Dozens of Nashville residents, along with college students and community leaders joined in a march to call attention to an issue affecting neighborhoods in Nashville. They urged city leaders to address plans to improve quality of life, including addressing the issue of public transportation on November 2, 2017.
The residents started their march at the W.E.B. Dubois Statue at Fisk University. Led by Fisk University students and People’s Alliance for Transit, Housing, and Employment (PATHE), the march was described as a way to remind people about neighborhoods that have been affected by gentrification. The march was started when Mayor Megan Barry announced that a referendum was drafted to fund the $6 billion ‘nMotion Plan.’
The protesters then marched to Tennessee State University, the site of a transit town hall meeting to express their concerns about the transit proposal and to ask city leaders how the Light Rail proposal will affect the residents of Nashville and to examine the proposed transit routes. Some have expressed concerns the Light Rail plan will lead to an increase in gentrification, forcing people to move out of their homes.
Sara Greene, intern minister at First Unitarian Church of Nashville, said she came to the open house because she wanted to let city leaders know she was against the proposed transit plan. She said she was against the plan because it did not include community benefits for the residents of Nashville, including the expansion of bus service for low-income residents of Nashville riding the bus for free. According to the PATHE coalition, they are seeking bus service expansion to neighborhoods of Nashville such as Antioch and Madison and they do not want any reductions in existing bus routes. Greene said the proposed plan would take anywhere from two to three years to complete, especially for the expanded bus route.
“We really need those buses now,” said Greene. “We cannot wait three years when who knows how many people move to Nashville and how much more crowded and how many more people are pushed out. We also need low-income people to ride the bus for free. Transit is one of the things that makes people cost-burdened.”
Angelique Johnson, a member of the Music City Riders United, said she attended the Open House town hall because the transit issue affects her personally.
She uses the MTA bus to get around the city daily to do things such as take her children to school and buy groceries. She said she thought the mayor’s transit plan was bad for the city because it did not include community benefits that the PATHE Coalition was asking for.
Johnson also said the type of community benefits PATHE was seeking would help Nashville residents, including housing for low and middle income residents and making sure people that have jobs are those who live in Nashville before companies start hiring from out of state.
She also said she would like to see 24-hour bus service and hire more workers to provide better bus maintenance. Johnson encouraged leaders to speak to city council members about the transit and other issues in the city.
Austin Sauerbrai, organizer of Homes for All, said he came to the town hall meeting to learn more about the transit plan and highlight the various proposals that were released to the public. Sauerbrai said that the proposals the city released to the public did not include community benefits in terms of affordable housing and improving public transit.
There was never any mention of how the transit plan would improve the local economy.
When it comes to housing, Sauerbrai said that he would like to see funding for building affordable homes as well as maintaining existing affordable homes. He also said that when he first heard about the proposal, he was very surprised by the cost.
“I’m not against improving transit, but we’re in the middle of a housing crisis and we can’t even get a fraction of that for housing,” said Sauerbrai.
There were similar open town hall events held all over Nashville, including East Nashville Magnet High School. Voting on the plan will be held in May 2018.