Transit ‘community meeting’ discussion set this week

Gabe Klein, the former transportation chief of Washington, D.C. and Chicago, is a visiting fellow with the Urban Land Institute.

Gabe Klein, the former transportation chief of Washington, D.C. and Chicago, is a visiting fellow with the Urban Land Institute.

Nashville Next is an integrated plan for Nashville’s future that will ensure our prosperity and well being for the next 25 years. It’s evolving and is shaped by the needs, ideas and input of people who care about Nashville.

Nashville Next has five phases:
1) Community Input and Speaker Series: Fall 2012/Summer 2013
2) Creating the Vision: Summer/Fall 2013
3) Mapping Future Growth & Preservation: Fall 2013/Spring 2014
4) Making Policy Decisions: Spring/Fall 2014
5) Creating and Adopting the Plan: Fall 2014/Summer 2015

They are currently in ‘phase 4’ and are moving from ideas to action. They say it’s now time for the community to start picking our best choices.

Over the next few months, Nashville Next is presenting and receiving public input on several alternate directions, or ‘futures,’ that our city and region might take over the next 25 years.

Nashville Next frequently holds community conversations. These public events include a presentation from a nationally recognized expert on a growth-related issue, followed by open and constructive discussion among audience members.

On August 5, Gabe Klein of the Urban Land Institute was the featured expert. Klein formerly headed the transportation departments in Washington, D.C., and Chicago. While he was transportation chief in Chicago, the city began to push for a 16.1-mile bus rapid-transit project with dedicated-center bus lanes.

He was perfect for the discussion this week because one of Nashville Next’s top five priorities is transit.

It’s been mentioned many times before that Nashville is the next Atlanta. With 200,000 more people expected to be moving to Davidson county alone in the coming years, transit will be a huge issue. And we don’t want to be stuck with horrible traffic like Atlanta.

Nashville Next is trying to prevent that by offering Davidson County and surrounding areas more and better forms of transportation in the next 25 years.

“With such an expanding city, in the coming years, we cannot rely solely on roads and highways. There has to be something else,” said Klein.

And that something else is up to the members of the community.

“Nashville is expanding,” Klein said, “but there is some work to do in the transportation honestly.
Klein said that in other big cities, bikes on the street outnumber cars.

“You shouldn’t use cars every trip,” said Klein.

People are using bus systems, trains, etc. to get around on a daily basis. In Nashville it might seem weird to see a person in a suit riding a bike to get to their job downtown, but Klein says it is weird not to in Washington D.C.
The key to getting better transportation in Nashville is offering better transportation. “When you offer better options, people take them.”

Nashville has to catch up when it comes to transportation. In Nashville, there’s a divide about whether the Amp will help or hurt businesses along the route. Supporters argue the corridor needs more transit options to support existing development and relieve future traffic congestion. Opponents, meanwhile, say it’s a costly investment that risks making traffic worse, while hurting businesses along the route. But Klein said Nashville would need 50 AMPs to even make an impact.

Klein said in order to make meaningful and successful changes in transit in Nashville, we have to give the community options they can understand and are also efficient.

“Don’t water it down. Give them something you would want to ride,” he said.

He says that building new and better forms of transportation will have great benefits such as saving money, less pollution and higher safety.

“We have to be more efficient with the infrastructures we have,” Klein said.

He also said that creating these new forms of transportation might cost taxpayers money, but in the end we will all benefit from cheaper and more convenient transit—as well as save money on gas and car maintenance.

This is a very important issue for Nashville residents, and your input is vital. Feel free to come out and voice your opinion in person at Nashville Next ‘lounges,’ informal, drop-in discussions. They are holding ‘lounges’ through early September in nearly every Metro Council district. Check <nashville.gov/Government/NashvilleNext/Pick.aspx> to find one near you.