Thursday, April 12, 2007

Locating a Downtown Grocery Store

When I first read this Memphis Daily News article, I thought that they were talking about making the proposed grocery store at Auction and Seventh the fabled Downtown grocery. On second reading, it sounds like an Uptown project, specifically designed for the Uptown neighborhood. Nothing wrong with a neighborhood grocery store, especially if they build it to New Urbanist design standards.

As pointed out by my friend Justin in an offline conversation, here's the problem with that being the Downtown grocery store.

A six block walk from the trolley means that most downtown residents, who probably own a car, would drive to this grocery store rather than walk. They're driving now, so this location wouldn't change their experience, only the amount of time they spend in the car getting to the store.

Here's a picture of Downtown/Medical Center/Crosstown. The trolley line's in green, surrounded by an approximate 3 block border in white. (I chose 3 blocks as a not unreasonable amount to walk with a few bags of groceries).

There are lots of places to put a grocery store that downtownies could get to without burning fossil fuels.

By building the grocery store within walking distance of the trolley, we add to the special experience for Downtown residents and visitors. It's this experience that many people want when they move or visit downtown. It's this experience that we should consider with every major project that happens Downtown.

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Anonymous Sherman said...

You're logic is right if--and it's a big if--MATA actually ran an efficient trolley system. After trying to use the trolley for (relatively) efficient downtown transportation for approximately a year, I have found the trolley to be no more efficient or reliable than Memphis' pathetic taxi system. One can usually walk faster to a destination than the actual wait for a trolley and the ensuing trolley ride.

In order for the trolley to be effective transportation, then 1) at least one more, preferably 2, trolleys need to be added to the downtown loop; 2) the trolleys need to run later at night 7 days a week (I still can't figure out what their relatively early shutdown late night policy is for the loop run); 3) the trolleys need to quit the unusual practice of stopping for 5-10 minutes at the corner of S. Main/G.E. Patterson each time they circle the downtown loop. (Why they do this is beyond me...sometimes it's just for the driver to catch a beverage at the Arcade or a smoke break...other times it seems to be their goal to stay behind on their unspoken schedule--whatever that may be!).

In a word, all of these inefficiencies could be addressed by a normal, well-run public transporation authority that actually used/and or tested their product occasionally. However, I fear that until and unless this organization receives a massive overhaul (Is one coming? Has anything ever changed for the better in my lifetime in Memphis' public transporation? Answer: I doubt it and no...), there will be no correction to these inefficiencies. Therefore your otherwise intelligent theory concerning using the trolley to shop downtown lacks the integral follow-through necessary from the city for decreasing the need for residents to use vehicles and enhancing the efficiencies of being able to shop with the aid of public transportation.

While it may have been ok to wait for the trolley in the '20s or '30s for 20-30 minutes (each way, today it is almost an hour of waiting just to get to a destination, not including the ambling ride), current residents will not wait this long when they can drive the same distance in 10 minutes roundtrip (Actually, back then there were far more shops downtown to choose from that people could actually walk to, so it is a moot point, but the bigger picture is that MATA is not efficient transportation downtown--or anywhere in Memphis).

6:00 PM  
Anonymous sherman said...

Let me add that my despair that anything will ever change at MATA comes straight from the (lack of visionary leadership at the) top. Check out the quips the boss at MATA has for a very specific problem MATA has created, brought to their attention by Memphis drivers' accidents caused by MATA's poorly designed trolley tracks:

MATA trolley tracks create dangerous, slippery streets to drive on. MATA has left large crevices between the track and the street, making it difficult to drive on any street where their tracks lay (check out the empty spaces on the tracks on south main!)--let alone a bicycle or motorcycle--even in dry weather.

And what is this ceo's ignorant response: Drive in the other lanes. No effort to solve the problem they created. Blame the citizens!

This is the type of can't-do leadership & bureacracy that permeates Memphis city government and keeps Memphis sucking in the '70s. Were this person my charge, I would have fired him for such stupid comments. Check that. I would have fired him long ago. Our tax dollars at work.

8:05 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

Sherman, the special experience does require an efficient trolley. They have to improve trolley service.

a. MATA has to start eating their own dog food -- their executive's actually riding it regularly to actually do something. It should be a requirement of all salaried MATA executives to ride MATA to, from and during work. Of course, it's possible that they're so brain dead that they won't notice, but there's a better chance of noticing when it's under your butt.

b. perhaps more realistically in the short term, people of authority outside of MATA -- I'm thinking specifically of Jeff Sanford of the CCC and Kevin Kane of the CVB -- with responsibility for the downtown experience should pressure MATA for the improvements you're talking about. Maybe I'm missing something, but many seemingly influential people's jobs and missions are f'ed up by dysfunctionality from other quarters, yet there is silence. They don't have to call the other guys names, but they can say publicly that the inefficiencies are creating real problems in promoting Memphis as a residence and a travel destination. Maybe the silence is omerta, a code amongst Memphis' leadership class to speak no ill of their brethren; or it could be another case of not eating their own dog food -- not experiencing what tourists and residents experience, so they end up being oblivious about major sinkholes in the Downtown Memphis experience; or it could be a complete lack of vision for any kind of special experience for Downtown.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous sherman said...

In the immortal words of Digital Underground, "the answer is D, all of the above."

11:57 PM  
Anonymous sherman said...

P.S. If and when they do fire this chump, they should advertise in Craig's List Amsterdam because those folks know how to run some public transportation on time. (Sorry I can't do the fancy links to me out, Gates)

12:01 AM  
Blogger urbanplanetmemphis said...

i heard from a realtor yesterday that the grocery store was going to be located in the lincoln american building at main & jefferson...???

any corroboration for this? any truth to the rumor?

1:38 PM  
Blogger mike said...

MATA President Willie Hudson is a childhood friend of the mayor. It's been evident for years, at least to me as a regular user of MATA, that it exists as an afterthought at best and sometimes as a way to entice Federal dollars into the local construction industry and to bolster redevelopment plans for the downtown.

Putting the North End Terminal at the westernmost point of a large rectangle of service? Have you ever had to stand for an hour under the large barnroof waiting on a cold, windy, rainy day?

And please don't get me started on the trolley. It was a boondoggle from Day One. They disgorge their passengers along Madison in the middle of the street, on a raised concrete island with no steps down to street level. The logical entrance zone to the trolleys is blocked by the wheelchair apparatus.

They require a City subsidy of a couple of million dollars that the Federal government will stop re-imbursing next year. Service will, of course, be cut back to compensate.

MATA gives the idea of incompetency a new standard to reach.

3:15 PM  

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