And then Hudson points out the woman that had stepped in during our interview, Director of Marketing and Customer Service Alison Burton. He guessed at 25 years, but she points out it’s 30. “I’m in the retirement program,” Burton laughs.
“I think it’s a pretty good job,” Hudson says of why people stick around at MATA. “We do what’s right. We try to, anyways, so they stick around.”
As for Hudson, he jokes that retirement is always in the future for him. “Actually my contract ended last year and they extended it another 15 months,” he explains. “The mayor, when I met with him, we were kidding, and I said with the new governor coming in I’m sure there are some changes and all and he actually agreed to the extension. The only thing he asked was just make sure that when I decided to leave it to give him some notice.” He adds, “So I felt pretty good about that.”
Growing with Memphis
Assistant General Manager of Administration Tom Fox has been with MATA for 20 years and was doing consulting before coming to MATA. He says when coming to the transit side, he had to shift the focus that roads should be a last resort and should be building sustainable development patterns. “That was a pretty big shift for me,” he says.
“Folks are in that old mentality of we need more money to build more roads to open up new areas for development farther out,” he continues. “I think we make a pretty good case for what we do. You see it at the national level with Congress. It was going very much toward transit, and then with the latest election you see it flipping back, wanting to go back to the old ways.”
In Memphis, Burton says the city has gone through a big growth period. “Our downtown community has grown, and we would like to think we’ve been a part of making it happen because we’re able to connect people.
“They can leave their cars and hop on the trolley or walk or bike.” She says, “It’s been slow for Memphis to get into those environmental things, but we’re really getting in to all of those things right now – more environmentally conscious.” She stresses, “And that puts MATA as a major player in that.”
“We want people in the downtown to be able to park their car,” Hudson says. “We’ve accomplished that.” With the terminals on each end of downtown, people park their car, hop on the trolley and ride along the trolley line.
Another example of helping to make Memphis more sustainable, is helping to provide service to special events at the Fed Ex Forum. Hudson says, “They said we have no parking and people wouldn’t park here, but a major components of all of that, they pulled all of that together with MATA.
“It was funny, some of the people in the outlying area never rode the bus, rode the bus in and we were kidding about it, they didn’t even know you push the back door, you just hit it and it opens up. They didn’t realize it, so they’re just standing back by the back door,” he laughs. “But they had a wonderful experience you know and that was getting them involved in public transit.
“All the things that we do and all the things we’re involved in, I can’t give it justice because there’s just so much,” he continues. “Sometimes we start at 6 o’clock in the morning time. Eight o’clock and we’re still here.”
Hudson says they’re really proud of the Main Street Riverfront and the Madison Street Trolley. “We transport about a million people a year around.” He continues, “It’s only part of a plan, a regional rail plan. The next corridor is hopefully going to be downtown to the airport. That has not gained any momentum in the last couple years, and that really may be because financially, it’s a sore state right now; they have other priorities instead.” He adds, “It’s not dead at this point, but it will take some more work.”
Current Projects at MATA
At this time there are a number of projects the people at MATA are focusing on – a new transfer center, new timetables, an intelligent transportation center and a short-range transit plan. Speaking of the projects they’re working to accomplish, Hudson adds with a laugh, “One of the other goals was dedicated funding, and I think that’s by the wayside.”