Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris says his MATA plan could help the air you breathe

Local News

MEMPHIS, Tenn. ( – Take a deep breath, and realize you’ve just gulped down the worst air quality in all of Tennessee according to the American Lung Association. Mayor Lee Harris says it’s why he is pushing his MATA plan.

It’s all about the roads you drive. They’re falling about.

And the air you breathe. It’s awful.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris says, “Our roads are degrading. Air quality is bad. The American Lung Association this year gave us an F. We’re the only county in the state to receive an F this year from the American Lung Association. Part of that is because of the pollutants in our air right now.”

These are just a few reasons why Mayor Harris is pushing for a plan to get at least $10 million a year to the Memphis Area Transit Authority.

Strong public transportation is a necessity for Shelby County to grow, he says. Each person in a seat on a bus is one less vehicle on the road.

The trouble is how he intends to raise the money.

The evolving Harris plan is to charge owners of three cars $145 more a year for registration on that third car.

“I’m open to all ideas,” Harris says. “I put one on the table that requires a commission vote. If we get the commission vote, we can zoom past it and get people to work and then we can start talking about light rail.”

It’s a nice thought. And with the poverty rate in Shelby County going up, getting people to work is even more of a priority now than before.

But as we were the first to report two weeks ago, Shelby County Commission Chairman Mark Billingsley says he thinks the Harris plan doesn’t have a chance.

“I do not feel like the $145 for the third car thing is going to proceed,” he says. “I don’t think there’s a lot of support for it. I do appreciate that Mayor Harris has started the conversation about MATA.”

Mayor Harris said he didn’t want anyone to vote on this until next February. That will be plenty of time for people to discuss and debate.

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