- What is Let’s Move Nashville?
Let’s Move Nashville is a proposed plan for a city-wide, public transit system that is a culmination of years of engagement and feedback from tens of thousands of Nashvillians through NashvilleNext and nMotion. The message from the community was clear: Nashvillians want more from its public transit. This bold, comprehensive infrastructure investment in Nashville’s future is an opportunity to create a long-lasting transportation system that will allow Nashville to manage our growth, improve access to opportunities for all residents, and create a safer, more welcoming community.
The plan includes five light rail lines, four rapid bus routes, a 1.8 mile tunnel downtown, comprehensive improvements to our bus system that will create a frequent transit network (10 routes that come at least every 15 minutes during peak periods and for 20 hours per day), and 19 neighborhood transit centers where people can connect to buses, trains, and other modes covering the “last mile” home. The program also includes investments in sidewalks, safer crossings and intersections, and neighborhood traffic calming measures to make it safer and more comfortable to get around town.
- What does a city-wide, comprehensive public transit system consist of?
There is no single solution to our transportation challenges. As we have seen in other cities, in order for a system to work in a cohesive manner, we must, and we are, pursuing a range of options and improvements that take into account our unique opportunities and challenges. This means investing in an improved and expanded bus system, instituting light rail, working with technologists around ride-sharing programs and self-driving vehicles, while also improving the experience in using the system itself with safer walkways, sidewalks, and transit hubs.
We cannot expect that any one idea will be a silver bullet solution to the traffic and congestion problems we currently face and will continue to face in the future. A reliable and efficient transportation system has a diverse portfolio of options for residents to choose from regardless of their destination or time of day. Let’s Move Nashville helps us do that.
- What is the process for the transit referendum?
The process for carrying out a transit referendum is outlined in the IMPROVE Act passed by the state legislature in April 2017. The plan’s release in October 2017 was the first step, followed by Metro Council’s decision on February 6, 2017 to put the plan to a vote. On May 1, Davidson County voters will have the opportunity to vote in favor of the plan.
- All I have been hearing about is Light Rail. What does the plan do immediately?
Metro recognizes that travelers in our region face increasing travel time challenges right now. Metro’s Transportation Solution includes an “Early Deliverables Program” that establishes relief in key corridors while longer-term projects are planned, designed, and constructed. This includes establishing:
- A Frequent Transit Network of buses on our 10 busiest routes, covering 70% of MTA’s ridership
- Service at least every 15 minutes during peak commute times
- Longer service hours – from 5:15 am to 1:15 am on weekdays – as well as extended weekend service hours
- A network of nearly 19 Neighborhood Transit Centers that provide safe, comfortable access to the entire system, but also allow for through-routing through downtown.
- Four new crosstown routes along Trinity Lane, Edgehill Avenue, Bell Road, and Airport-Opry Mills
- An enhanced AccessRide program, MTA’s door-to-door service for seniors and people with disabilites. Improvements include same-day reservations, real-time information, and optimized routing.
- On-demand technology that provides innovative “first-mile/last-mile” integrated connections with ride-share providers. “First-mile/last-mile” refers to the legs of your journey to get from home to a transit stop, and to get from a transit stop to your final destination.
- A Frequent Transit Network of buses on our 10 busiest routes, covering 70% of MTA’s ridership
- What is the timeline for the various parts of the system?
Metro’s Transportation Solution would begin creating a multi-modal transportation network for the county in 2019 with major improvements to existing bus service, and will end around 2032 after a series of gradual project phase-ins. Specifically, anticipated construction and completion of major facets of the project are:
- Four Rapid Bus corridors scheduled to open in 2023
- Five Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines – the first scheduled to open in 2027, the last in 2032.
- The downtown underground tunnel scheduled to open in 2027.
- The entire system – including Neighborhood Transit Centers, bike lanes, sidewalks and park-and-rides – scheduled for completion by 2032.
Learn about specific project scheduling and view the complete proposed timeline here.
- Why does Let’s Move Nashville include the downtown tunnel?
