MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Money is never an easy topic to discuss, especially when companies rely on money from local, state, and federal governments to operate. Several transportation organizations in Memphis are trying to help people understand how public transportation is funded and why it’s important to invest in public transit. Among the organizations is the Memphis Area Transit Authority, or MATA. A series of events will be held this week in Memphis, highlighting the importance of public transportation. This will ultimately lead to Transit Equity Day on Friday, February 4.
A town hall on Tuesday kick-started the week of transit events. The town hall was hosted by BLDG Memphis and was titled “Demystifying Transit Funding.” Courtney Thomas, Advocacy Manager for BLDG Memphis, tells FOX13 the goal of the town hall is to help people understand how MATA is funded.
“When it comes to public transit, funding has always been key, in the forefront of everyone’s minds,” said Thomas.
The event held on Zoom allows people to talk to leaders with MATA and connect with transit advocacy groups like the Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope, or MICAH, The Bus Riders Union, Memphis 3.0, and more. Attendees were able to ask various ask questions about transit funding. Gary Rosenfeld, MATA CEO, tells FOX13 these conversations are important because public transportation is an area that needs to be invested in.
“It should be viewed as an investment and not just purely as an expense,” said Rosenfeld.”
The topic of transit funding can be complicated. Rosenfeld tells FOX13 it’s because there are different levels of government the transit company gets its money from. The first is on the federal level. The Federal Transit Authority and the Department of Transportation are sources of funding for MATA. At the state level, MATA can get money from TDOT. The difficult area is trying to get money from the local government. The City of Memphis and Shelby County can be a source of funding, but Rosenfeld says it’s not always guaranteed.
“It’s not dedicated. There’s nothing in the rulebook that says it’s required for the city to send over a check every year,” said Rosenfeld.
The town hall on Tuesday is a start in helping those in Memphis understand the importance of public transit and why it’s important to fund it.
More events surrounding it will be happening this week. Thursday, February 3, and Friday, February 4, a Memphis Mobility Symposium will be held at Rhodes College at Hyde Hall. Thursday’s event will go from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Friday’s event goes from 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. It also falls on Transit Equity Day. MICAH will also be holding a community forum on Friday starting at 2:30. This event is online, and you can go to micahmemphis.org to register.
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