MATA Expansion Wanted In Suburbs

(Memphis) The suburbs have long been a place where people moved to escape the inner city.

When Memphis decided to do away with large public housing, poverty spread to the suburbs.

Many of the things those residents needed, like bus service, did not follow as fast.

Hareg Yigezu begins her morning with an Ethiopian tradition of making coffee while sitting on the floor with her family.

Her dream is to share part of this culture with others. She’s preparing to open an Ethiopian restaurant in Cordova with business partners.

The problem is getting there.

She lives in Millington and doesn’t drive, and there’s no bus service in the area.

“It’s her ultimate dream since she’s been in America she’s put her body in the ground just trying to work for $8 an hour,” her son-in-law Cody Stocking said.

He drives her from Millington to Cordova every day.

It’s a trip he makes four times a day, since he works there, too, but has different hours.

“It’s 35, 35, 140 miles everyday,” said Stocking.

He put an ad on Craigslist looking to find her a ride to the nearest bus stop or someone she can car pool with to Cordova.

He’s hoping soon MATA will expand bus service to Millington so Hareg’s dream isn’t hampered by a lack of transportation.

WREG took a look at bus service to the suburbs and found that MATA currently has five routes outside of the city of Memphis. The times and frequencies vary depending on need and, of course, money.

“We have to be very strategic about where we go and also there’s a funding issue associated with that too. Our budget is tight and none of these outlying areas participate in the funding of MATA,” said Tom Fox, MATA General Manager.

Only West Memphis pays for MATA service. The Arkansas town pays MATA by the hour to bring its residents back and forth across the bridge. Passengers ride for free.

To expand the service, Fox says it needs more suburban areas to chip in like West Memphis.

“We would love to partner with some of these outlying areas to work out some arrangements to provide service,” said Fox.

For people some like Hareg, it’s essential for MATA to think about expanding to her suburb.

“I need transportation. Somebody help,” she said.

It could mean the difference between having a dream and making her Ethiopian restaurant and coffee shop a reality.

MATA says it would love to partner with Millington and Shelby County government to explore adding a route to Millington.

Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland represents the Millington area and says he doesn’t believe funding public transportation is a function of county government.

He says he also needs more proof there would be enough riders if MATA expanded.

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