Mayor Strickland to lobby in Washington for more dollars for MATA

Jamie Munks, Memphis Commercial Appeal 

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland will soon be heading to Washington D.C. to lobby for more federal dollars for the Memphis Area Transit Authority as a vote on proposed service changes for bus routes looms.

The MATA board of commissioners postponed a vote last month on a set of service changes that would have eliminated or pared back close to 30 bus routes, which faced strong criticism from people arguing the cuts disproportionately affect low-income areas and communities of color.

The board is slated to vote on service changes Oct. 25, but a finalized proposal hadn’t been released as of Tuesday.

Those proposed changes will be released before next week’s board meeting, MATA Chief Communications Officer Nicole Lacey said Tuesday.

Dan Springer, the city’s deputy director for media affairs, confirmed Strickland’s lobbying trip on Tuesday, around the same time a new city/Shelby County transit committee was meeting to discuss funding for the transit authority.

The city of Memphis’ annual contribution to MATA comes from the city’s general fund, but it isn’t a dedicated funding stream, said Edmund Ford, who is chairing the committee and is currently serving as both a Memphis city councilman and Shelby County commissioner.

“The money could go up, go down, it could fluctuate, it could go to 0,” said Ford, who has pushed for a dedicated funding source for MATA.