The Works

Nashville Makes Down Payment on Ambitious Transit Plan

Plus Syracuse considers a downtown streetcar, and more in our weekly New Starts.

The Shelby Street pedestrian bridge spanning the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Big Expansion in the Cards for Nashville-Area Transit
While there hasn’t been a formal decision made on which of three possible plans for expanded mass transit service in Nashville will advance, the region’s mayors and county executives who serve on the board of the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization have put chips down on the more ambitious versions.

The Nashville Business Journal reports that the Nashville Area MPO board voted to formally adopt the organization’s 2040 transportation plan, which calls for a total of $8.5 billion in transportation improvements over that 24-year time frame.

The plan approved by the board includes $1.2 billion for mass transit improvements through 2040, a first for the region.

MPO Executive Director Mike Skipper cautioned that the $1.2 billion would not cover the entire cost of the improvements described in the plan. The MPO’s proposed transit network closely resembles the most ambitious of the three plans rolled out last month by Nashville’s Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Regional Transportation Authority of Middle Tennessee; Skipper said the total cost for the network would run anywhere from $3 billion to $7 billion, and that other local funding and federal grants would be needed to launch specific projects. The $1.2 billion, he said, was a building block local officials could use to secure additional funding for specific projects.

London’s Crossrail to be Named After the Queen
When it opens in two years, Crossrail, the new super-express line that will take several regional rail lines through central London, will be part of the London Underground family, at least in name.

Global Rail News reports that London Mayor Boris Johnson announced at a ceremony on Feb. 23 that the new tunnel would be called the “Elizabeth Line” and bear the familiar Transport for London (TfL) roundel.

“As well as radically improving travel right across our city, the Elizabeth Line will provide a lasting tribute to our longest-serving monarch,” Johnson said at the ceremony. Queen Elizabeth II herself attended and received a commemorative roundel bearing the line name.

Queen Elizabeth II stands with Mike Brown, London transport commissioner, at the entrance to one of the new platforms of the new Crossrail Bond Street station last week. (Richard Pohle/Pool via AP)

According to a post analyzing the name change on the London Reconnections blog, Johnson had pushed for this renaming for several years. The article also argues that the rebranding of the line as part of the TfL family reflects a high degree of image-consciousness on the part of London’s metropolitan transit agency, which entered the regional rail game when it launched the London Overground earlier this decade. The blog post noted, “In general, the public see TfL branded services as better (or at least very different) to their equivalents on national rail — even in situations where statistically it is not always the case. Building this image was a significant challenge at the beginning of the London Overground, and it is an image that TfL are no doubt keen to protect.”

The line will actually be the second one named for the current British monarch. The first, the Jubilee Line, got its name when it opened during the jubilee year of 1977, when Elizabeth observed the 25th anniversary of her ascension to the throne.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The original version of this article included the wrong jubilee year. We’ve changed it to the correct year.

Syracuse Considers Transit Improvements
The last streetcars to serve Syracuse, New York, made their final trips in 1941. A study launched last week by the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council raises the possibility that they might return to the city.

Downtown Syracuse, New York (Photo by David Wilson on flickr)

As WAER public radio reported, the council gave Syracuse residents a first look at a proposed two-line rapid transit system for the snowy Central New York metropolis at a Feb. 24 open house. The two proposed routes would form an X that crosses in downtown Syracuse. One would run from the city’s east side to Onondaga Community College south of downtown, while the other would begin at the regional transportation center north of downtown, then head west to the Syracuse University campus.

SMTC Director James D’Agostino told WAER that the study would examine the following questions: “Do we believe it’s feasible on one or both corridors? Do we believe it’s feasible to do bus rapid transit, light rail, streetcar, or all of the above? And a dollar cost associated with both the creation and maintenance of both of them.” He added that residents have voiced concerns about how the proposed transit improvements might affect plans to replace the elevated Interstate 81 viaduct through downtown Syracuse. “This project is independent of whatever solution is put in place for I-81, and is designed to work with whatever 81 does,” he said.

Information about the Syracuse Metropolitan Area Regional Transit study and feedback from the public open house can be found on the SMTC website’s SMART page.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

The Works is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

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Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

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Tags: transportation spendinglight railbus rapid transit

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