Memphis, Tennessee/Medical Center Extension

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Medical Center Extension


(November 1999)

(click here for map)


The Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA), in cooperation with the City of Memphis, is proposing to build a 2.5-mile light rail transit extension to the Main Street Trolley/Riverfront Loop village rail system. The extension would expand the central business district (CBD) rail circulation system to serve the Medical Center area east of the CBD. The proposed project would operate on street in mixed traffic and would connect with the Main Street Trolley, sharing a lane with automobile traffic on Madison Avenue between Main Street and Cleveland Street. At the eastern terminus, near Cleveland Street, a bus transfer point and a small park-and-ride lot would be constructed to accommodate transfers with buses and cars. At the western terminus, existing stations on Main Street near Madison Avenue would be utilized for transfers to/from the Main Street Trolley/Riverfront Loop system. Six new stations would be located along the route. The line will be designed to accommodate light rail vehicles but vintage rail cars would be utilized until a proposed regional LRT line is implemented and a fleet of modern LRT vehicles is acquired. The project is proposed as the last segment of the downtown rail circulation system as well as the first segment of a regional light rail line.

The total capital cost of the 2.5 mile project is estimated at $69.1 million (escalated dollars), with a Section 5309 New Starts share of $55.3 million. MATA estimates 2,100 average weekday boardings in the opening year (2002), increasing to 4,200 by 2020.

Summary Description

Proposed Project:

LRT Extension

2.5 miles, 6 stations

Total Capital Cost ($YOE):

$69.1 million

Section 5309 Share ($YOE):

$55.3 million

Annual Operating Cost ($2004):

$1.3 million

Ridership Forecast (2020):

4,200 avg. weekday boardings

1,700 daily new riders

FY 2001 Finance Rating:

FY 2001 Project Justification Rating:

FY 2001 Overall Project Rating:




The Recommended rating is based on the projectís strong estimated cost effectiveness and the adequacy of the projectís capital and operating plans. The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1999. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


A Major Investment Study/Environmental Assessment, resulting in the selection of a trolley service extension as the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), was completed in June 1997. FTA approved initiation of preliminary engineering (PE) for the project in April 1998. A Supplemental Environmental Assessment is being prepared to document changes to the preferred alternative and to incorporate updated data developed in preliminary engineering. Completion of PE and the EA is anticipated by January 2000, and a request for FTA approval to advance into final design is expected shortly thereafter. The proposed project is included in the City of Memphis' Capital Improvement Program, the Memphis MPOís Transportation Improvement Program, and the State Transportation Improvement Program.

TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(43) authorizes the Memphis Medical Center Extension for final design and construction. Through FY 2000, Congress has appropriated $10.38 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds for this project.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA's Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. Information was not provided by MATA comparing the New Start to the Transportation System Management (TSM) alternative.

FTA has evaluated this project as being in preliminary engineering. The project will be re-evaluated when it is ready to advance to final design.


The Medium project justification rating reflects the projectís strong anticipated cost-effectiveness and the adequacy of the other justification measures.

Mobility Improvements

Rating: Not Rated

The proposed extension is expected to serve 4,200 average weekday boardings and generate 1,700 daily new riders by 2020. No information on travel time savings was submitted by MATA.


Mobility Improvements

New Start vs.


New Start vs. TSM

Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours)



Based on 1990 data, there are an estimated 2,700 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the six proposed new stations, representing 38 percent of total households within ½ mile of boarding points.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

Memphis is currently classified as a maintenance area for ozone and carbon monoxide. Memphis projects that in 2020 the proposed project would result in the following emissions reductions for CO, NOx, and VOC.


Criteria Pollutant

New Start vs.


New Start vs. TSM

Carbon Monoxide (CO)



Nitrogen Oxide (NOx)



Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)



Particulate Matter (PM10)



Carbon Dioxide (CO2)



Values reflect annual tons of emissions reductions.

MATA estimates the following savings in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units - BTU) for the forecast year 2020.


Annual Energy Savings

New Start vs.


New Start vs. TSM

BTU (million)



Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

MATA estimates the following systemwide operating cost per passenger mile for the proposed project in the forecast year.




New Start

System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (1995)




Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1995 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: High

MATA estimates the following cost-effectiveness index, comparing the proposed project to the No-Build alternative.


New Start vs.


New Start vs.


Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger



Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1995 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium

The Medium rating reflects the existing transit-supportive conditions along the corridor, improving policies, and proposed new developments. However, the rating also recognizes the relatively slow progress in improving zoning regulations and parking policies in the corridor.

