First, I am not surprised that the MATA administration is proposing an elimination of all game shuttles to the Liberty Bowl and FedEx Forum. In the dark shadow of a failed vote on a gas tax referendum for MATA, cuts in government funding and a lower ridership, I am just grateful that MATA is still surviving on her deathbed for those who are transit dependents. There is no doubt in my mind that the fact MATA is still breathing is an example of miracles.
As a sports fan, I join other sports fans who believe that providing bus shuttles to the Liberty Bowl and FedEx Forum is a valuable service to the city of Memphis. At the same time, as a longtime advocate for bus riders, I know that public transportation is so bad that transit dependent riders are spending up to four hours on buses on a daily basis as a result of tough economic times at MATA. Some are being forced to walk blocks to and from their destinations because there is little or no bus service in their neighborhoods or at their destinations.
In an effort to be fair to the regular bus riders and the sport fans, I believe that the MATA Board should not cast a "Yea " or "Nay" on eliminating bus shuttles or changes in bus service while budget talks are about to take place with the Memphis City Council at City Hall. I believe that any considerations of any proposals of MATA should be delayed until the end of June.
I believe that the MATA Board should wait and hear the whole story from the MATA administration about the financial future and direction of MATA. Are there other plans for more changes or elimination in bus service in the upcoming months? Are bus riders going to be hit with an increase in bus fare in the next fiscal year?
I am convinced that it is not in the best interest of the passengers, bus riders or sport fans to vote on a piecemeal proposal to solve the financial woes of MATA at a time when no one has all the answers and the City Council has not cast one vote on funds for MATA for the next fiscal year.
Secondly, I applaud the efforts of the University of Memphis and the Memphis Grizzlies to assist MATA with the cost of providing bus shuttles to games through the purchasing of passes and advertisements. But if the MATA administration does not insist that the University of Memphis, Memphis Grizzlies and the Southern Heritage Classics work with MATA to lobby for additional funds from local government and urge citizens to support a source of dedicated funding for MATA, the purchasing of passes and advertisements will not help bus riders and sport fans who are worrying about MATA eliminating bus service and increasing the bus fare for transportation to games, work, school, stores, and appointments to the doctor.
Therefore, I challenge the MATA Board to use this time as an opportunity to urge sport fans, bus riders, the University of Memphis, the Southern Heritage Classics, the Memphis Grizzlies, and concerned citizens to do several things:
* Lobby and write the City Council for more funding for public transportation at the upcoming City Council budget meetings.
* Urge the City Council to put another dedicated funding resolution for MATA on the ballot on one of the upcoming elections scheduled for August and November 2014 or the next city elections in 2015.
* Pledge visible support for the passage of a permanent funding ballot for public transportation.
* Play a major role in seeing that the MATA Board hire a dedicated President/General Manager who is committed to transforming MATA into a first-class public transportation (entity) in spite of the financial challenges of today.
I thank the MATA Board of Commissioners for your commitment to public transportation in these trying times. But I know that if the MATA Board continues to repeat the past of voting on piecemeal proposals to eliminate bus service, the MATA Board will be just as guilty in playing a role in damaging the economic health of Memphis as well as in ending the life of public transportation in our city.
Therefore, I propose that the MATA Board exercise a different kind leadership to find a cure to heal the financial illness of MATA. I call for a common sense leadership, which understands that MATA is only as good or bad as we all make it.
Johnnie Mosley, Chairman of Citizens For Better Service