Think about downtown as it is right now – each one of us has had an experience where it has taken us 20 minutes to go three blocks. In fact, MTA’s buses average only 4-5 miles per hour downtown, delay that impacts the quality of MTA’s service throughout the county. With this in mind, Metro’s transportation planners and engineers sought a solution for rapid bus and light rail to get through downtown without getting stopped by traffic or special events. The downtown tunnel may be a complex engineering and construction endeavor, but it is not only feasible, it will also provide a long-term solution to one of the region’s most vexing bottlenecks allowing the entire transit system to maintain its reliability.
- Tunnels: How can you dig through limestone?
Limestone is actually easier to tunnel through than other materials, now that we have access to TBM (tunnel boring machine) technology, because it self-reinforces itself as you tunnel through it. It also helps that our downtown section is exclusively limestone, which we know is the case because of existing tunnels downtown. When you have softer materials or a variety of materials, you have to stop the TBM every few feet to recalibrate it and/or reinforce the material, making it slower and more expensive. One of the biggest challenges in limestone is water infiltration. However, modern construction techniques either using a cut and cover method or using sophisticated tunnel boring machines (TBMs) or a combination thereof; have evolved to such a degree that building underground even in limestone is feasible. Many tunnels already exist in downtown Nashville already carrying stormwater, sewage, and steam.
- How will Let’s Move Nashville reduce traffic congestion?
Nashville is one of the fastest growing cities in the country and estimates show that we will add nearly 1 million people to our region in the next two decades. Since 2010, 111,000 additional commuters have been added to our roads. Without the implementation of Let’s Move Nashville, traffic will continue to get worse because of our inevitable rising population. And traffic is bad enough already - Nashville’s drivers currently spend about 33 hours per year stuck in traffic, costing drivers $1,308 per person and the city as a whole $517 million per year in lost productivity. With our region growing by nearly 100 people every day, the more people have options to ride the bus or light rail, bike, and walk the better off our roads will be. Light rail lines and rapid bus corridors will drastically increase the people-moving capacity of our transportation system. Each rider is not contributing to rising congestion, which helps to ease the movement of drivers and freight on our roads. Light rail offers an alternative to driving that also helps promote economically vibrant urban development in which people rely less on cars, benefitting all travelers as well as our environment.
- National research indicates that transit plays an important role in reducing congestion or limiting its growth in cities like Minneapolis, Seattle, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake City. Most trips on rail transit represent cars removed from traffic, so rail transit reduces the rate at which congestion increases.
- The Texas Transportation Institute’s Annual Urban Mobility Study indicated that the greatest increases in congestion have been in areas with no rail transit.
- Nashville is a boom-town like Seattle in many ways, with a rapidly growing downtown. Seattle has added 60,000 jobs in downtown since 2010, but has reduced single-occupant vehicles by 4,500.
One thing is clear; Nashville has grown around the car for the last 50 years. In a region where nearly every trip has to be made by car, more growth means more congestion. If every new person to Nashville brings a car with them, our region will come to halt. Transit puts us on the path to grow without gridlock.
- How will Let’s Move Nashville increase public transit ridership?
Nashville is growing rapidly, and now is the time to establish a transit ridership culture that will expand accessibility, mobility and economic opportunity for all Davidson County residents. For public transit to be competitive with the private automobile, the system must be reliable and run consistently throughout the day to serve existing riders AND gain the trust of new riders. Let’s Move Nashville’s recommendations are based on community engagement we heard during nMotion and best-practices from across the country about growing transit ridership. The conclusion in both cases was the same: our transit system needs improved frequency, longer service hours, and transit service that is fast and reliable in order to increase ridership. Let’s Move Nashville delivers on these recommendations.
Not all Davidson County residents will use transit, but the communities of people who need better ways to move around the city and will greatly benefit from this plan. Transit ridership culture also meets the needs of non-drivers and residents who cannot afford cars. Even Davidson County residents who will never use transit will benefit from having it because it means fewer cars on the road, more jobs, and a safer and healthier city. Let’s Move Nashville will maximize our investment in infrastructure by selecting corridors and routes with higher concentrations of residences, jobs, small and large businesses, recreational areas, and retail stores.
