Memphis Bus Riders Union continues push for transit equity, MATA funding

Transit Equity Day honors Rosa Parks

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A fight for equal access to transportation continues on what would have been Rosa Parks' 107th birthday. A group in Memphis is using the day to encourage Shelby County Commissioners to find a plan for more funding for MATA.

“We are in the midst of continuing the legacy of fighting for transit equity here in Memphis and Shelby County,” Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said.

Nearly 65 years after Rosa Parks’ brave protest on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, leaders in Memphis said the fight continues to provide reliable public transit for all. For months Mayor Harris has been trying to get a deal passed that would generate around $10 million in additional funding for MATA.

“All over our city people are using MATA as a lifeline,” Memphis Bus Riders Union Secretary Justin Davis said. “Right now, we have a system that does not serve them right.”

Mayor Harris joined several stakeholders including different transit coalitions like the Memphis Bus Riders Union on a day called Transit Equity Day.

“Working for Civil Rights is not just about working for equality under the law,” Davis said. “It's about working for equality of access.”

Mayor Harris said there are 16,000 open jobs in Shelby County. He said when he asks citizens what’s keeping them from getting one of the jobs the answer is transportation.

The latest proposal to go in front of the County Commission to generate more MATA funding is an increase in the wheel tax. Harris said whether it’s that proposal or something else he’s ready to seal the deal in time for the fiscal year 2021.

Shelby Co. mayor says proposal for wheel tax hike could solve a major county issue

“How do we seal the deal from here? We have to get that ninth vote, Harris said. “We feel like we're sitting at a soft eight. We need a ninth vote. So, we're working real hard to build comfort with the commissioners.”

Public meetings with the Commission’s Public Transportation Ad Hoc Committee begin Tuesday. Those for the funding said this is a fight that is evolving, but one they’re trying to get front and center like Parks did decades ago.

“We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors to move forward,” Marquita Bradshaw Environmental Justice Chair for the Sierra Club said.

The first public meeting with the Ad Hoc Committee is Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 5:30 p.m. at Monumental Baptist Church. That address is 704 S. Parkway E.

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