Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Trolley Folly

I meant to get to this a while back, but it got lost under a pile of paperwork on the desk.

The week following the Memphis Flyer story about the Madison Trolley, the Commercial Appeal produced their own story to counter it. Where John Branston of the Flyer found much to be desired, the CA story comes across more as eager spin.

Fortunately, Callahan had access to numbers for us to crunch. He reports 35,631 riders on the full trolley line (the north-south Main Street line and the east-west Madison Avenue line) for the first month of operations. But he reports that for the last three weeks of that period there were only 19,627 riders. So, for the free introductory week, we have about 16,000 riders, but the regular fare week after we get about 6000 per week. Quite a dropoff. Callahan quotes MATA officials as saying weekly ridership is expected to increase to almost 15,000, or a 250% increase.


Like Branston, writer Jody Callahan rides the trolley to mixed result, but the article is filled with hopeful predictions and a lot of the usual sunny-side spin, with a side of the obvious. The article begins with the story of a man who went from catching the bus near his home to walking 12 minutes to catch one trolley, transfer to another, then walk some more to work. It ends with a woman who says problems would probably cause her not to use the trolley.

Nice try, CA.

One note: I meant to mention this earlier, but one of the hallmarks of the trolley is supposed to be no more than a 10 minute wait between cars. I wonder how long they'll keep this up? Nearly every bus line in the City varies between a fifteen to hour-long wait, depending on part of the city, time of day, and direction of travel. If busses ran in the most used lines every 10 minutes, all day and well into the night like the trolley, a lot of folks would be very, very happy. But we're told MATA can't afford that. They can, however, afford to do it for the downtown trolley.

Must be nice, huh?

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