- Why do we need dedicated funding for transit?
Infrastructure investments are critical decisions cities must make to improve quality of life and encourage economic growth. In the 1960s, our country knew that we needed to invest in the interstate highway system to support our nation’s economic growth. Today, cities across the country are investing in transit systems for the same reason: they know it is critical for the future of their city.
Over the last 20 years, dozens of cities have approved referendums for dedicated funding sources for transit. In fact, we are one of the only cities of our size that doesn’t have dedicated funding for transit. As a result, transit investments must compete each year with other general fund requests, such as schools and public safety. Each year, MTA requests incremental budget increases to maintain our current transit system, but in order to create a comprehensive system, we need dedicated funding to move forward
Dedicated revenue for transit investments also allows the city to issue revenue bonds for transit infrastructure which are separate from our General Obligation bonds. These revenue bonds will not impact our overall bond rating and costs for the project are restricted to the proposed revenues. In other words, transit funding is protected from the General Fund and the General Fund is protected from transit needs.
- How are we planning on financing this plan?
Let’s Move Nashville is a $5.4 billion infrastructure investment for the transit system’s buses, rails, trains, and transit center. The total cost for the 14-year construction period is $8.95 billion, including interest, inflation, operations, and maintenance. Metro accounted for the interest, inflation, operations, and maintenance in its financing plan, and it does not change the proposed surcharges in Let’s Move Nashville. This investment will connect and serve every community in Davidson County. Scheduled to be completed in phases by 2032, it will be funded by a range of surcharges that include sales, hotel/motel, motor vehicle, and businesses taxes. These will be distributed among residents, businesses and visitors alike. Specific surcharges are:
- ½ percent sales tax surcharge beginning in July of 2018, and graduating to one percent in 2023
- A recent study released by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce shows that nearly half (47%) of sales tax collections in Davidson County are generated by out-of-county residents.
- ¼ percent surcharge on the hotel/motel tax, graduating to three-eighths of a percent in 2023
- 20% surcharge on the rental car tax
- Metro currently charges a one percent tax on the gross proceeds derived from the lease or rental of any passenger motor vehicle, truck or trailer for a period of five days or less. This 20% surcharge would result in a total of 1.2% surcharge on rental cars.
- 20% surcharge on the business and excise tax
- Businesses in Davidson County are assessed a business tax based on a variety of classifications established under TCA 67-4-708. If a business currently pays $1,000 in such a tax, this surcharge would result in an additional $200 annually.
Local option surcharge revenue will also be leveraged to secure federal funding, revenue bonds, farebox revenue and contributions from the BNA airport and the Music City convention center.
- ½ percent sales tax surcharge beginning in July of 2018, and graduating to one percent in 2023
- I’ve heard some estimates that say this will cost families $43,000 – is that true?
Let’s Move Nashville, its costs, timeline and projections has undergone both independent third-party analyses and a review by the State Comptroller to ensure honest cost and timeline projections in order to ensure the public can be confident Metro is proposing a reasonable and conservative financing plan. The $43,000 per family cost is, at best, an extreme exaggeration and, at worst, an attempt to mislead the public. $43,000 per household assumes that not a single dollar is spent in Davidson County by tourists. Our best assessment of these numbers shows that for an average Nashville household it would take about 160 years to pay that much into the system, which by then the surcharges would have expired by over a century.
Overall, the average taxpayer cost will be about $5 per month or 17₵ per day in the first 5 years; $10 per month / 35₵ a day after that. According to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, approximately 47% of all sales tax collected in Davidson County comes from visitors or residents who live outside of Nashville and who commute in using our roads, which limits the financial burden of Let’s Move Nashville borne by Davidson County residents.
Further, the Chamber showed that Nashville will still have an overall tax burden lower than the national average and lower than most big cities. Additionally, when it passed the enabling legislation for dedicated transit funding – the IMPROVE Act – State legislators recognized that cities might want to utilize the sales tax as an option, and in turn, rolled back its portion by a full penny on food/grocery purchases.
- What if Nashville’s tax revenue growth is lower than expected?
