Weekly Update: BUILDing up Transit


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In case you missed it, we received some big news earlier this week. After years of work, our city’s push for more investment in public transit scored a major victory in the form of a $12 million BUILD grant to the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) from the U.S. Department of Transportation.


This grant will help fund the Memphis Innovation Corridor Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project bringing higher capacity and frequency levels of service to connect Downtown, the Medical District, and the University of Memphis – three of the most critical employment centers in our city’s core.


But, this project has even broader impact, serving as the spine of a more frequent transit network called for in the Memphis 3.0 Transit Vision. In short, this project helps to reduce commute times, increases levels of service, and provides a catalyst for new growth.


Another reason this is a big deal—the BUILD grant is one of the most competitive federal transportation grants. This was truly a team effort, and we could not have done it without so many partners advocating on our behalf. At the federal level, Senators Alexander and Blackburn and Congressmen Cohen and Kustoff all provided critical support. At the state and local levels, Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Clay Bright, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, the Shelby County Commission, and Memphis City Council all gave key support to the project. Employers and institutions along the corridor such as AutoZone, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, ServiceMaster, Methodist LeBonheur Hospital, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and Southwest Tennessee Community College all gave steadfast support.


And, for the last two years, FedEx, University of Memphis, and the Greater Memphis Chamber have not only given their support, they’ve been at the table with us in Washington D.C. as we’ve made our case for why Memphis needs bus rapid transit.


Setting the record straight: Last week, we talked about the 1978 Consent Decree and how it can potentially limit MPD’s ability to proactively use technology to keep everyone safe. I want to say that last line one more time—it can potentially limit MPD’s ability to proactively use technology to keep everyone safe.


I want to reiterate that point because I don’t want it to get lost in the noise that MPD is “spying” or restricting anyone’s right to protest or express their feelings about a particular issue. I fully support the right to protest. On page three of the Judge’s most recent order, he states, “[T]he Court does not sanction the City or its officers for discriminating against certain points of view. For the most part, the officers of MPD have demonstrated their dedication to protecting First Amendment rights regardless of protester opinion.” That being said, the Decree has much further reaching implications.


Let’s go through a couple examples to show what I’m talking about.


Scenario 1: Several dignitaries from various government agencies come to town for a summit or symposium. Each dignitary has its own security force (i.e. Secret Service, FBI and TBI). The agencies are not bound by the Consent Decree.


One of those agencies receives intelligence of a planned disturbance to shut down certain roads and leave the dignitaries exposed for an excessive period of time requiring increased manpower. Under the Decree, those agencies cannot share that information with MPD, and MPD could not assist or cooperate with any of the other agencies.


Scenario 2: A television show is being filmed in Memphis. The show’s security team gets a tip from social media that a large fight may happen at the filming location.


If MPD coordinated with the show’s security, it would have violated the Consent Decree. MPD cannot accept information from a third party that does not comply with the Decree, nor can we share any information with them because they are not under the Decree.


Scenario 3: Two people are eating lunch at a restaurant, and at the next table, a group is talking about staging a disruption to shut down a basketball game inside FedEx Forum during a live broadcast.


MPD cannot receive or act on this information because the two people who gave the tip were not bound by the Consent Decree.


What this essentially means is our officers cannot ask you to participate in the national “If you see something, say something” campaign because they cannot accept that information.


I’m telling you this not to scare you, but to demonstrate the fact that there are potentially significant challenges caused by the restrictions laid out in the Decree. I want you to have a full understanding of them and know how it can play out in a real-world situation.


Thank you. Thank you very much: This week Memphis Tourism spent some time in Liverpool, England. Although our cities may be thousands of miles apart, we still have many things in common—the strongest of those is our musical history.


The blues and rock-n-roll were created right here in Memphis, but it didn’t take long for those sounds to spread like wildfire. The boys known as the “Fab Four”—John, Paul, George and Ringo of The Beatles took the world by storm with their twist on the genre.


Kevin Kane and Memphis Tourism along with Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson formalized our two cities’ bond with an official plaque on Matthew Street outside the Cavern Club (the early home of The Beatles). The United Kingdom is one of our largest overseas tourism markets, and this marker will serve as a reminder of where it all started.


memphis in liverpool


To Kevin and the team—thanks for all you do to promote our great city!



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