Strickland: MATA buses, trash pick-up delayed amid worker shortage

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A release from Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is shedding light on problems with the city’s public transportation and trash pick-up.

Strickland said MATA is struggling to cover bus routes due to a shortage of bus operators and bus operator absences.

Currently, MATA has 85 open positions, representing over 16% of its workforce.

Maintenance crews are unable to keep up with inspection cycles, leading to a shortage of buses, the release said.

MORE: Memphis residents working to combat trash, illegal dumping

“MATA’s on-time performance has fallen to 63%,” Strickland said. This impacts riders’ ability to get to work on time and have reliable transportation.

Cynthia Bailey, executive member of the Memphis Bus Riders Union, said even before COVID-19 the bus riding experience was not the best, but the pandemic has made it worse.

“I’m familiar with a lot of operators and just yesterday one told me about 15 operators have not been to work or they quit,” she said.

Currently, if a bus operator misses a day MATA may not be able to cover their route for the day, Stickland’s release said.

“We could be standing at a bus stop and some buses just don’t show up,” Bailey said. “If it doesn’t show up we have to wait an hour later.”

Bailey said she’s concerned about people getting to work and appointments on time.

She said many riders and even bus operators said they are fed up with the current conditions.

“MATA has the tendency (that) if there’s no bus, you have to wait until the next one,” Bailey said.

FOX13 reached out to MATA about the job vacancies, but we have not heard back.

The city’s Public Works department is also struggling with trash pick-up.

The department has vacancies in six critical areas, totaling 49 full-time employees, including 37 driver positions, Strickland said.

MORE: Overflowing trash bins emptied for the first time in weeks

Open positions include crew chief, crew person, truck driver, tractor-trailer driver, maintenance mechanic and collection manager.

Strickland said these vacancies have resulted in delayed garbage pick-up, cart maintenance and repair.

The City is keeping positions open for extended periods and “aggressively interviewing potential candidates weekly,” the release said.

As of Aug. 26, collection crews were running up to one day behind for garbage collection, one week behind in recycling collection, and two weeks behind in bulk collection.

Strickland said supply chain interruptions have also delayed additions to cart inventory.