Many Game Day Shuttles Cancelled
(Memphis) Due to a budget shortfall, some of the cuts made by the board of the Memphis Area Transit Authority included cancellation of special shuttles for Grizzlies and Tigers basketball games.
For the coming season, all Grizzlies buses are cancelled.
For the University of Memphis basketball games, buses from Collierville and Whitehaven are cancelled. All buses to and from other areas of town will remain in service.
MATA will continue game day buses to the Southern Heritage Classic and the Liberty Bowl.
For regular service, MATA has eliminated or changed many routes, especially affecting the areas of Northaven and Southwest Memphis. Many bus riders who may rely on MATA service to get to their jobs will need to look at the new routes, which could involve more transfers.
MATA will also be laying off some employees. Fewer than 14 people are estimated to be laid off.
The cuts result in about 3.5 percent of their existing service. They come after a million dollar shortfall.
The gap is caused by many factors, including $250,000 less in contribution from the city of Memphis than the previous year, price of fuel, and fluctuation in advertising revenue.
While many Memphians may not take the bus regularly, the game day shuttles were a service many sports fans enjoyed.
“We love the Grizzlies. But when we look at operating dollars, and what it costs us to provide that service, it’s something we couldn’t continue doing,” said Alison Burton, director of marketing and customer service at MATA.
Each game day roundtrip shuttle fare was $8. The fare was capped by federal law, at being twice the amount of the highest regular service fare ($4).
At that rate, and with the low number of people served over a large number of games, the board decided to cut the service.
Sherman Waller takes the bus to the Grizzlies games. He said he loves sharing the ride with other fans.
“Keep it. We can’t do without it,” he said.
Even Burton knows that’s a shame. She said, “They enjoy riding, they meet up for it, they go eat. They talk about the game…I know, I’ve been on the shuttle. I love it.”
She’s received complaints from people, including elderly customers from East Memphis or the suburbs, saying they relied on game day shuttles so they wouldn’t have to drive themselves downtown and deal with parking late at night.
“A lot of people here in East Memphis do take the shuttle bus, because you know, your car is so hard to find,” said Johnnie Mason, a Grizzlies fan.
His friend, Al Sims, said, “That’s something that needs to be ironed out, taken care of. Because it’s very important for the Memphis Grizzlies to play right here in Memphis.”
Sims suggested that the team needs every possible supporter in the stands.
Mason said, “There will probably be a few who say I’m not going to go until they get it right.”
But ‘getting it right’ would require money, as much as $1 million.
Grizzlies President of Business Operations Greg Campbell told News Channel 3 he was just hearing about this decision Friday.
Campbell said he hoped to meet with MATA to discuss possible alternatives that would work for both MATA and the fans.
According to MATA, a sports team like the Grizzlies is not allowed to subsidize bus service, by federal law.
However, the team and other businesses in town could purchase advertising to help with the shortfall.