Memphis — MATA Losing Millions
Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) is losing millions of dollars and many riders because of the shutdown of its three-route heritage streetcar system, which has now lasted more than two years, WHBQ Fox 13 News, reports. The closure followed two fires in six months that destroyed two ex-Melbourne "W" Class trams. The American Public Transportation Association sent street railway experts to Memphis and they made recommendations for safety and maintenance. There still is no word how soon streetcar operations will resume. The first route to return will be Main Street which will require six cars to operate.
Owner Jake Schorr of Westy's bar and restaurant on Main Street said since the trolley service ended over two years ago, he has been pinpointing problems and suggesting solutions to MATA.
Since the shutdown, MATA has foregone $1.2 million dollars in federal funds to support the streetcar system. Schorr told FOX13 that the loss of money has been felt by businesses as well.
"It has cost us a reasonable estimate of $375 to $400 thousand dollars in less sales," Schorr said.
MATA Chief Executive Officer, Ron Garrison told FOX13 that in 2014 when he arrived, MATA was headed for collapse due to poor funds management and faulty equipment. He now says the state of MATA is greatly improved.
"Our biggest obstacle now is dedicated founding source," Garrison said. He said with riders comes capital and federal funding.
Garrison said the trolley system was a major part of getting people to buses.
"We lost ridership when we cut service and when we cut the trolleys . We lost 1.5 million riders a year when the trolleys went offline," Garrison said.
Schorr told FOX13 he has lost three employees who depended on the MATA trolleys to get to and from work.
Garrison said MATA is working to have the trolleys safely working on the tracks in the future while also bringing life back to Main Street. "We are rebuilding all of the trolleys as new from the ground up,” Garrison said.