On Monday, ‘Let’s Move Nashville’ hosted its fifth open house at East Nashville Magnet High School on Gallatin Avenue.
The open house was one of many being hosted by the Mayor’s Office, Metro Public Works, and MTA in an effort to engage and inform the community on Metro’s transportation solution.
In October, Mayor Megan Barry announced her transit plan ‘Let’s Move Nashville’ 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.
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.
The open House consisted of several informational stations, allowing citizens to talk with Let’s Move representatives in a more intimate atmosphere. Participants were able to share their experiences and ask pointed questions about the plan and how it will affect their neighborhood. Each station had a different aspect of the plan such as community benefits, explanation of what a light rail is, and the utilization of neighborhood transit centers.
“I know we really need some sort of new plan. I’m just here to get a better understanding of what it is that we really need to do,” said one participant. “I sure don’t have a better plan.”
Earlier in the day, Mayor Barry defended the transit plan in a speech she gave at a Nashville Rotary Club luncheon.
“We’re just not going to sit around and wait for neighborhoods to become dense before we build transit,” she said.
“Transit infrastructure has to play a major role in how our city is growing and changing. We have to take decisive steps today.”
Barry specifically addressed three of the main criticisms of her plan: transit ridership is nationally on the decline, Nashville lacks the density for light rail, and that autonomous vehicles will render mass transit useless.
Barry cited that transit trips in the U.S. are up more than 2.7 billion people as of 1996, and that other key cities such as Seattle, Denver, and Minneapolis are expanding their light rail.
As for density, Barry noted that the city’s sprawl and congestion is a problem that was created by the city being built around the car, and that by improving mass transit we will solve the problem.
Barry also dispelled the myth that the answer to Nashville’s transit problem is driverless cars.
“First of all, the key word in driverless cars is still cars,” Barry said.
“They’re still cars, people. And the fact that a warm body isn’t sitting in a driver seat doesn’t take that car off the road.”
“Today’s speech by Mayor Barry once again laid out the benefits of her transit plan and exposed some transit myths,” said Walter Searcy, spokesman for Transit For Nashville. “Don’t let those outside commentators fool you. Transit ridership is up, cities that invest in transit succeed, and more cars (whether we drive them or they drive themselves) won’t solve the problem alone.”
Five other open houses are scheduled for the rest of the year that include a Madison open house scheduled for November 28, a Bellevue Open house scheduled for November 30, and a West Nashville open house scheduled for December 6.