Frustrated bus riders call for MATA to make improvements - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Frustrated bus riders call for MATA to make improvements

(WMC-TV) - Memphis Area Transit Authority customers who are calling for better services have formed their own union.

The Memphis Bus Riders Union held first meeting and public invitation Saturday for what members said is a stand to pressure MATA officials to improve its transit.

The meeting was held at the AFSCME Union Hall in downtown Memphis.

Members said they are fed up with high fares, overcrowded buses, and a lack of bus service at night in some neighborhoods, among other complaints.

"It's an embarrassment to the city of Memphis," said Memphis Bus Riders Union member Lorenzo Irvin.  "It's a disgrace."

Saturday's meeting follows a prior town hall meeting with MATA.  Members said east to west bus routing is inadequate and caters to domestic workers.

"They're not all east and west, but from what I have seen, the city of Memphis has grown east," said MATA director of marketing Allison Burton.

A spokesperson for the Memphis Bus Riders Union said the working class will no longer tolerate MATA's disregard of their interest.

"It's so easy and simple and the solutions are there, but there are powers that be that don't want us to get to those things, because it seems like they care more about corporations and their own interests than the interests of the little guy and the working class folks," said spokesperson Marquella Scott.  "They need to be called out on it."

A MATA fact sheet provided at the meeting said that nearly 60 percent of riders have an annual income of $18,000 or less.  They said MATA has raised its fare two times in the last four years and reduced bus services three times in 2011.

Burton said many of the issues riders have with bus routes and fares comes down to funding.

"I think they'll find that some of the same desires are desires that we have as well," said Burton.  "In 1981, Memphis Area Transit Authority lost half of its bus service.  Fifty percent was taken away, and that's because of federal funding."

Bus riders said public transportation is a civil rights issue and they will not stand down until their concerns are met.

Burton said Saturday afternoon that they were not invited to the union meeting.  Union members said MATA was welcome but not permitted inside their closed voting period.

Burton said fares were raised in 2011 due to rising gas prices.

MATA said they take all customer complaints very seriously.

The next Memphis Bus Riders Union meeting is scheduled for March 3 from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Riverview Community Center.

MATA said a bus pass for a day costs $3.50 and said that compares favorably to rising gas prices.

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