Residents have two major complaints about a new Nashville transit plan, according to the Tennessean: cost and timeline. Regional Transit Authority CEO Steven Bland told the paper most public comments could be sorted under two headlines — “Six billion dollars? Are you out of your flippin’ mind?” and “25 years? Are you out of your flippin’ mind?”
The plan, titled nMotion, would connect Nashville and nearby Clarksville via commuter rail, build light rail lines on four Nashville corridors, install bus rapid transit on three other major arterials, incorporate dedicated bus lanes on the shoulder on several Tennessee interstates, create a new transit network for the airport and several new regional transit hubs, and add more frequent and efficient service to the city’s existing buses.
It’s a big vision and it comes with a big price tag: $5.97 billion over the next 25 years. With a million more people expected to move to the region during that time period, Bland has advocated for Nashville to step up its transit options to urge more people to get out of their cars. Transit officials presented three transit expansion alternatives to residents earlier this year, and they weighed in: The planning process was informed by over 15,000 public survey responses, and over 3,000 public comments. According to the report, the general consensus is that Nashville doesn’t want to “become the next Atlanta,” a city known for not doing enough to curb traffic and congestion during a period of rapid growth.
The plan has not yet been adopted by the Regional Transit Authority, nor has it been funded. Public meetings are still being held. Bland, who advocated for going big all along, said of the plan, “Frankly, it’s what people overwhelmingly asked for. … I think a general consensus of the opinion was that if you’re going to spend resources on this, spend enough to make it effective.”
But at a panel about the future of Nashville transit early this week, residents still expressed their doubts. Michelle Estes, an organizer with Music City Riders United, told the Tennessean that the plan lacks common sense and doesn’t do enough to help out people riding public transit now. “I might be dead tomorrow,” she said of the long timeline.
The Tennessean also reported that a small number of attendees at the panel argued that the city should focus on serving the majority of residents who currently drive, eliminating bike lanes and focusing on autonomous vehicles.
Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.