Amalgamated Transit Union Local 713 and the Memphis Bus Riders Union have partnered in a new effort to promote the expansion and improvement of Memphis Area Transit Authority service.
“We have brought together the operators at ATU Local 713 and the MBRU in a campaign to reverse the decline of our bus system, protect good jobs for Memphis and prevent further service cuts and outsourcing.” said Sammie Hunter, Memphis Bus Riders Union Co-Chair. “We want to stop the service cuts planned for the spring, and make sure that operators are safe and comfortable, and not worried about loosing their jobs while getting us around.” he said.
In a joint letter addressed to the Mayor-elect Jim Strickland, they lay out the shocking details of what MBRU has deemed a “#BusCrisis”.
From the letter:
“Daily breakdowns on some of MATA’s most heavily used routes have resulted in loss of revenue, worsening on time performance leading to poor morale among riders and operators, and increased operating costs. Local 713 members regularly express concerns of dangerous overcrowding on popular routes such as the 42. Averaging reports from the past 6 months, we believe that at least 17 buses breakdown weekly. The weekly average of buses operating with malfunctioning digital displays, broken wheelchair ramps, broken intercoms and dispatch radios, broken mirrors and poorly functioning or non-functioning AC is likely almost 50%.”
The letter also counters the popular narrative that MATA’s trolleys are the most important priority, warning that preventing service cuts and privatization should be the main focus of the new administration.
“Newly developed areas in Midtown are absorbing business and suburban patrons no longer need to drive the extra 15 minutes to downtown to enjoy trendy new bars and restaurants. This development has occurred simultaneously with MATA’s trolley shut down which is now a scapegoat for downtown business owners experiencing a drop in revenue. Local news reporters and the voices of countless downtown business owners and developers have kept trolley renovation at the forefront of MATA’s priorities. Every meeting with TDOT and the Federal Transit Administration, every meeting with Congressmen Cohen over the past year has been focused solely on securing funds for the overhaul of MATA’s tenuous trolley service. MATA only get’s so many chances to request favors from our conservative legislature, drying up the political will to also fund buses after these favors are granted. Trolleys will continue to receive adequate funds. The city has a 5 year, 30 million dollar plan and local private sponsors are sure to kick in substantial funds as they have in the past. Buses on the other hand, are experiencing a crisis. On an average day MATA’s aging fleet suffers from multiple breakdowns and constant overcrowding. Many buses have broken wheelchair lifts making them inaccessible. MATA’s old fare boxes are jamming constantly resulting in lost revenue. However, these ailments are not incurable. Proper funding and an open dialogue between our organizations and the new administration will save our system.”