MATA awarded $6M, half goes to Central Station

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. --  Cash-strapped Memphis Area Transit Authority was awarded millions to upgrade and improve bus service in the city.

The money came from state grants and local matching funds.

WREG looked into how the money will be spent and why some bus riders aren't so happy about some of the improvements.

MATA competed against other transit authorities and won the money to add four new routes; half of the $6 million will go to that. It will use the other half on Central Station, which MATA owns.

"It will make this a sense of place here that folks will want to come to, not only in the neighborhood but in the whole community," MATA President Ron Garrison said.

Garrison said the downtown building, which includes apartments, is in dire need of repairs.

The funding will cover upgrades and pay off an old $1.5 million loan.

MATA has also been working with developers to add a movie theater and boutique hotel.

"Everything we're doing on Central Station will not only be good for the community, but it will be better for us, for the folks that use our regular service, because it will free up our regular resources," Garrison said.

Garrison, who was hired to run MATA last August, said Central Station will eventually make money to improve the entire system.

However, those who ride the buses said the money should go for more than just four routes.

"I don't think MATA needs to be in the building practices," bus rider Betty Anderson said. "They need to leave that alone and let somebody else handle that."

The founder of the Memphis Bus Riders Union, Georgia King, was also on hand for the announcement.

"We have people that's way out in other neighborhoods that they still going to be locked in," King said. "I'm concerned about how soon is that going to be answered, in reference as to dollars coming into Memphis."

Garrison said MATA is restricted in how it uses the money. It was awarded for projects that promote better air quality.

"When you apply for these grants you can only apply for things that meet the criteria," Garrison said. "So, what I want to tell you is if there were more routes we could have done that met the criteria. we would have done it."

Three of the new routes connect to the Airways Transit Center from downtown, the airport and Getwell Road.

The fourth will run in Cordova from the Wolfchase area to Appling Farms.

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