The Memphis Bus Riders Union is fueling up its fight against proposed bus route cuts.
The group held a meeting Saturday to discuss their plan of action: First, try to convince MATA to postpone voting on the proposed cuts, then go after their real target of the Memphis City Council.
"People like Collins need to step up; people like Ford, Lowery, and really take some leadership on this issue because it's going to have a devastating impact," says Memphis Bus Riders Union Lead Organizer Bennett Foster.
One bus rider at the weekend meeting is no stranger to route cuts.
"Year before last they cut the number 32. It used to go right in front of Vatterott (College)," says bus rider Myron Draine, "So now I have to walk a mile and a half, dodge traffic and everything, to get to school."
One of the recently proposed route cuts is the number 15, which takes driver to President's Island. It's an area with many manufacturing plants where many of the bus riders work. By cutting this route, the next closest route, riders say, would have them walking nearly five miles to get to their jobs.
"If we're going to give them money to create jobs but we're not going to create a way for people to get to those jobs, the people who need them the most, I don't see how it's going to work," says Foster.
The Memphis Bus Riders Union's proposal to the city council: Cut the tax incentives to Memphis PILOT programs to put more money back into the city's treasury and fund MATA.
MATA's board is meeting on Aug. 5 at the central station at 3:30 p.m. to vote on the proposed cuts and changes. Memphis City Council will meet and discuss the MATA budget on Aug. 6.
Union members intend to turn out in bus loads at both meetings.
"We show up and we talk to them, and we're meeting with them and we're getting people out. It's going to take a lot of pressure and a lot of people," says Foster, "The question is whether or not the livelihood of poor people in Memphis is a priority to the administration."
Thursday at a MATA public hearing about the proposed cuts, Councilman Harold Collins said the union's proposal was reasonable to help avoid future MATA budget cuts. Members say Collins will meet with the union about its proposal within the week.
Councilman Lee Harris did draft a resolution to steer money back to MATA for this fiscal year, but says he since dropped the idea. Harris says the funding source is not there.