TN: MATA to Open Park-and-Ride Lots, Launch New Bus Routes

Aug. 21--Promoting public transportation as a means to get to work or play, the Memphis Area Transit Authority will open the agency's first freestanding park-and-ride lots in the Shelby Farms area and run buses from them to job centers, schools, recreation sites and other destinations, officials said Thursday.

MATA will lease a total of 200 parking spaces in two lots, located at Agricenter International and near the Shelby Farms Greenline, where transit users can park and then ride buses. The lots will serve one existing bus route and three new ones.

The MATA initiatives, costing just over $1 million, were among the projects receiving grants under the federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality program. At a news conference, Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer announced eight grants in Shelby County totaling $3.7 million.

The projects should improve transportation efficiency, reducing traffic congestion and air pollution in the process, said Toks Omishakin, chief of TDOT's Environment and Planning Bureau.

MATA interim general manager Tom Fox said the park-and-ride lots are the agency's first outside of transit centers or bus stations. He said they'll serve an expected increase in demand for public transit as motorists seek to avoid being stuck in traffic.

"Especially with all that construction at I-40 and 240, people will be looking for an option to driving," Fox said.

The Agricenter lot will serve a new bus route called Route 34 Express extending west on Walnut Grove and Union to Downtown. Both park-and-ride lots also will be served by a new route known as the I-40 Corridor Circulator, which is planned to run along secondary roads to Southwest Tennessee Community College, along with other destinations between Sycamore View and Germantown Parkway, Fox said.

On weekends, residents parking at the lots can take the "Shelby Farms Shuttle," a new route extending into the sprawling 4,500-acre Shelby Farms Park.

Fox said it's unclear when the lots and routes will open, but it likely will be after the first of next year.

Other projects for which grants were announced Thursday include $1.66 million in CMAQ funds to the city of Memphis for the bicycle-pedestrian boardwalk across the Harahan Bridge over the Mississippi River and $500,000 to help Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division buy clean-burning, compressed natural gas vehicles. The city also got $610,000 to streamline traffic signals and reduce congestion on Walnut Grove west of I-240.

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