Memphis City Councilman Edmund Ford Jr. says the "minimal tax" will "help some of the city's most vulnerable citizens maintain their independence and provide access to much needed jobs throughout the community."
The Sierra Club and Livable Memphis are among the groups supporting the referendum and rallying Friday afternoon at the bus station at the north end of downtown.
If successful, MATA will use the funds to increase frequency on eight major bus routes around the area and on the downtown trolley.
A penny-a-gallon increase would add up to $5 for a person driving 10,000 miles a year and getting 20 miles per gallon on his or her vehicle. The price of gas has fallen since it topped $4 a gallon this summer. With the current price varying from $3.09 to $3.40 or more in the Memphis area, it is possible to save $5 on a single fill-up by shopping around.
But no tax increase is a cinch. MATA, some voters will remember, is the agency responsible for the Midtown trolley extension via Madison Avenue and a proposed $400 million light rail line to Memphis International Airport.
Atlanta-area voters in July defeated a proposed 1-cent sales tax that would have raised an estimated $7.2 billion for transportation projects. Voters in St. Louis in 2010 approved a half-cent sales tax increase to help fund the regional transit agency after defeating it in earlier votes.
The gas tax referendum is one of two tax referendums on the ballot in Memphis. The other is a proposed countywide half-cent increase in the sales tax.
Ford said he is unaware of any organized opposition to the gas tax. The sales tax has caused some grumbling from suburban residents who are not allowed to vote on it because they previously approved a sales tax increase for suburban school systems.