MATA asks city for money; could be forced to cut routes

MATA requests $8 million in operating funds to avoid route closures

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis Area Transit Authority could be in risk of having bus routes reduced.

MATA asked the city for an extra $7 million in operational costs just to maintain service. They have also asked for an extra $5 million to buy 11 new buses.

MATA riders said they are depending on the city to find a way to come up with that money.

"It's going to affect a lot of people," Kimberly Harden said.

Harden relies on MATA to get anywhere. So if budget problems cause MATA to cut back on service, it could ruin her plans.

"I'm a working mother," she said. "I take care of the home, so for me to get to work I rely on city transportation. That's hurtful."

Harden said it is hard enough to rely on an unreliable bus system as it is.

"There are days I have to beg for my job to at least hold it," Harden said.

MATA CEO Ron Garrison said the budget problem has continued to get worse since 2008 and 2009. The company asked the council twice for help just to make payroll.

"The city can't fix everything," Garrison said. "But we're asking the city for a little bit more."

He said the problem is funding from the city did not keep up with rising costs or the rate of inflation. MATA said that kept it from updating its fleet.

Some buses built to go 500,000 miles are running at more than 700,000 miles, so MATA now needs to buy at least 11 new buses to maintain its current service.

MATA now needs a total of $30 million from the city to stop the bleeding or face the possibility of cutting service by 17 percent. If that happens, they would lose all the revenue from bus fares.

Plus, funding from the state and federal governments is based on ridership. If fewer people ride, they get less money.

Garrison said it comes down to people.

"On any given day anywhere from 28,000 to 35,000 people a day use MATA," he said. "If anything happened it would severely impact their lives."

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