She explains, “Having that really keeps us connected to legislation. Having that direct communication helped us to know what is going on instead of relying on our state always and that’s why we’ve made that investment to have our own lobbyist.”
Hudson says they recently received a State of Disrepair grant and had $7 million to purchase buses. He stresses, “We depend on the Federal dollars that we get.”
I asked Hudson how he thinks things are now compared to in the past with funding and the political climate. He says, “It’s worse. The dollars are less, more competitive.
“If you look at the city, at the state, you look at the Feds, all of them are saying the same thing – there will be less dollars. And if there are less dollars starting at the top, there are going to have to be at the bottom.”
Adding to that, he says, is that the information isn’t flowing. So not knowing how much an agency is going to have to work with effects operations.
“The transit industry, from my experience, in the ’70s we really experienced a drop off and we fought and fought and we came back,” Hudson says. “We’re in a low down that I’ve never seen before. But I also think that with the people that we have and the fight in all of us, we’ll survive. We’ll survive.”
The Bus Show Comes to Memphis
“It took us a long time to get this conference,” Hudson stresses. In 1990 they hosted a conference before it was the Bus & Paratransit Conference, when there were still east and west conferences.
“We had a wonderful experience, but we always wondered why it was so hard to get it back in Memphis.” He continues, “When it finally came to Nashville, Mattie Carter said that’s enough.”
Burton says it will be a great time to expose APTA and the conference to their staff, to give more employees the opportunity to interact on a national level.
Of putting together the conference, she says, “I like working with the APTA staff. They’re very organized and have a checklist and they know what they want and they know how they want it, and it’s my job to plug in that local feel for things and that’s what we can do.
“I think people just want to come to Memphis to see what it’s all about. And beyond what we do, but the music, the culture, the people, the food.” She adds, “I hope people get a chance to experience that.”
“We want to make sure that we have our people around to make sure we give people directions and the conventions and tourism bureau, they’ve been involved since the conception, so we’re ready and you’re going to have a great experience,” Hudson says.
“We’re going to open up the gates, and we’re going to have a fantastic time.” He adds, “We’re not a part of anything that’s not spectacular, I can tell you that.”
Working with People
Doing something in the public has always appealed to Hudson, and when he talks about his start at MATA, he says the excitement is still here. “There’s always something different; it’s always different problems to solve. When you solve one, it will lead to another so you just continue to work on it.
“The other side of it,” he says, “is that you meet so many great people. People in management, and the customers themselves are so important. That what we thrive on, is trying to satisfy our customers.”
He says, “I know there is something to be able to stay in this position for a period of time. I enjoy it; like I said, it’s fun. I’ll leave when I get a break, but we’re really excited about this place.
“I can’t say it enough; I love people. And transportation is important to a lot of people.”