Transportation | MATA

Transportation is an important piece of connecting families with economic opportunities in our community and moving people toward prosperity. As your council member I will push for transportation investments that connect people to jobs and make our streets safer and more accessible to everyone in our city.

Robin Speaks:

On MATA & Public Transportation

The City of Memphis needs to take care of their responsibilities before investing in more big business. We have first responders, employees, and citizens who are being forgotten and tossed aside while the Mayor and the City Council pass millions of dollar bills to commercial investments.

From: Trolleys at the Trough ( an editorial from Memphis Bus Riders Union Organizer, Bennett Foster)

In Memphis, growing pressure from the media and downtown interests may prevent MATA from looking at more cost-effective improvements to its service. Well-intentioned though they may be, MATA’s leadership has little time left in the day, let alone the funds, to improve bus facilities. Instead, they are stuck playing favorites in a dual system that leaves the bus-dependent commuter in the dust. In addition to the familiar tendency of downtown development bankrupting public services, trolley service has no proven economic return to the bank from which it takes. In contrast, the expansion of accessible, reliable, and frequent bus service throughout the city would attract more residents, more tourists, and more revenue.

At the January MATA Board of Commissioners meeting, Garrison spent the majority of his report to the Board chronicling his work to “restore our trolleys.” MATA Board members stressed the urgency of returning the service, one even asking, “What do we have to do to get the trolleys back? Do we need to do a sit-in?” Another complained that the first thing people ask when you say you are a MATA Board member is, “When are the trolleys coming back?”

Too often, a lack of dedicated revenue for mass transit in Memphis and across Tennessee pits “choice riders” and tourists against those who rely on bus service every day. This sudden flurry of lobbying for funding from the Tennessee Department of Transportation and from the City’s CIP Budget is a clear example of the enduring priority crisis throughout City government, which routinely excludes low-income neighborhoods in North and South Memphis from new transit improvements.

In 2013, massive cuts in bus service devastated the economies of several historic, working class Memphis neighborhoods. But you won’t see bus riders on the news talking about the loss of bus service in Northaven and New Chicago, or Riverside; you won’t hear about the economic damage done to their entire communities. Instead, the narrative is dominated by Trolley Night regulars and Main Street businesses.

Robin’s Plan:

bus protestWe need to overhaul bus shelters that are currently in a dangerous state of disrepair and build additional shelters along the current routes which are now overcrowded due to the 2013 service cuts, particularly in the North and South Memphis neighborhoods where bus service still exists. These new signs on the shelters should include maps, which are completely missing from Memphis bus stops. The lack of route maps makes it almost impossible for a new rider to navigate the system or for a seasoned rider to track down a new route when his or her daily route to work has been cut.

Additionally, I propose the development of a MATA app which helps riders navigate the complicated mass transit system. First, riders could simply input their desired destination and the time they wish to arrive. The app would respond with clear instructions detailing the most efficient route and it would include directions to the bus stops as well as tell riders which buses to use in order to make it to their destination on time.  Secondly, this app would allow riders to see if their bus is on-time or delayed and by how long.  This way, they can know if they have time to stop for a snack or use the restroom before proceeding to the bus stop. We all hate to wait but if there has been a reasonable reason for a delay, wouldn’t we rather know what is going on instead of waiting and wondering?

Together, these projects would cost the City of Memphis less than an overhaul of our trolley system. At the January MATA Board meeting, MATA General Manager Ron Garrison reported that trolleys will cost about taxpayers around $750,000 – 1 million each to repair and at least $2.3 million each to replace. This total does not include the costs of replacing or repairing the trolley tracks or the infrastructure. Those expenses will be covered by the $600,000 the public works committee put before the Council at the request of Garrison and the MATA Board.