The Let’s Move Nashville financing model was based on a study conducted by the University of Tennessee’s Boyd Center for Business and Economics. During the construction of Let’s Move Nashville, the UT study projected annual growth and compounded annual average for sales tax growth for Nashville at approximately 4%, which is lower than the growth rate in the last five years. Additionally, Let’s Move Nashville includes a 30% contingency for capital costs and an operating budget and debt capital reserve to ensure the completion of the project without needing additional funds.
- How does the amount of federal funding for transit impact Let’s Move Nashville?
Traffic is not a partisan issue. Federal funding for transit is incredibly well-supported by a majority of members in Congress. Let’s Move Nashville’s estimates for federal funding are based on a conservative, historical precedent. Most applicants to the Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program request 40-50% of the project’s capital costs. It is highly likely that Congress will continue funding infrastructure, including transit, as evidenced by their recent spending bill. Further, President Trump’s infrastructure plan prioritizes new local revenue sources that provide 80% local dedicated funding to a 20% federal match. Transit agencies are further prioritized for budgeting for operations and maintenance, as well as public-private partnerships, which is included in Let’s Move Nashville.
- How can taxpayers be confident that projects will be delivered on schedule and budget?
As more transit projects are completed in our peer cities, our estimates for per mile costs get more accurate. Metro has included a 30% contingency fund for capital costs and additional debt and capital repayment and operating reserve. Rigorous independent oversight along with demanding internal cost and project controls help ensure that Metro spends taxpayer dollars wisely. One of the requirements of the state’s recently-passed IMPROVE Act is that an independent CPA firm reviews Metro’s financial model for Metro’s Transportation Solution and that the firm’s independent audit is reviewed and approved by the State Comptroller. Metro Public Works and Nashville MTA will also undergo regular audits during the lifetime of the project.
- How does the Let’s Move Nashville business tax increase impact Davidson county businesses?
The business tax is based on the annual revenue of a business, and the current rate is based on five different classifications of business types. The proposed surcharge is a 20% surcharge on the existing rate, not an overall 20% increase. If a business is currently being taxed at 1% of their revenue, it will be 1.2% with the surcharge. Said another way, if a business is currently paying $1,000 annually in taxes, the surcharge will be an additional $200 annually. Since the business tax is based on revenue, the tax does not overly burden small businesses. In 2017, the range of businesses paid from $22 to $311,122. In fact, the top 50 businesses in Davidson County (out of approximately 40,000 businesses) paid over 10% of the total business tax revenue collected in Davidson County.
The surcharges are an effort to share the costs among both visitors and Davidson county residents. The sales tax revenues equal 93% of the local surcharges collected, and 47% of those revenues are paid for by commuters and visitors. The business tax revenues are equal to about 3.5% of the local option surcharges over the 14-year period. Many local businesses support the transit proposal because transit will improve accessibility to the talent pool necessary for each respective business to succeed – whether it is hiring locals who need a new opportunity or attracting outside specialty talent who may be inclined to move to another city where an automobile is not required to commute to work. Additionally, businesses along the proposed corridors also realize that business increases when more people are walking by their storefront and can stop inside, which happens more frequently in Transit-Oriented Developments.
Transit 101: I Want to Know More Details About…
- What are Rapid Bus corridors?
Rapid Bus corridors are different from the enhanced existing bus service that will make up the Frequent Transit Network. That’s because Rapid Bus corridors include capital improvements that ensure improved travel times and increased reliability by giving priority on busy thoroughfares to high-capacity buses. Rapid Bus, similar to the Frequent Transit Network, will have frequency of in at least every 15 min during peak travel times and will run for longer hours (20 hours per day).
Nashville’s Rapid Bus corridors will have:
- Real-time passenger information to inform passengers when buses will arrive or depart from stations
- Intelligent transportation system technologies, such as automatic bus locators
- Premium stations that offer off-board fare collection and level-platform boarding, meaning you don’t have to walk up steps to board and can board numerous people at a time.
- Frequent service (at least every 15 minutes) and service from early morning to late at night
- Limited stops to reduce stop time and improve travel time.
