Group proposes new car fees to fund MATA with county mayor’s support

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris made his case again for expanding the public transportation system at County Commission on Wednesday.

He's proposed adding eight new routes at a cost of about $10 million. He brought experts to explain why the transit was necessary to get people out of poverty.

“The lack of access to transit really prevents people from getting to work. There are 50,000 jobs in hotels and if people cannot get to those hotels at the times they need to be there then it’s as if those jobs do not exist," University of Memphis Associate Professor Elena Delavega said.

Harris originally proposed a $145 fee for households with more than two cars, but responded to public criticism and withdrew the suggestion. Instead, he asked the public for alternative funding plans; the Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope responded. MICAH representatives sat with him in front of the Commission and made their proposal.

“Our pitch is leaning in this range: $20 to $25," Britney Thornton said.

The group said people would pay about $20 per vehicle, no matter how many they own. Businesses would pay $40 per vehicle. They said they came up with the numbers based on a survey of their own members.

“We are constantly recruiting interfaith network that has neighborhood-based organizations, faith networks," Thornton said.

Commissioners also said they'd consider dipping into current tax incentives granted to other projects.

“This is how sausage is made. You really have to get creative when you want to do something. The administration really wants this. The commission wants this. We’ll try to be as creative as we possibly can," Commissioner Reginald Milton said.

Harris said it didn't matter how they get to $10 million, only that they do by February.

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