Memphis City Councilman Edmund Ford Jr. said for the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) to be a higher quality transit system, “it requires money.”
Ford said he knows that MATA has had challenges in the past getting adequate funding, and wants to start the discussion early about the agency’s 2019-2020 budget.
“What I wanted to do early, as the budget chair, is to look at what MATA could be as far as one of the best transit systems in the state — if not the nation,” Ford said. “And I know that it requires money.”
Gary Rosenfeld, MATA’s chief operating officer, said the agency needs about $34 million a year to provide a network that is both timely and serves more riders.
The current network, he said, is spread thin, “going everywhere within our community” and that is “part of the problem.”
“We can’t go everywhere often enough,” Rosenfeld said. “And as a result, you have some areas of the community that see transit service every two hours or more and not enough parts of our community that see service every 15 minutes or less.”
The investment would increase frequency on major corridors with high population density, as well as adding more service on weekends “to address quality of life issues,” Rosenfeld said.
“It’s all about mobility and people being able to get around and able to move,” Rosenfeld said. “That’s the need for public transportation in any community.”
Good public transit, he said, relieves congestion, improves air quality, lowers crime rates, increases opportunities, and improves the overall quality of life.
“When you start looking at other great cities in our country...the vibrancy of these communities centers around a high quality, high frequency public transit network that provides the community with so much more mobility,” Rosenfeld said. “When a city has high acceptance and use of public transit, the return on investment is huge and becomes the catalyst for economic activity in a community.”