Memphis hires firm to build support for transit system

MEMPHIS, TN: With the first phase of its new light-rail system under construction and the second on the drawing board, the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) has hired a local agency to build public support.

MEMPHIS, TN: With the first phase of its new light-rail system under construction and the second on the drawing board, the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) has hired a local agency to build public support.

Thompson Baker & Berry PR (TB&B) beat a dozen contenders for a contract potentially worth $760,000 over four years. Concurrently, the Tennessee Department of Transportation inked a $600,000 deal with Knoxville's Bingham & Associates to freshen up the image of Memphis' city buses.

TB&B will focus on raising awareness about light-rail travel, and on bolstering support for a proposed extension to Memphis International Airport.

TB&B's account leader Randolph Baker, formerly an assistant GM of Houston's transit authority, said the locals don't know much about light rail.

The agency will arrange public meetings, produce a newsletter and web page, publicize construction milestones, and conduct tours of art exhibits in train stations.

TB&B had a prior relationship with the MATA, said Alison Burton, MATA marketing and consumer service director. Memphis' City Center Commission hired TB&B to help promote downtown businesses suffering during construction of the light-rail system's first leg, which extends to the city's Medical Center, and should begin operation in March 2004.

This month, the agency is also promoting the 10th anniversary of a trolley line that runs along the Mississippi River.

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