South Main businesses hurting without trolleys

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- It could be a while before the street cars come back to Memphis, even though MATA promised some would be running by the end of the year.

Business owners in South Main are upset, saying fewer people are coming to their neighborhood since the trolleys stopped running. It's forcing stores to close and sales to drop.

Friday, South Main still held its "Trolley Night" where businesses stayed open late, and vendors and musicians lined the sidewalks - all centered around the trolley tracks.

Some people who went to the event said the turnout was smaller than past Trolley Nights.

"Nobody down here realized the effect it had until they stopped running," said Mark Parsell, organizer of Trolley Night.

Real 2 Reel Photograhy owner David Bunk said not as many tourists are coming to the artsy neighborhood.

"The number of walkers coming by, especially tourists, is diminishing, and it's down dramatically," Bunker said.

He said it's forced two art galleries to close.

After hearing the trolleys aren't coming back anytime soon, he's concerned.

"We just don't want to have to downsize, lay people off, and we don't want to offer less to our customers," Bunker said.

MATA said one million people hop on a trolley every year.

It implemented seven green hybrid buses to run the same routes, but 40 percent less people are riding them.

"There were a lot of people who ride the trolleys and see the businesses and would stop," said Cherie Lamb, owner of Cafe Pontotoc.

She opened the restaurant just days after the trolleys were pulled from the tracks, and says business isn't what it should be.

"It has affected the entire street," Lamb said.

"It's costing more money having less people. It's been hitting everyone's pocketbooks if it hasn't already hit it," Bunker said.

MATA said it has $6 million on the bank, and is bringing three cost analysts in October 6. It will have a better idea then how much the trolleys will cost to put back on the tracks.

The American Public Transportation Association said MATA failed in almost every category from its safety guidelines, to training, to repairs and maintenance.

The group advised MATA shut things down, warning that other trolleys "could catch fire at any given moment."

MATA officials responded to the report, saying "We will not do anything to compromise safety. We are going to have new standards for maintaining the vehicles, new standards in training and new standards in documentation."

3 comments

  • scooby do

    This paragraph is so indicative of Memphis. The run it into the ground mentality. The money that should have been used to keep the trolleys running was siphoned off into the pockets of cronies of the mayor and city council or just wasted on nonessentials. Most of Memphis problems are self inflicted. This mayor and city council has to go for there to be any hope of things getting better.

    “American Public Transportation Association said MATA failed in almost every category from its safety guidelines, to training, to repairs and maintenance.”

  • John G

    Yes typical of MATA and the Mayor and City Council do they expect us to believe that they did not know about this before the fires they have been just waiting for an excuse to shove more taxes down our throats for all the money they have wasted and possibly pilfered over the past years.

  • kevin

    Get them back on the tracks! It’s not just South Main being impacted. I run into tourists all over Memphis who are disappointed when they find out the trolleys aren’t running. Sometimes they are standing at a stop not realizing the trolley isn’t coming until I let them know. And even then we look pretty stupid as a city in that we had to shudown the entire system. Nothing fun or nostalgic about riding a bus. Visitors are now just settling for whatever is in walking distace. Stop hiring more consultants and get them back on the tracks!

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