Experts: Costs, timeline biggest concerns for Nashville transit expansion

The Tennessean
Ariana Sawyer

Most of the complaints among comments submitted about the new nMotion transit plan can be placed into two big buckets, according to Metro Transit Authority and Regional Transit Authority CEO Steven Bland.

“Six billion dollars? Are you out of your flippin’ mind?” and “25 years? Are you out of your flippin’ mind?”

Many of the audience members at “The Future of Transit” panel held at the Nashville Public Library downtown Wednesday evening agreed.

Michelle Estes, an organizer with Music City Riders United, said the plan lacks common sense and fails to provide relief for the people who use public transportation now.

“I might be dead tomorrow,” she said of the plan’s length.

As part of an effort to engage community members and elicit public comment, Bland participated in the panel along with three other stakeholders: Moving Forward member Luvenia Harrison, Nashville Rep. John Ray Clemmons and Metropolitan Planning Organization interim Director Michelle Lacewell.

Tennessean Opinion Engagement Editor David Plazas moderated the panel discussion.

The nMotion plan would connect Nashville and Clarksville with a commuter rail, build a light rail on four busy Nashville corridors, install bus rapid transit on three other major roadways, incorporate bus-on-shoulder service on Middle Tennessee interstates, create a transit network serving the airport, build new regional transit hubs and improve the city’s existing buses for more frequent and efficient service.

The panelists’ biggest worry seemed to be that there isn’t enough funding to give Middle Tennesseans all the improvements they’re asking for.

“There’s obviously not enough money,” Lacewell said. The MPO is responsible for the planning and ongoing administration of transportation improvements for the entire region. Lacewell said the MPO will ensure that the nMotion plan stays on track by re-evaluating the plan every five years.

Music City Riders United recommended charging the people who use the free Gulch bus to generate the money needed to pay for more frequent bus service, saying the people who currently ride for free are the people who are most capable of paying.

“I’m just trying to listen as a community involvement person, and your idea about the Gulch bus — I hadn’t thought about that,” Harrison said to the group after the panel. She said she would bring the idea up in future meetings.

A minority of attendees argued that the panelists should focus more on the majority of Nashvillians who currently drive by eliminating bike lanes and focusing on driverless cars.

“If we continue to be a city that we only think about the auto when we plan for what we’re going to do — not the pedestrians, not the bicyclist, not the transit rider, not the wheelchair user — we’re really going to be limited,” Bland said. “And let’s be honest; right now, it’s not working.”

The next community open house will be held 6:30-8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12, at the Southeast Community Center at 5260 Hickory Hollow Parkway.

Reach Ariana Sawyer at 615-259-8382 and on Twitter @a_maia_sawyer.

Comments

  1. David Bordenkircher says

    Some are opposed to spending money on mass transit but OK for spending on expensive highways. Eight lanes on I 24 cost too much. Other examples in Nashville.