When William Barber started his bus driving job in 1976, his boss gave him two weeks; Barber has now been driving public busses for more than 30 years and on a route he's familiar with.
"Now I drive the bus that I used to ride with my mom," says Barber, citing the 31 Crosstown route.
Crosstown is one of six MATA bus routes on the chopping block following local and federal budget cuts to the transit system that set its budget back $4.5 million.
"If they cut Crosstown, it takes elderly people to and from the doctor, grocery stores, so it really would be detrimental to come up with some kind of plan to save the 31 Crosstown, the number 10 to President's Island," says Barber.
He is also concerned for the livelihood of, not only the citizens riding the bus, but also his coworkers. MATA's proposed cuts include nearly 50 jobs.
"I spend eight hours a day with my coworkers almost 300 days out of the year," says Barber, "So they like my family. So it hurts when you see your family members go through things they don't really have a choice in the matter."
Memphis City Council Members Lee Harris and Janis Fullilove may have a solution to save the routes and jobs.
Harris says they drew up a resolution – to be proposed during Tuesday's council meeting – to take $450,000 from the $2.1 million the council planned to give the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) and move that to MATA's funding; EDGE would still receive $1.6 million, which he heard was going in their general fund reserves.
"We should peel off some of that money and maybe we can delay some of that money to EDGE to another budget cycle when things are not so tight," says Harris, "If we're going to be a first class city, we got to have a public transportation system that works, and so we can't just take that out of our list of priorities. We've got to do something about MATA."
Harris says there is reason to be optimistic about funding MATA in the future. He says through new construction in the city and overall better management of the city's revenue, especially paying off outstanding bills, there will be future money for MATA.
"If we're able to do a couple more things and be a little more efficient in a lot of other ways, then the money should be in place to keep MATA going and to kind of maintain these levels of expanding in respect to MATA for the future," says Harris.
Harris and Fullilove will present their resolution to the city council during Tuesday's meeting.
MATA will hold a board meeting on Aug. 7 at 3:30 p.m. at the central station at 545 S. Main; the proposed cuts will be addressed.