The Flyer caught up with Justin Davis, secretary of the Memphis Bus Riders’ Union (MBRU), this week to learn more about the union’s work and the transit issues it strives to address.
We met at Memphis Rox Climbing Gym on McLemore and made our way to a nearby bus stop. It drizzled a little as we stood at the uncovered bus stop. Davis used the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA)’s TransLoc app to track when the next bus would arrive.
After waiting about 15 minutes, the 17 McLemore bus arrived on time. Davis said it’s not unusual for buses to arrive ten minutes early, ten minutes late, or occasionally not arrive at all.
We each put $3.50 in the fare box and received a one-day pass.
There was just one other person on board when we boarded the bus. The passenger chatted back and forth with the driver as if she was a regular on the route.
Davis and I settled in the back of the bus. The bus was clean other than a few food wrappers on the floor. And other than the occasional roar from the engine, the ride was quiet. We rode down residential streets through South Memphis and then down Lamar, picking up a few more passengers, before arriving at the American Way Transit Center about 20 minutes later.
Half a dozen more passengers got on there, including an older man with shopping bags, a younger man dressed in a work uniform with a lunchbox in tow, and a teenage boy carrying nothing but a phone.
The transit center is where many riders come to make connections to other routes, Davis said.
As Davis and I rode, we talked about the bus riders’ union’s efforts to advocate for better transit in the city, transit and poverty, dedicated funding for MATA and the proposed wheel tax, and other issues that regular bus riders face every day. Check out the video at the top to hear what Davis had to say.