Saturday, February 18, 2012

Car-Free Memphis and Memphis Bus Riders Union Team Up for Social Justice

Would you like to live in a more livable community that can reduce stress? If the answer is yes, then it will be good to know that several organizations and individuals have already been working together to make it happen.

For example, there is the Memphis Bus Riders Union, Car-Free Memphis blogger - David Fullerton, and The Memphis Center For Independent Living. 

The Memphis Bus Riders Union (BRU) was recently organized through various individuals and collaborative groups of like-minded people who want social justice concerning mass transportation. For example, they want to force Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) to provide far superior services for all citizens within the metropolitan area.

The blog contributor for Car-Free Memphis, David Fullerton, is backing up all of these legitimate rants with many years of mass transportation knowledge and research, as well as ongoing personal experience as a MATA rider for many years.

To illustrate, many years ago, Fullerton attended High School at Overton High School where he also graduated from in 1984 as a perfroming arts student. His MATA bus ride trip from the Whitehaven area to Watkins Overton High School took about 90 minutes each way. And more recently, as a substitute teacher with Memphis City Schools, his MATA bus trips throughout the whole city also took about 90 minutes or longer each way; and not to mention all the trips he had to take his classes at the University of Memphis, which were also 90 minutes each-way. 

All in all, as the blogger for Car-Free Memphis, Fullerton has well over ten years of solid car-free living experiences to pull from, as well as having a deep passion for social justice issues. 

And Fullerton has observed that regardless of a MATA bus rider's economic level, educational level, or race, one can easily spend as much as 30 hours each week waiting for and riding on a MATA bus; and that is just to get to work.

Now add all of that stress to also having to ride a MATA bus to meet any other essential needs like retail shopping, as it drains even more time from the bus rider's personal life. The stress level alone is inhuman to say the least, as there is little or no time left over for family, friends, or celebrating their spiritual values, such as with their local church organizations.   

What is the result of all this?

The Answer - Nearly 40,000 mentally and physically exhausted Memphis citizens - that is what!

In fact, according to several members of The Memphis Center for Independent Living, MATA drivers are refusing to let down ramps for people with disabilities who are wheelchair bound if the ramp is not working mechanically; yet these ramps can be let down manually too.

And when the busses are full, some of these wheelchair bound citizens have been forced to wait for another bus that may not come for another hour --- perhaps longer if the next bus is late. Therefore, we should not be asking MATA to make improvements, but demanding it and getting it right now!

On the other hand, we can advocate for redesigning several blocks of property at various locations throughout our city to become car-free. This will allow for up to 5,000 people living within these communities to cut back on using MATA.

The main purpose of a car-free city is to drastically reduce the daily stresses related to transportation woes. This means that we should want car-free streets and neighborhoods with no parking for motorized vehicles within the community itself - perhaps private parking within a security zone nearby.  

Within such a community, one can meet all of their essential needs, wants, and desires within ten minutes of their homes. All of us are deserving of communities like this so that we can live without the constant noise of traffic and exhaust fumes that have been taking us over day after day for decades.

For your own good health and social well-being - join us and take action!


  • We have one of the nations poorest public transit systems.
  • According to the Brookings Institute, among 100 largest in the U.S., Memphis is #69. 

  • More than 80% of MATA's riders are Memphians who have no other means of getting to work. 
  •  In the Memphis area, only 26% of all jobs are reachable via public transit within 90 minutes. 

  • The Brooking Institute ranked Memphis #98 out of 100 for suburban job access. 

  • 83 % of MATA riders do not have cars. 

  •  There are 33 numbered bus routes. 

  • The MATA fleet has 169 vehicles (149 active), down from 244 in 2007 and 198 in 2008.

  • There are 5,600 bud stops -- but only 326 bus shelters.

  • MATA serves 40,000 riders per weekday.

  •  89% of Riders are African -American. 

  • Nearly 60% of riders have an annual income of $18,000 or less. 

  • MATA has raised fares two times in the last four years. 

  • In the spring of 2010, MATA eliminated bus-to-bus transfers of 10 cents requiring riders to pay a separate fair.
  • MATA reduced bus service three times in 2011. 

  • 2013 MATA laid-off employees, shut down several routes completely, and cut way back on the over all operations and other key bus routes. 
  • The whole City of Memphis is devastated! 

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