(WMC-TV) - Plans to change more than one dozen MATA bus routes are fueling support for a controversial gas tax.
The bottom line: MATA needs money.
Monday night, the MATA board voted to change 17 routes to make up for a $1.6 million deficit.
The decision has more citizens backing a one-cent per gallon gas tax recently proposed by a city councilmember.
Citizens for Better Service founder Johnnie Mosley said all of Memphis will pay for MATA's bus service cuts.
"If that cook who rides the MATA bus doesn't get to work, then Memphis can't brag about their Rendezvous ribs. Or that janitor who cleans the hotels," said Johnnie Mosley.
Northaven and Boxtown will feel the brunt of the changes.
"We'd use a smaller unit to go throughout that neighborhood, pick up residents and bring them to a central point within that neighborhood," said Alison Burton, MATA.
Mosley says that will double travel time for some riders.
"You're talking about a 30 minute trip, depending on where you're coming from in Boxtown, you may end up taking an hour to get downtown," said Mosley.
He said Councilman Edmund Ford, Junior's proposed gas tax to subsidize MATA is gaining support among Memphis' working class.
"I also would like to see the citizens of this great city of ours to support the gas tax," said Mosley.
Mosley said if people cannot get to work, they will find other ways to make money, and it could be crime.
MATA is also backing the gas tax saying it has benefited many other cities.
"A lot are supported by some dedicated funding and this would help us tremendously," said Burton.
Critics say folks are already struggling and do not need more taxes. The council is thinking about posing this debate to voters in the next election.
Their final reading on the gas tax referendum is July 17. Mosley expects the room to be packed.