Studies show public transportation offers health and economic benefits to cities, as well as luring younger people who prefer walkable communities. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50

Why should you care about Tuesday’s Memphis Area Transit Authority Board of Commissioners meeting, if you have a car?

Well, according to the 2021 Public Transportation Fact Book, public transportation directly benefits the local economy because nearly 90% of trips are to and from work or shopping; it saves lives by reducing the number of traffic fatalities; and is better for the environment than cars because it reduces gas consumption by billions.  

MATA Board of Commissioners Meeting

2:30 p.m., Tuesday

One Commerce Square Auditorium, 40 S. Main

Submit public comments by 3 p.m. to, put MATA Regular Board of Commissioners Meeting in the subject line

There is no virtual option; but the meeting will be recorded and posted later.

The MATA Board of Commissioners will discuss among other things, the ongoing public meetings to discuss the ins and outs of a new fare policy, the holiday and fare schedule for 2022 and a resolution to create a Memphis Transit Foundation that would allow community members to make contributions to pay for activities MATA cannot under federal, state or city policy. These topics are tied to issues raised in our recent in-depth look at how cutbacks of routes may hurt current riders and make luring new MATA riders much tougher. Here are five facts from that story to get you up to speed: 

  1. FEWER RIDERS: COVID-19 walloped public transportation systems nationwide. In Memphis, MATA ridership plunged from more than 570,000 passengers in April 2019 to just under 200,000 passengers a year later. In August 2021, MATA served about 256,000 passengers.
  2. MORE MONEY: The Transit Vision plan hopes to “reverse the decline” by reinvesting in service. There’s a “Short-Term Recommended Network” to be implemented by 2022, as well as the long-term goals for 2040. They require an additional investment of $30 million annually, now bumped up to $35 million with inflation, according to the authority. 
  3. WHO’S PAYING: To date, no entity has provided that money and it’s not clear who’s funding MATA’s shortfall. “If we’re not making the commitment to fund MATA in order to provide the service levels that MATA says it needs, the result of that is going to be reduced service levels. You directly get what you pay for,” says City Councilman Martavius Jones, who chairs the Transportation Committee.
  4. ROCKY ROAD: MATA has been underfunded for decades, said Andrew Guthrie, assistant professor of city and regional planning at the University of Memphis. Right now, MATA is short 67 bus drivers and mechanics, according to CEO Gary Rosenfeld. “It’s not just important to have a schedule. It’s important to be able to meet the schedule,” he said.
  5. NEW APPROACHES: The Ready program (like the public version of Uber or Lyft) is doing well; Ready! vans in Boxtown are transporting about 6,000 boardings per month, on average.) Not everyone is excited about it—there’s no guarantee that vans will come on time, and riders’ routes are dependent upon other passengers’ requests. 

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