(WMC-TV) - The public MATA meeting Tuesday night was emotionally charged as passengers fought to keep their bus routes, and by extension, their livelihoods amid Memphis city budget cuts.
For many of the passengers at the meeting, MATA buses are their only means of transportation. They fear losing their jobs and being cut off from the services they need day to day.
Larry Wilburn uses a wheelchair. He and his wife rely on the transportation system to get to the grocery store and doctor appointments.
"If they change that number two or change the number ten, I'd be messed up," he said.
"That's the only transportation that I have. I would love to keep my own independence," agreed Jewell Jones, who rides the MATA buses.
Wilburn says people with disabilities will be devastated if the proposed changes go through when MATA makes its decision in August.
"We've got people in low income communities who are already under served, who are going to be cut off from their jobs, cut off from their grocery stores, cut off from city services these are people who already are down in society," explained Shahin Samiei, Memphis Bus Riders Union.
Samiei says Mayor A C Wharton's decision to cut $2.3 million from MATA's budget is devastating. He says it is on the administration to fix what they broke without hurting the people who rely on them.
"City council has been cutting MATA's budget for over five years now and this is the problem, this is the outcome," added Samiei.
MATA plans to have a second public meeting Thursday at the Airways Transit Center. They will then hold a special meeting on August 5 to review the public's comments before making a final decision.
For more information on the proposed route changes, click here: http://ftpcontent4.worldnow.com/wmctv/busroute.pdf
Tuesday's meeting came after MATA confirmed it has begun notifying drivers of layoffs. Layoffs in other departments are also expected as MATA faces $4.5 million in cuts next year.