The Memphis Bus Riders Union and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 713 launched a new campaign in 2016 with a petition to restore the 31 Crosstown, a historic bus route eliminated by Memphis Area Transit Authority in 2013. The two groups represent hundreds of MATA drivers and riders who say that “the route was a lifeline” for under served neighborhoods in North and South Memphis.
The campaign hopes to revive MATA’s ridership by restoring the service that current riders want. Willie Barber, Business Agent for Local 713 says that public opinion of MATA can be repaired by reinstating the 31.
“Any bus rider will tell you how important this route is. MATA’s own reports show the 31 Crosstown had the third highest daily ridership of all the routes, about 2,600 passengers a day. Because it went into the neighborhoods of Riverside and New Chicago, areas where many households have no vehicle, and connected those residents with resources as well as other major routes in Midtown.” he said.
MATA: Transit Operating Environment, SRTP 2011
The 31 provided frequent service, running every 15 minutes during peak hours, and served riders from 5am to 12pm. The petition calls for fully restoring the route to ensure that it’s many riders will return:
“We, the undersigned, call for the immediate restoration of the 31 Crosstown, connecting the residential areas of New Chicago and Riverview-Kansas. We demand service that is frequent, and operates through the full duration of the MATA service day.”
Rep. Barbara Cooper encourages us to fight for bus service. Photos by Schaeffer Mallory
The unions believe that low enrollment in neighborhood schools is also connected to MATA service cuts. Students in the affected neighborhoods are strained due to the recent closings of Northside and Carver High Schools.
“I worry about my son who walks almost 2 miles to Manassas every day, without crosswalks or even decent sidewalks, when the 31 would have taken him there safely” said MBRU Co-Chair Cynthia Bailey.
The importance of transit infrastructure to the economic stability of a community cannot be denied. As neighborhoods in North and South Memphis experience worsening segregation and poverty with every lost bus route, major developers in Downtown and Midtown solicit for transit funding to improve infrastructure around their projects. The unions see their campaign as part of the solution to this form of systemic racism and inequitable development in Memphis.
“Public transit is a civil right, and we must increase bus service for low-income and minority residents to properly address racial and economic injustice in Memphis. North and South Memphis deserve equal access to our city.” the petition states.
For more information on the Memphis Bus Riders Union, visit mbru.org or contact them at 901-205-9737. For more on ATU Local 713, visit their Facebook page.