Founded in February of 2012, the Memphis Bus Riders Union (MRBU) is a grassroots organization that fights for better bus service in our city, providing input about MATA practices and policies with key decision-makers, including the MATA board and administration as well as city government. Bus riders and supporters come together for monthly meetings where decisions are made democratically by the membership.

The work of MBRU is essential in highlighting and fighting the racism and the oppression based on socioeconomic status reflected in our city’s grossly inadequate public transportation system: 90% of bus riders are Black, a majority of whom are Women, and 60% have incomes of $18,000 a year or less. Cuts to bus service combined with inequitable economic development and residential segregation disproportionately effect low-income residents and communities of color.

"Buses stop running in some neighborhoods at 6PM which puts a curfew on us like we're locked up in some kind of modern-day slavery."
Georgia "Mother" King, Founder & Organizer, MBRU

Those who depend on bus service also include People with disabilities, Students, Workers and Seniors. All these facts inform our understanding that the funding, planning and function of mass transit is a civil rights issue. The intersection of race, class and transportation reveals massive walls that divide our city. But don't just take it from us; here's what Dr. Martin Luther King had to say:

"When you go beyond the relatively simple though serious problems such as police racism, however, you begin to get into all the complexities of the modern American economy. Urban transit systems in most American cities, for example, have become a genuine civil rights issue—and a valid one—because the layout of rapid-transit systems determines the accessibility of jobs to the Black community. If transportation systems in American cities could be laid out so as to provide an opportunity for poor people to get to meaningful employment, then they could begin to move into the mainstream of American life. A good example of this problem is my home city of Atlanta, where the rapid-transit system has been laid out for the convenience of the white upper-middle-class suburbanites who commute to their jobs downtown. The system has virtually no consideration for connecting the poor people with their jobs. There is only one possible explanation for this situation, and that is the racist blindness of city planners."

Sadly, the reality Dr. King addressed is still the reality today. MBRU organizers have demonstrated an acute preoccupation with the complex barriers bus riders face in their everyday lives. It is through your continued support of our work that we may gain the tools to understand these barriers and to begin to remove them.

Please consider making a contribution to our ongoing work: