Report calls for better transit, addresses inequality

Sam Schaefer speaking to reporters at the press conference detailing the findings of the Bus Route Report. Standing behind him are members of Music City Riders United.

Dozens of community activists, along with concerned residents and local media, gathered outside a Nashville bus terminal to hear the results of a survey conducted by a local community organization that detailed the issues facing Nashville bus riders while addressing the racial and economic inequality issues that face bus riders as of January 9.

The press conference, conducted by Music City Riders United, was held at the Music City Center in downtown Nashville. The report, ‘The Bus Route Report Card,’ talked about the concerns bus riders have when it comes to the racial and economic inequality of the public transit system in Nashville. The Bus Route Report Card, conducted in 2018, surveyed over 600 Nashville bus riders based on the standards of quality in public transportation, then examined the data for the criteria and data for the bus routes in which passengers completed the survey. The results of the survey revealed that there are bus routes in affluent areas that got high scores while bus routes in working-class neighborhoods and communities of color received low scores.

When it came to grading the bus routes based on the criteria, the routes that received the highest grade were the West End/White Bridge Route #3 with a ‘C+,’ including a grade of ‘B’ for the bus stop being close to residents’ homes and a ‘B-’ for the transit buses running frequently on weekends and ‘C+’ for having a crosswalk. The second bus route with the highest grade was the West End/Bellevue route #5 with a ‘B,’ including a grade of ‘A-’ for buses running frequently on weekdays. These were areas with the lowest poverty rate in Nashville (eight percent). While bus routes such as Charlotte Pike #10 and Bordeaux #22 received a ‘C+,’ routes such as the Antioch Express Route and Golden Valley Route #41 received grades of ‘C-’ and ‘D+.’ According to the report, the issues with the Antioch Express and Golden Valley Routes were the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) buses did not run frequently on weekdays or weekends and there are not enough bus shelters and benches. Another problem the routes had was the buses did not run early or late enough at night.

The report also addressed public safety for people who wait for the bus and for people who needed to use the crosswalk to get to and from their bus stops. According to the report, pedestrians were being struck and killed every two weeks, including 30 people who were struck by vehicles each month and two people who were killed by oncoming vehicles. The report also indicated that 14 of the 20 dangerous crossings were in working-class neighborhoods. Nashville resident A. Randolph said the city needed more crosswalks.

“I ride my bike and take the bus every day. One of my issues is trying to get across the street because often there are no crosswalks, especially ones with lights to tell cars they need to stop for pedestrians to cross the street. It becomes dangerous,” said Randolph. “Two years ago, we had 23 pedestrians killed in Nashville, and last year the number hit 24 pedestrians killed. That’s not okay.”

Kuanisha Greene and Issac Shields, members of MCRU, said they attended the news conference because they wanted the MTA, Metro Council, and TDOT to make improvements to the crosswalks and bus routes. Sam Schaefer said the transit problems could be solved.

“The state of public transit in Nashville is not acceptable in the form that it currently exists,” said Schaefer. “It’s not equitably serving our riders, and it’s not serving any of them well enough. These are not abstract problems with faceless people. These are real things that can be solved by taking action.”

The report made several recommendations, including calling on the Metro Nashville City Council to increase funding of bus service expansion to 24 hours and called on WeGo/MTA to create a comprehensive plan to build shelters at all bus stops. The report also called on TDOT to build protected crosswalks at every stop.