MATA buses continue to roll in West Memphis

MATA buses continue to roll in West Memphis

City comes to agreement with transit authority to keep rides free for residents

You can’t beat free.

Thousands of people from West Memphis are taking advantage of the free MATA bus service every month — free for riders, at least. The city pays a monthly fee to the Memphis Area Transit Authority to foot the bill for the bus service. Although numbers are down from their peak a few years ago, bus ridership is holding steady according to City Planning Director Paul Luker.

Luker provided a transit system report at the August MPO meetings. West Memphis and the Memphis Area Transit Authority agreed on funding resulting in a pared-back city bus circulation.

“We finally got our finances and budget worked out between the city and MATA,” said Luker. “We had to make some adjustments in the routes.”

The reduced runs were hashed out over the course of several meetings with the community and MATA officials.

Luker spread the credit around for the work behind the scenes.

“Summer Smith, in my office, and (City Councilwoman) Ramona Taylor were the two big entities behind that movement, working with MATA and meeting with the neighborhood groups,” said Luker The number of riders remained steady, even with the reduced bus schedule.

Bus service is still free and a good number of city residents board the bus each month.

“Ridership is still holding around 8,000,” said Luker.

During its peak, around 2012, the service was approaching 20,000 riders per month.

Luker was glad to have the funding and the new routes worked out and have the whole matter in the rear view mirror.

“Right now we feel like we got through a little rough spot and are moving forward,” said Luker.

“Local funding, reduction in hours of service — MATA made a concession in on our side for hourly rate. The whole stew, we’d been working on for about two years. Congestion, Mitigation and Air Quality money was transferred over this month.”

By John Rech