Mayor Barry unveils bold, comprehensive transportation plan for Nashville

barry transit

Mayor Barry has unveiled a transit plan that would mark the most significant capital investment in Metro history to shape the future of Nashville.

Mayor Megan Barry has unveiled “Let’s Move Nashville: Metro’s Transportation Solution”, a plan that aligns with the IMPROVE Act passed earlier this year. In early 2018, Metro Council members will be asked to put the plan on the ballot for the May 2018 countywide vote.

“Investment in transportation today is an investment in Nashville’s future. More transportation options will make life better for Nashvillians, whether you moved here last summer or you’ve spent your entire life here, and it will ensure that the city continues to be a great place to live when today’s children have children of their own,” said Mayor Barry. “This comprehensive transportation solution will connect more neighborhoods with each other and open the door even wider to the city’s job, education and entertainment centers. We will make sure that no one is left behind.”

Let’s Move Nashville is a $5.2 billion infrastructure investment that will be funded by a range of fees, including business, sales and tourism taxes. The plan originated after many years of study and community engagements through the nMotion strategic plan, which was led by MTA and RTA, as well as coordination at the state and local level. It includes 26 miles of Nashville’s first-ever light rail system, four rapid bus routes, a dramatic increase in the service and frequency of the bus system, and a strategy of service and infrastructure improvements.

At the announcement, Mayor Barry was joined by three former Nashville Mayors – Phil Bredesen, Bill Purcell, and Karl Dean, all of whom laid the foundation for Nashville’s growth. Many other elected officials, public transportation advocates, and community members also joined to support the plan.

Metro’s transportation solution would not be possible without the passage of the IMPROVE Act earlier this year. This legislation, in addition to funding road and bridge projects across the state, authorized local government to collect surcharges on various taxes and fees currently being assessed by the local government, if approved by voters by referendum. Metro will seek federal grants where available, while also utilizing four surcharges to fund the project implementation and long-term maintenance of the system:

One-half percent sales tax surcharge beginning in July of 2018, and graduating to one percent in 2023. One-quarter percent surcharge on the hotel/motel tax, graduating to three-eighths of a percent in 2023; 20% surcharge on the rental car tax; 20% surcharge on the business and excise tax.

“It’s important to me that we are equitable and fair with the taxes used to pay for transit, while understanding the need for a bold, comprehensive transportation system that will address Nashville’s needs now and in the future,” said Mayor Barry. “This is a balanced funding proposal that will ensure that visitors and out-of-county residents who may use our roads or transit system will pay their fair share along with residents who will have access to better jobs and transportation options as a result of this proposal.”

However, a group of concerned citizens who call themselves People’s Alliance for Transit, Housing & Employment are concerned that the costs will be disproportionately shouldered by lower income citizens, who will receive the least benefits from the project.

“The Mayor has unveiled details for nMotion and we still see no clear plans for community benefits that will prevent displacement, create good jobs and improve bus transit in the next 5 years,” said a spokesman.

Mayor Barry says that she is focused on equity and affordability as a component of Metro’s Transportation Solution. The proposal will eliminate fares for Nashville residents living at or below the federal poverty level. Mayor Barry intends to create an affordability and transit task force in the coming weeks to address the needs of working families, and to continue to shape policies around affordable housing and supporting small-businesses. The task force will also help determine the best ways to use the Transit-oriented development district legislation, which will allow Metro to capture and invest revenues along the transit corridors into affordable housing.

“Better public transportation means access to better jobs, better health care, and better schools for Nashville’s residents,” said Walter Searcy, board member of the Metro Transit Authority and spokesperson for the Transit for Nashville campaign. “I appreciate Mayor Barry putting out such a bold transit plan, and her commitment to ensuring affordability, equity, and access is at the forefront of the discussion.”

In an effort to engage and inform the community on Metro’s transportation solution, the Mayor’s Office, Metro Public Works, and MTA will be hosting a series of open houses throughout Davidson County, starting with neighborhoods along the light rail corridors:
• Downtown Corridor: Nashville Farmers’ Market Food Court area – Thursday, October 26; 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
• Northwest Corridor: Tennessee State University, Elliott Hall – Thursday, November 2; 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
• Charlotte Avenue Corridor: Lentz Public Health Center, Centennial Rooms – Thursday, November 9; 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
• Murfreesboro Road Corridor: Trevecca, Tarter Student Activity Center – Tuesday, November 14; 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
• Nolensville Road Corridor: Coleman Park, Gym – Saturday, November 18; 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
• Gallatin Road Corridor: East Nashville Magnet High – Monday, November 20; 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Once the transit improvement plan is fully reviewed by the community and approved by an independent CPA firm with criteria set forth by the Tennessee State Comptroller’s Office, the Metro Council will be asked to consider an ordinance that will authorize the plan to be placed on the ballot for the May 1, 2018 election.
“We must act now to address the need for better transportation options if our city is going to continue to grow and thrive in the future,” said Vice Mayor David Briley. “The Metro Council will carefully review Mayor Barry’s proposal and give every resident of Nashville a chance to be heard before Metro’s transportation solution goes to the ballot.”