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COVID-19 leads to budget problems for MATA

Fewer riders can be on each bus due to social distancing.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Who knew?

Who knew that being Chief Executive Officer of the Memphis Area Transit Authority would mean becoming an expert on the coronavirus and quarantine and social distancing.

Gary Rosenfeld of MATA says right now, all his buses can carry is ten people. Under phase three of the Memphis reopening plan, 50 people would be allowed on.

“Although we might be able to legally have more people on our buses, from a health stand point, we still need to maintain social distancing. So it would still be difficult for us to expand and get more people on a bus.”

The coronavirus has also resulted in big budget problems for Memphis and Shelby County. Both Mayors had hoped to give MATA more money. Studies have shown that it would take $30-million more in order to make MATA service adequate.

RELATED: Third MATA employee tests positive for COVID-19

RELATED: MATA offering refunds to some bus customers who bought 7 or 31-day passes before temporary free fares began

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s budget has no new money for MATA. County Mayor Lee Harris says there’s a possibility he’ll have to lay off 140 employees.

Commissioner Van Turner has wanted to fund MATA. But now might not be the time.

“I don’t want to write them off,” he says, “... but if it’s a choice between laying off people and MATA, I am not going to lay off people. I’ll take the money from MATA.”

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