Wednesday, October 17, 2018

New Ad Hoc Committee Looking to Secure Funding for MATA

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 3:38 PM

click to enlarge JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks

A hotel/motel, ride-hailing services, and green tax were among the future funding options for the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) discussed at a new ad hoc transit committee’s first meeting Tuesday.

The city/county committee, chaired by former Memphis City Councilman and Shelby County Commissioner Edmund Ford Jr., also includes county commissioner Tami Sawyer, MATA’s CEO Gary Rosenfeld, Tom Needham of Shelby County Public Works, Innovate Memphis’ Suzanne Carlson, and Justin Davis of the Memphis Bus Riders’ Union (MBRU).

Tuesday, members of the MBRU presented several options for raising the additional $30 million Rosenfeld said MATA needs to improve its service and add an additional 200,000 hours of bus service.

Davis said the MBRU wanted to “open the conversation, keep it broad, and think outside the box” with “progressive” ideas that haven’t already been proposed, such as adding a tax or levying a fee on ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft — a move that the group cited has been successful in other cities, such as Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

Other new proposals included a hotel/motel tax, rental car tax, and a green tax on carbon and cigarettes.

Davis said it’s important to look at solutions that are won’t “put the burden on backs of bus riders who are already spending most of their money on transit.” That’s why the bus riders’ union knocked previously proposed options of a sales tax surcharge, calling it “regressive.” The group believes this would disproportionately affect low income households.

MBRU also feels that Ford’s proposed transportation utility fee, which could yield up to $60 million a year, might be “unpopular with low income households.” Going forward, the transit committee will start looking at how much money each of the options would generate.

“It’s really nice that we’re at this point where the city and county are talking concretely about what are some things we can do to raise enough money to make MATA a good service,” Davis said.

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