- Transit priority, such as signal priority and queue jump lanes to speed buses through intersections. The buses will also have dedicated travel lanes where feasible.
These features work together to make service fast and reliable and to improve service convenience and comfort.
- Public transit usage – isn't it declining?
Public transportation carried more than 10 billion trips in the United States in 2017, which is 35% higher than 20 years ago. According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), many cities are investing or reinvesting in new public transportation. In particular, light rail systems are extremely successful in dozens of American cities, including cities that Nashville competes with for jobs and talent. According to the APTA, light rail trips have increased 19% over the last 10 years. In 2016, there were 498 million light rail trips, up from 418 million in 2007. While overall ridership goes up and down from year to year, transit provides needed transportation independence and resilience every day, and it’s a lifeline for millions of people in cities across the country. Nashville’s peer cities are making investments in new transit systems and are not going to slow down while our region waits to catch up. If Nashville does not work towards fixing transit quickly, Metro Nashville and Davidson County will risk losing its competitive edge.
- How precise are the locations of the routes and stations shown in Metro’s Transportation Solution plan?
While the passage of Metro’s Transportation Solution would commit Metro to serve the areas shown on the map, the precise locations of stations and alignments will be determined through additional design and engineering, as well as extensive public involvement once the plan is approved. The lines on the map reflect the factors that were used to develop ridership estimates and costs.
- Why do light rail projects take so long to build?
Major infrastructure projects require significant time to plan, design, and build due to lengthy environmental review and coordination with local communities, among other factors. The Nashville region’s high level of existing development and its challenging geology further add to our project’s complexity and timelines.
Planning and building major light rail projects typically takes 10-12 years – longer for projects that are particularly complex due to design, construction, and permitting challenges, such as underground construction through downtown.
- How much capacity does light rail offer, and how does that compare to other transportation investments?
Transit is a primary tool used by regions around the world to add transportation capacity, particularly when there’s little room to expand roads. While a freeway lane moves as few as 700 cars per hour and up to 2,000 cars per hour under ideal conditions, a four-car light rail vehicle can move up to 16,000 people per hour in each direction regardless of traffic or weather conditions. That’s an increase in capacity of over 8 times compared to a freeway lane. One four-car train carries the same number of passengers as about 10 buses. Moving the same number of people on buses would require 200 drivers and 200 buses competing for space on roadways that are experiencing greater congestion each year.
- How can Nashville Metro justify the cost of this program when there has not been a demand for more buses?
Due to our region’s recent and projected population growth, there is immediate and long-term demand for increased capacity of our transportation network. Light rail is the most cost-effective way to do this and is an investment that will continue to provide capacity for up to 100 years. Light rail is also a mode that attracts new transit riders, effectively taking people out of their cars. Light rail will improve the transportation system by providing Nashville with more travel choices and faster travel times between residential areas, major destinations, and employment centers. As more cities have invested in and built light rail systems, projections for ridership and construction costs have gotten much better. Most of the recent systems have actually seen ridership far beyond the projections and have been completed on-time and on-budget. Salt Lake City, Houston, St. Louis and Dallas are some prime examples.
Ridership experiences for initial LRT lines in other cities are:
- Salt Lake City – projected opening day ridership was 14,000 per day; after first 4 months daily, ridership was 19,000
- Dallas – projected opening day ridership was 15,000 per day; actual opening day ridership was 18,000
- Denver – projected ridership was 22,000 per day; actual daily ridership is 28,472 per day
- St. Louis – projected opening day ridership was 13,000 per day; actual ridership after 1 year of service was 44,400 per day
- Houston – projected 2020 daily ridership was 15,900; actual daily ridership in 2010 was 40,000 per day, meaning ridership more than doubled projections 10 years ahead of schedule
- Construction: Where will current traffic go when you’re doing work on the roads? Do you have alternative routes planned for commuters during construction? Or will the whole city be torn up at once?
