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MATA officials address Memphians’ concerns with public transportation

Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 8:50 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A special honor for a civil rights icon comes as some local leaders claim issues facing some Memphis residents currently mirror what was happening decades ago.

“I’ve been riding for 28 years,” said transportation advocate Cynthia Bailey. “This is the worst I’ve ever experienced since Rosenfeld’s been in office.”

Bailey and other citizens shared their concerns with the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) Wednesday. Many worried about bus route cutbacks and long wait times.

“We have a pandemic that continues to evolve day by day. MATA by itself has lost the equivalent of 35 employees full-time in terms of days lost that are attributed to the pandemic,” said MATA President Gary Rosenfeld.

Rosenfeld told Shelby County commissioners Wednesday that the agency took a hit during the pandemic with 188 employee COVID cases, one employee death, and a 40-percent vaccination rate.

After a quarterly evaluation, MATA cut several routes, including Boxtown. Even with short-distance, on-demand travel options, like Ready Program as a replacement, residents are unhappy.

Johnnie Mosley, founding chairman of Citizens for Better Service, says Ready Program isn’t realistic for everyone.

“If Memphis is going to be on the move, Memphis must have a first-class public transit system, not just for people riding the buses now, but for everybody who wants to ride the bus,” Mosely said.

Those community concerns come on the same day MATA announced a new honor for Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama 66 years ago.

MATA will reserve the first seat on every vehicle in Parks’ honor.

“Her act paved the way for the millions we serve at MATA to have equitable access to public transportation,” said MATA Chief of Staff Bacarra Mauldin.

“We can’t highlight Rosa Parks and dismiss the concerns of the people who are just like Rosa Parks and in their community who are still riding the bus, and who are putting their lives on the line, and who are speaking out,” said Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer.

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