Friday, December 16, 2011

Memphis Area Transit Authority: Are they operating a public transit system or a fleet of rolling slave ships? You be the Judge.

Bus riders here in Memphis, TN, spend countless hours riding on, and waiting for, public transit busses.

Of course, it has been this way for decades.

One would think that any new changes coming along would actually improve citizen's lives.

But it has not.

For example, the recent opening of an impressive multi-million dollar public transit facility just minutes away from the Memphis International Airport hardly improves the lives of those citizens who need public transit services the most, as this facility is located far and away from the majority of them; nor does it encourage citizens, who have never used public transit before, to actually take one single ride on a public transit bus, not even on a dare, and especially since transfer points may leave them out in the middle of a run down part of town that has become a serious crime haven.  

Of course good citizens who get great jobs with far less stress in their lives protect their communities from crime.

We will never know if this is true here in Memphis because those who do all the planning seem to push the "have not's" further and further away instead of attempting to improve life for them.

It seems that most organizations find one way or another to use the poorer citizens to make money.

Poverty has truly become a big business here!

And those who do all the planning seem to plan it out this way.

In fact, I do not recall seeing any Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) officials, who do all this planning, being brave enough to actually ride on their own busses to get themselves to work; and, I have been riding on MATA for several years; so where are they?

So, let me share one of my experiences with you since they can't.

Then, you will come to understanding what the fight for improving mass transit is all about.

When Greyhound and Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) teamed up to build a new terminal at Brooks and Airways nearby the Memphis International Airport, I soon realized that this shack up was not going to work out that well; at least not for me, a carfree citizen.

The new terminal is far and away from where I live down town; and, taking a public transit bus to get to the new location it is not a timely trip, nor is it pleasurable.

Even a taxi cost more to get to this new terminal.

Moreover, MATA only runs two buses out to this new facility: 1) 2 Medical Center and 2) 4 Walker.

The number 2 is the only bus that runs out to the terminal during the day and then it stops around 5:00 P.M. in the evening. The number 4 Walker then starts running. Both buses run by the hour during their operation.

Within days of the terminal's grand opening, I decided to go visit this new facility personally and buy a ticket for the Christmas Holidays.

The round trip took me 5 hours and 15 minutes, and I made no other pit stops; I went straight there and back home.

While on this long ride, I reminisced about what it use to be like when the Greyhound was located Downtown on Union Ave.

When the Greyhound station was located on Union Ave, it had its problems for sure, but it never took me more than 20 minutes to walk over to it, nor more than 10 minutes to ride a bicycle.

And, if the weather was truly bad, there were always taxi services nearby and a few taxis were often lined up just outside of the station. The cost to get around that part of town was only a few dollars; and, if there were other passengers tagging along, we split that cost between us.

For a small group, it was much cheaper to ride in a taxi than it was to ride on a public transit bus; and, if we had luggage, the taxi was far more convenient.

Another good thing about the Union Ave. station is that outside of Greyhound's doors, one could take a quick left; and right there in front of their eyes was Main Street and the Main Street Trolly Line.

There were also plenty of restaurants and hotels, a grocery store, and a mall.

To illustrate, the Peabody Hotel built a full-scale movie theater; provided the best food court ever; and, it had top notch retail stores, all of which was located right behind the Greyhound station.

 The Peabody Mall was shut down.

Likewise, the Greyhound station on Union Ave was shut down.

People who used this station the most will miss the convenance of all those amenities in the down town area.

And so, our downtown economy is hurting because of this, especially since all the passengers who rode on the Greyhound and MATA, our main labor force, have been pushed out of the area like they were no better than slaves.

And to justify the lofty changes, the powers-that-be have touted that the old Greyhound station was an eyesore, and so were the people coming in and out of there.

Perhaps one might think that these passengers were more like homeless vagrants.

If that were true, then would it not make far more since for the powers-that-be to make various other services available like proper facilities for keeping up one's hygiene and a place to change into some fresh clothes.  

Otherwise, most anyone could look somewhat homeless if subjected to taking a long trip on a Greyhound or a MATA bus.

Moreover, people will have a tired look on their faces with blood shoot eyes; and, they may have a sluggish swagger as they walk down the street.  

The reason why is because there is little or no leg room to stretch out and relax, and people have to put up with baby vomit, stinky diapers, or someone's body odor, who has been working hard in a sweat shop or on a migrant farm, and who has had no time to clean up like they would have liked too.

So, no one should expect for people who ride on the Greyhound or MATA bus to be wearing suits and ties and looking like Hollywood stars when they step off of these busses.

Let me just paint you the picture of what my first trip was like riding on a MATA bus to this new Greyhound / MATA terminal.

I went out my door at 2:05 P.M. and headed towards the new terminal.

I boarded the number 4 Walker at 2:20 P.M.

Once I arrived at the main street terminal downtown, I waited another 20 minutes to make the transfer onto MATA's 2 Medical Center.

The 2 Medical Center took me to the Greyhound / MATA terminal.

When I walked into the new terminal, I met up with a MATA clerk and we chatted a few minutes about bus schedules.

This person did have a big beautiful smile on her face and she was pleasant and professional.

Cannot say the same for Greyhounds ticket master.