Existing Conditions: Development in the 2.5-mile corridor is generally centered around the two ends of the proposed project. Downtown, at the western end of the corridor, contains a mix of commercial, office, and government land uses, and a new minor league baseball stadium. The eastern end of the corridor contains a high concentration of medical facilities and two colleges/universities. Downtown Employment is expected to increase by 60 percent (to 24,000 employees) by 2020. Employment at the Medical Center, a major employment center in the Region with 13,500 jobs in 1995, is forecast to remain stagnant. The corridor includes a high percentage of transit dependent households, and population in the corridor is expected to increase by 76% in downtown and 22% in Midtown by 2020. Development towards the center of the proposed corridor currently consists of underutilized commercial and industrial uses. Current zoning does not specifically promote transit- and pedestrian-oriented site planning, design, or facilities, and does not promote increased development densities.

Plans and Policies: The City of Memphis and Shelby County have established the Center City Commission (CCC) to coordinate development throughout its Central Business Improvement District, which includes downtown Memphis and the Medical Center Extension. The CCC plans to study and, ultimately, modify zoning regulations to promote transit usage by the end of 2000, and formulate incentives to promote development in the corridor by the end of 2001. Transit-oriented development on the existing Trolley/Riverfront Loop is underway (at the North End Terminal) and proposed (at Central Station). And, there are increased local public and private sector efforts to facilitate transit supportive development along the Medical Center Extension. However, no specific station plans have been developed, and no parking management policies in the corridor have been implemented.

The State of Tennessee has mandated that Shelby County, along with the incorporated cities within the county, must adopt a joint 20-year urban growth plan or risk losing state funding for highways and community development. Shelby County and its affected jurisdictions are currently working on the growth plan, which must be submitted to the State by December 1999.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 20%

MATA proposes a Federal share of $55.3 million (80 percent of total project costs) in Section 5309 New Start funds, $6.9 million in State funds (10 percent) and $6.9 in local funding (10 percent).

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High rating reflects the commitment of the non-Federal funding for the Medical Center Rail Extension. The State of Tennessee and City of Memphis both exhibit enough revenue capacity to support construction of the project.

Agency Financial Condition: MATA is considered to be in adequate financial condition. Non-Federal funding for the Medical Center Extension is proposed to be split between the City of Memphis and the Tennessee Department of Transportation. The City of Memphis and the State DOT are considered highly stable and reliable funding partners. The City receives AA ratings from Standard and Poor's and Fitch Investor Service, respectively, and an Aa rating from Moody's.

Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Cost estimates for the Medical Extension Project have escalated from $35.9 million in 1998 to $69.1 million in 1999. Project cost increases are attributed to unanticipated utility relocation costs, some modifications to the original alignment, and a significant increase in contingency costs. The projectís revised cost estimates are reasonable. Contingency provisions include funding committed to the project by the city and State above the amount included in the financial plan.

Existing and Committed Funding: The City of Memphis and Tennessee DOT have each committed up to $7.5 million towards the construction of the proposed project. This commitment represents an amount above the $6.9 million proposed in the financial plan to be contributed from each entity.

New and Proposed Sources: No new sources are proposed for construction of the Medical Center Extension.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Medium

The Medium rating reflects the commitment of the City of Memphis to support MATAís operating needs, but acknowledges the agencyís lack of a dedicated funding source.

Agency Financial Condition: MATA has no dedicated operating funding source at the present time. The City of Memphis provides the largest single source of operating revenue for MATA, and has a strong record of supporting the operation of the agencyís services.

Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Annual operating costs for the Medical Center Extension are estimated at $1.3 million. Implementation of trolley service to the Medical Center Area is expected to result in a reduction in duplicative bus service in the corridor, and an overall decrease in MATAís systemwide operating expenses.

Existing and Committed Funding: Local operating revenues are currently generated through passenger fares, other system revenues, the City of Memphis, and the Tennessee DOT. The City has historically been a reliable funding partner, and has increased its commitment to MATA operations by 160 percent between the years 1980-1997.

New and Proposed Funding Sources: No new funding sources have been proposed for this project. However, MATA is pursuing the establishment of a dedicated funding source to support ongoing system operation and planned expansion.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)


Proposed Source of Funds

Total Funding ($million)


Appropriations to Date

  §5309 New Starts


($10.38 million appropriated through FY 2000).

Tennessee DOT



City of Memphis





NOTE: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.


Medical Center Rail Extension (map)