The surprises apparently just keep on coming as to the casualties of this year's budget cuts from various city departments and city-related agencies begin to emerge.
The latest bad news comes from the Memphis Area Transit Authority and a new plan for bus and trolley route eliminations and changes that's going to make the road bumpier for its thousands of customers.
MATA proposed route changes: http://content.foxtvmedia.com/whbq/ProposedServiceChanges2013-webbooklet.pdf
The wheels on the bus go round and round, so, too does the heated reactions and emotional opposition from riders to proposed budget cut measures by MATA. The changes seem destined to take full effect Aug. 25.
As vocally displayed at a raucous public meeting on Tuesday night, the general sentiment of more than 200 attendees would call for anyone associated with causing the changes to be unceremoniously thrown under the bus.
"Well, we need your input. Why don't ya'll come on down. We give you, our input. We try and pour our hearts out to ya'll. But, we get the same old grind," said an unidentified MATA bus rider.
"We feel bad about it," said MATA President William Hudson. "But, where do you cut the line? $5.5 million is a whole lot of money to make up and if you don't have it, somehow or another, everybody's going to be effected one way or the other."
Prompted by a budget shortfall, the plans call for the elimination of six routes and 17 route changes that Hudson asserts will avoid current duplications and improve the speed of service. Hudson says the cuts might have been more Draconian.
An original proposal called for the complete elimination of city bus service after 9:15 p.m. and the an end to a Germantown route that helps MATA Plus elderly riders. However, a $600,000 appropriation from the city council did erase the need for those changes.
"Taking into consideration our ridership counts and origin of destination, what time people go and those kinds of things," Hudson said. "Well, we put that together the best we could with the dollars we had to do it with."
The cuts don't come without some company sacrifice in the form of an estimated 40-50 workers who will be laid off. But, at worst, it's the ripple effects in terms of how eliminated bus routes will almost certainly play havoc with those who depend on public transportation to get to their jobs.
"If Bus 20 doesn't come downtown, then there's four people I know that will not have jobs," said an unidentified MATA bus rider. "So, I just want you to know that your decisions will effect people's employment?"
"What kind of city doesn't have a decent transportation to catch the bus?," said another unidentified MATA bus rider. "Anybody can be today and on that bus. Riding a car today and on that bus tomorrow."
Meanwhile, amid the hew and cry, Memphis Councilman Lee Harris wants to push his own proposal which he thinks won't let the council miss the bus when it comes to figuring out the financial needs of MATA in the future.
"Form a separate transportation committee just to make sure we didn't get into bind like this one where we're shocked and surprised that there's going to be such dramatic cuts that are going to effect hundreds and hundreds of families," Councilman Harris said. "Not to mention, the 40 or 50 folks at MATA that are going to be laid off as a result of this."
"Emotionally, it drains us," Hudson said. "And again, I can't say much more than that, but, the fact of the matter is it's not a good thing."
MATA looking at cutting several routes
MATA plans to eliminate 6 routes, change 17