During construction, appropriate measures will be taken to minimize disruption to the community and surrounding businesses as much as possible. Construction staging will be used to minimize traffic and access impacts to business and residential driveways and cross-streets along the corridor. Let’s Move Nashville will incorporate the best practices and lessons learned from peer and aspirational cities and utilize the best-available technologies. For example: Tunnel-boring technology will allow the tunnel construction to be conducted completely underground and not have to use the “cut and cover” method, which would require tunneling to begin at the top of each intersection.
In Let’s Move Nashville, construction will be completed block by block in order to prevent blocking off an entire corridor and providing detour routes around specific construction areas. The Let’s Move Nashville financing model also includes construction mitigation funds to help alleviate construction impacts on small businesses along the corridors, including signage and lost revenue reimbursements. Phasing-in the construction of each project also provides an adequate amount of time to facilitate robust community and stakeholder engagement for each project and discuss the trade-offs for what the corridors could look like upon completion. This will minimize any negative impacts to surrounding properties or undesirable neighborhood change such as displacement of low-income residents, which also ensures that Nashville achieves its target Diverse Business Enterprise (DBE) participation in contracting of 30%.
Nashville Transit History: How’d We Get Here?
- How were projects selected to be in Metro’s Transportation Solution?
The projects selected in Let’s Move Nashville were identified during the nMotion planning process, the Metro Transit Authority’s (MTA’s) long-range strategic plan developed with the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) representing our surrounding counties. The nMotion transit plan, adopted by the MTA and RTA boards in September 2016, is the result of more than two years of public engagement and technical analysis, and has been designed to create a transportation system that keeps pace with our growth while retaining the characteristics that make Music City special. It also reflects regional planning efforts and desires expressed through the extensive civic engagement process for NashvilleNext, Davidson County’s General Plan. The high capacity corridors, both light rail lines and rapid bus, were identified during the nMotion process because they experience the highest bus ridership and because of their population, employment, and redevelopment potential. The Gallatin Pike corridor ranked “Best” on current bus ridership, population density, and opportunities for residential and commercial development. Consequently, it is currently planned to be the first light rail line developed, with construction scheduled to begin in 2022.
- How is Let’s Move Nashville different from nMotion?
nMotion was a regional plan – a coordinated planning process involving both MTA and RTA. Let’s Move Nashville is specific to Davidson County. The IMPROVE Act (the state-enabling legislation) requires counties to pursue funding referendums county-by-county. Even still, Let’s Move Nashville lays the groundwork for our surrounding counties to eventually connect to our transit network. There are also two major projects included in Metro’s Transportation Solution that were not included in nMotion: the downtown tunnel and the Northwest Corridor light rail line.
Metro realized no comprehensive transit plan could be successful without a way to seamlessly connect the system through downtown. Metro worked with a team of engineers and planners who determined that the most effective and efficient way to move through downtown is to build an underground tunnel.
The Northwest Corridor is the only light rail line that doesn’t run along a street. nMotion proposed creating a commuter rail line between Nashville and Clarksville on an existing, but infrequently used, freight rail line. But this line would not have connected to the rest of the city’s light rail lines, which wasn’t in keeping with Metro’s commitment to create an interconnected network. So, Metro’s engineers developed a way to use an existing freight rail line to connect with the Charlotte light rail line into downtown, making a critical connection to North Nashville and the following higher education institutions: Tennessee State and Fisk universities and Meharry Medical College. The Northwest Corridor will function as a light rail line, as well as a line for freight traffic at night; the opportunity also exists to extend it into a commuter rail line in the future.
- Why doesn’t the proposal extend to the Davidson County line? Or into our surrounding counties?
Let’s Move Nashville envisions a regional connection in the future, but it is critical that we get started right now. It also makes sense for us to start our transit network in our region’s neighborhoods with the highest density of jobs and people. Let’s Move Nashville’s comprehensive components will benefit the whole county and region, by:
- Frequent transit improvements (20-hour service per day and service at least every 15-minutes during busy hours) that reach deep into Davidson County, including out to Madison and the Gallatin Walmart, to the Bellevue Park-and-Ride and all the way to the Hickory Hollow Mall.
- Once the light rail system opens park-n-ride locations at the end of the lines and easy bus transfers to the light rail corridors. The light rail lines will provide faster travel time than both driving and the bus, providing a strong incentive to ride.
