The system was formed in 1975 to service the greater Memphis and Shelby County Tennessee area and nearby West Memphis, Arkansas. MATA is run by a general manager and an nine member board of commissioners, appointed by the Mayor of Memphis and approved by the Memphis City Council. The transit agency operates 150 buses, mostly Gillig Advantage low-floors (both diesel and diesel/electric hybrids), and NovaBus LFS low floors buses on 35 routes. In the past, its roster included GM TDH-5300 and TDH-4500 "New Looks" and Flxible 40-102 New Look series (carryovers from its predecessor prior to MATA's formation), AM General 40 ft., MAN articulateds and the RTS series from GM, TMC and NovaBus. The RTS series were MATA's preferred fleet of choice, having been used in its lineup from February 1980 until its retirement in April 2010, when the six remaining 1994 NovaBus versions were replaced with the Gillig Advantage Hybrids. MATA hopes to shift to a hybrid fleet in the future.
MATA also operates a trolley service. Initially opened in 1993, the Main Street Trolley Line uses classic streetcars on a system that has grown to three routes: one along the riverfront, another serving Main Street in the heart of downtown Memphis, and an extension on Madison Avenue. The Madison Avenue line opened in 2004, as the initial stage of a light rail system that would connect downtown Memphis with the Memphis International Airport and eventually to regional transit service beyond the MATA service boundaries.