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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

Shelby County mayor and local group study how to help MATA

It would be so easy if money grew on trees. It doesn't obviously. Taxpayers watch what politicians do with their money at this time of year, to make sure th...
Shelby County mayor and local group study how to help MATA

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com)  For the first time in years, people are paying attention to the Memphis Area Transit Authority. 
Not just city people, but Shelby County people too.

It used to be when the City of Memphis figured out a budget, MATA was an afterthought.
An asterisk.
Sort of like, oh yeah, they need some money too.
When planning for the future, people say MATA is critically important.
Shelby County is now going to try to help pay for the service.

We know it impacts a million things, says Jessica Indingaro, a legal assistant to County Mayor Lee Harris. It impacts poverty. It impacts job growth. It impacts the ability to expand and to continue to do well for all of us. The way we think we can do that, one little way, is to make sure MATA has better service all around.

All it takes is money.
That’s where they have traditionally hit the brakes.
Until now.

Suzanne Carlson of Innovate Memphis is working on a plan, and says, Mayor Harris is working with Innovate Memphis to look at how he can make an investment in transit. Now, the county hasn’t invested in transit before, so it’s a huge deal. He’s looking at how he can be strategic and have the right to make that investment.

Forty years ago, public transit in southern cities basically existed for one reason.
It was used so domestic workers could get from their neighborhoods to the homes of the people they worked for.
Clearly, a lot has changed.
But in a city and county where thousands of folks can’t afford a car, the bus is the only way to get back and forth to work.

When you do something new, Indingaro says, … it’s hard. What we have to do is see how it fits into our budget. How it fits into MATA’s budget. What can we accomplish.

Shelby County commissioners are right in the middle of budget negotiations. There is talk this Commission might try to find at least $2.5 million out of this year’s budget for MATA.