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Memphis Office

Various Non-profit Human Services Advocacy and Supporting Groups

Various Faith-based Human Services Organizations



Baptist Memorial Hospital-Collierville

Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto

Baptist Memorial Hospital-Tipton

Baptist Rehabilitation-Germantown

Crittenden Regional Hospital, West Memphis

Memphis Children’s Clinic – 6 locations

Memphis Health Center-E.H.Crump

Memphis Kidney & Dialysis Service

Methodist Fayette Hospital – Somerville

Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital-Germantown

Methodist North Hospital-Covington pike

Methodist South Hospital -South Memphis

Methodist University Hospital-Union Avenue

Regional Medical Center at Memphis (THE MED)/MEDPLEX

Shelby County Health Loop Clinics – 10 locations

St. Francis Hospital – Kate Bond Rd, Memphis

St. Francis Hospital – Park Avenue, Memphis

St. Francis Hospital – White Station Rd, Memphis

Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Memphis



ALDI – various locations

Kroger Stores – various locations

Pharmacy Stores – various locations

Shopping Malls – various locations

Wal-Mart Stores – various locations



Greyhound Bus Line – Downtown Memphis

MATA American Way Transit Center

Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) North End Terminal

Memphis International Airport

Are we adequately serving people with transit needs?

Despite an extraordinarily wide range of public and private services, the simple answer is, no.

Latent Demand = 222,148

Average Daily Demand = 74,049

Average Daily Served = 25,860

At best we are leaving somewhere between 65% and 85% of the most in-need population unserved.  This is before we talk about including people who might make public transportation a mode of choice.  Not because MATA is dumb.  Not because MHA is bad.  Not because people don’t want transportation options or because options are universally doomed.

This is a hard, long term project because for fifty years we have intentionally built a community that has made it that way.

Today, I simply want to applaud the few people who woke up this morning knowing that they were heading out to try fixing it.