The Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) is the public transportation provided in Memphis, Tennessee. The system was founded in 1975 to help serve the Greater Mid-south. September 25, 2019, Jim Strickland hosted a campaign event for his re-election for Mayor. At this event, he discussed his reasons for why he should be elected for another term and discussed about the many issues that the city of Memphis is facing, from poverty to the MATA bus systems. Jim Strickland believes that there needs to be an “adequate” bus system for the future of Memphis. His reasoning for the problem as to why the bus system is unsatisfactory is because of inadequate funding.
The event allowed the audience to exercise their right of democracy by ensuring that every voice was heard during a Question and Answer dialogue. In a democracy, the people have the power to choose their governing representative. By holding a campaign event and this allowed the citizens of Memphis to get to know the candidates for the 2019 mayoral race. Also, by wanting to improve the bus systems, Mayor Strickland is adhering to the safety of others. There were a few disagreements about what Strickland had to say about the MATA systems. Many of the disagreements dealt with the amount of time it has taken to improve the MATA systems slightly. Many feels as if there have not been any improvements on the bus route, accurate time schedule, and unprofessional bus drivers. “One has to plan significantly when needing to ride the bus in Memphis”, said a concerned citizen that attended the campaign event. Mayor Strickland heavily reassured to the people listening to him that he was doing the best he could with the money he has.
The MATA bus systems have been a huge topic after the Atlanta mayor, Andrew Young, said that the reason Atlanta is blooming is because of their bus systems and the growing and building of minority businesses. There is a huge lack of funding for MATA and for the first time ever, the country is giving Memphis the money that is needed to improve the bus systems, according to Mayor Strickland. Recently, Strickland lobbied at the Capital for more federal dollars for the Memphis Area Transit Authority.The transit systems in the United States are statistically improving quite a bit and has become more efficient and cheaper since the 1890s. Majority of the bus systems that are having huge success stories are those up north. Majority of federal public transportation money goes to the bigger cities that have the highest improvement rates, whereas the smaller cities, like Memphis does not receive as much money. July 1st in 2019, a new $5 million budget was approved for MATA and it is estimated that MATA will take $30 million in funding to create a bus system that will “offer one-way trips of under an hour and is a mix of increasing frequency with having adequate coverage of the city.” The city is also testing the buses for its safety functions. Currently, a steel and Plexiglas door that covers the bus driver is being tested.
If Memphis were to receive the extra $30 million needed to improve the transit systems, there would be so much change happening in the city. For one, it would expand the bus service by over 50 percent and would add over 200,000 hours of service. This would help enable three million more rides per year and this would allow someone to go anywhere in the city within an hour. Currently it takes residents around 25 hours to get around the city. It would create a rough estimate of 10,000 jobs and would put 70 percent of Memphis residents in walking distance of a MATA bus stop.
Whether the Federal Government decides to give the City of Memphis the money to improve the bus systems or not, the Mayors of Memphis and Shelby County will find a way. A sustainability fee was introduced to help increase the funding for MATA. This fee is $145 and would be taxed to any owner that owned three or more vehicles. This fee is allowing for democratic erosion to happen. The appeal for a MATA bus expansion could ultimately result in any candidate and/or the incumbent, Mayor Strickland, using strategic manipulation. Strategic manipulation means that a person of power is creating, shaping, and manipulating policies, plans, and strategies while also making it hard for opposition leaders to run as is during elections. This sustainability fee could create a burden on the consumer. However, if enough people are against this fee, it could help increase voter turnout and have a positive impact on the democratic participation in Memphis.
While the MATA bus systems are not where they should be, many people in power are working hard to ensure that in the future it becomes an adequate system. In recent news, there has been numerous meetings about the problems MATA is currently facing. Overall, many positive gains have been made when it comes to funding and exposure of the bus systems. The governing parties of the City of Memphis and the State of Tennessee are going to make MATA a better system that helps create more jobs and provides a safer ride for Memphis citizens. How they get the money is what will be determined in the near future.
 Arthur, Shay, and Eryn Taylor. “Shelby County Mayor Proposes Funding MATA through Fee for Residents with Three Vehicles.” WREG.com, 4 Sept. 2019, https://wreg.com/2019/09/04/shelby-county-mayor-proposes-funding-mata-through-fee-for-residents-with-three-vehicles/.
 “Democratic Erosion Logo” (Unsplash)
 Hardiman, Samuel. “Shelby County Could Be Funding MATA by 2020.” Bizjournals.com, 18 Feb. 2019, https://www.bizjournals.com/memphis/news/2019/02/18/shelby-county-could-be-funding-mata-by-2020.html.
 Munks, Jamie. “Mayor Strickland to Lobby in Washington for More Dollars for MATA.” The Commercial Appeal, Memphis Commercial Appeal, 16 Oct. 2018, https://www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/2018/10/16/mata-service-change-funding-mayor-jim-strickland/1664524002/.