Oh the frustration I felt for how long it took to get there and how long I had to be there before I could leave to go back home: it was about an hour wait.

Well, at least it was not freezing cold outside, burning hot, or raining, which would have made it a far worse trip than it was already.

Anyway, I bought a Greyhound bus ticket at 4:18 PM.

If there had been more people in that line, it would have taken far longer --- perhaps an hour or two.

The place was dead, hardly a soul anywhere around.

Only three people in the ticket line, and thank God for that!

So, I was able to board that next Medical Center 2 by 4:45 P.M..

The Medical Center 2 got me back downtown to the Main Street terminal around 5:20 PM.

And then, I waited 20 more minutes to transfer to the number 4 walker.

I got back home around 6:14 P.M.

I hope my next trip is far better than this one for sure.

I would like to say, again, that this is a far cry from that 20-minute walk that I used to take to the old Greyhound bus station on Union Ave.

Taking a TAXI to this new terminal would have cost $40 for a round trip.

That is why I will miss that old Union Ave. station and so will many other people.

Right now, the time schedules for MATA causes undue stress for all bus riders, who are waiting out in the elements with no proper facilities nearby.

They need proper bus shelters with ample coverage and with restrooms built in, or at least nearby so that they are not turned away from them ever again.

It should be against the law to turn citizens away from the restrooms.

No wonder some bus riders are urinating all over themselves, while passers-by think these bus riders are homeless victims hanging out at the bus stops.  

This disparity truly hurts 10,000 of our poorest citizens in Memphis, who have had no other choice but to endure the plight of our public transit system.

As a result of MATA's new scheduling times and rerouting plans and the relocation of the new terminal, the average public transit rider has little time left in their day to take care of their essential needs.

It's a travesty!

Citizens deserve better!

They go to work and back home; and this takes half a day.

They go to the grocery store and back home; and this takes half a day.

And now, they take a trip to the new Greyhound / MATA terminal and it takes half a day.

Each activity that one might want to do here in Memphis will take half a day on a MATA bus.

Bike riding and walking is the only other alternative for the majority of them; and this city is not designed well for that either.

Riding on a MATA bus for the purpose of pleasure is not what MATA wants citizens to do, not really.

Suppose a family of four were to take a trip across town to the Memphis City Zoo, it would take them  half of the day just to get there and back.

MATA all-day-passes will cost them about $14.00 if they live within the city limits; eating out for lunch will cost about $30 to $50 unless they pack a picnic basket from home; and zoo tickets will cost another $50.00.

Moreover, the design of MATA busses is demoralizing to say the least.

These busses will bounce you up and down on every road you travel on; and they will jar you back and fourth onto other passengers.

If those other passengers have been working their fingers to the bone and/or they have been standing out in the elements for hours on end waiting on the MATA bus, then your family is most likely gonna end up smelling like a burger joint or warehouse sweat.

By the time you arrive at your luxurious destination your family trip will have turned into the zoo animals watching you instead of you watching them.

Who's being treated worse than the animals?

!!! YOU ARE !!!

It is time to fight for a better public transit system.

MATA is not operating a transit system, but a fleet of rolling slave ships.

Hopefully, since the powers-that-be were so willing to spend all those millions on a new terminal, they will now fund better designed busses and proper facilities along their bus routes.

Perhaps the private sector will join in and provide showers and locker rooms for their employees who have to wait out the elements to get to work every day.

Moreover, there is the rising cost of bus fare on all MATA busses, which is now $3.50 for their all-day-pass; and traveling outside of Memphis to the suburbs costs a lot extra: .85 cents each way for zone 1; $1.25 each way for zone 2; $1.65 each way for zone 3.

Citizens who are living and traveling to and from the suburbs must also pay these high fair rates, which is probably why so many suburbanites find out quickly that they are better off financially just driving into town.

In suburbia there are no trains lines or park and ride systems in place.

As for those citizens living in dire poverty, the working poor, who make less than $5,000 a year, traveling out to the suburbs to work means paying over half of their salaries just to ride on MATA.   

The impoverished, have spent more time waiting for, and riding on, MATA busses, than they have spent with their families and friends.

Not to mention these busses are notorious for running late or not showing up at all, and the employers often use this to their advantage by firing the bus riders, writing them up, or docking their pay.

Which really explains why many employers are not on the bandwagon to improve public transit for their employees, or why they do not help pay for bus passes as part of a benefits package.

The powers-that-be work so smoothly together one can hardly tell which one of them are responsible enough to make a change for the better.    

As a result of all this, the most impoverish and hardest working group in Memphis has been reduced to becoming MATA slaves.

I have spent hours listening to fellow walkers, bike riders, and bus riders who have told me their stories during our passing conversations, but many of them have been scared to speak their minds.

Each one of them have been made to feel like they are on their own and alone.

It is time to start a Union that will free them once and for all.



  1. I rode the bus for years, and know first hand the problems associated with customers. I've seen drivers beaten and stabbed, and customer fights and complaining about service. People riding really don't know the power they wield!

    1. The power Bus Riders wield it is tremendous!

  2. For those that don't remember, more background on the terminal shenanigans at

    1. It was good that you pointed out this article ... full of juicy information about how this city is ruin by the powers-that-be!


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