- At the end of each bus and train line will be “mobility-on-demand zones” where residents can request integrated rideshare rides to transit stops.
Regional mayors have been working on this plan for years, as part of the nMotion process. They understand that Davidson County must take the first step. In fact, on March 21, 2018, Mayors and county executives across Middle Tennessee fully endorsed Let’s Move Nashville as a first step for region-wide transit.
- How is Metro’s Transportation Solution different from the AMP?
The AMP project consisted of one 7-mile bus rapid transit (BRT) line connecting East and West Nashville. This line was not part of a larger system, but was self-contained. The plan’s high capacity corridors differ from The AMP in several important ways:
- They are part of a comprehensive system that will serve and enhance some of our busiest thoroughfares and connect people all across and throughout the city.
- The projects are based off the nMotion plan, a two-year process that involved extensive planning, engineering, and over 20,000 responses from residents about where they wanted to see transit.
- It will promote maximum speed, safety and efficiency by giving transit vehicles priority on major thoroughfares in and out of downtown.
What Other Alternatives Were Considered?
- Why aren’t we looking at an elevated or underground rail solution?
Primarily for cost reasons, most emphasis has focused on developing surface options. Although elevated rail solutions do not interfere with surface traffic as much as solutions on the ground, they are more costly to build, operate and maintain. Elevated options also have a negative impact on streetscape and the intent to create economically-vibrant, walkable neighborhoods around transit infrastructure. Therefore, extensive elevated and underground options are not practical given the more cost-effective options available at street level. However, Metro’s Transportation Solution does incorporate limited elevated and underground projects where it makes sense and is the best option for ensuring speed, safety, and reliability.
- The system will incorporate an underground corridor running North-South beneath 5th Avenue – from Charlotte on the north end to SoBro on the south – that will provide fast and reliable travel in and out of our busy and dense downtown even during high-travel periods.
- The system incorporates several bridges within the corridors to support better, safer traffic flow.
- Why haven’t we considered cheaper options first like improving the bus system or encouraging people to commute during off-peak times?
There is no single solution to our transportation challenges. We must, and we are, pursuing a range of options and improvements that take into account our unique opportunities and challenges. Some of these are relatively inexpensive. Others will require significant resources. All are critical to creating a transportation network that includes multi-modal options for everyone.
A bus system that is frequent, safe, reliable and comfortable is the backbone of any successful transit system – and it’s certainly the backbone of this one. Our solution starts as early as 2019 with implementation of the Frequent Transit Network, including longer service hours and improved frequency on MTA’s 10 busiest routes.
In addition to improving our transportation options, we can also better manage the demand for travel on congested roads at peak times. This summer, Nashville will launch its Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program called Nashville Complete Trips. Nashville received a grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to develop the program. Nashville Complete Trips will be a comprehensive resource for commuters in Middle Tennessee to connect with each other, employers, and others to explore travel options that shift residents away from relying on single-occupant car trips for work and services. In addition to promoting transit, biking, and walking, the program also will encourage employers to allow more tele-commuting and flexible work schedules.
- What about express lanes? Wouldn’t that be cheaper?
Toll roads are currently prohibited in Tennessee due to state law. Toll roads or express lanes are often referred to as congestion pricing (dynamic pricing of roadways that changes with congestion levels) and have been shown to be effective at managing congestion around the world, but not have been implemented comprehensively yet in the United States. In addition, express lanes are a false promise if they are implemented without transit investments, as they price people out of certain areas of the city, which would have serious economic and equity implications.
- How is transit expected to work with future innovations in transportation, such as self-driving cars?
Let’s Move Nashville will be a state-of-the-art transit system, which accounts for the integration of new technologies in the future including autonomous vehicles, ride-hailing services, and electric vehicles.
Self-driving cars, otherwise known as “autonomous vehicles,” will definitely be one part of our mobility future. But high-capacity transit will still be critical to moving large numbers of people, particularly during peak hours. There will always be constraints on how many cars, self-driving or human-driven, can fit into the region’s most congested areas. It all boils down to space, which dense and growing cities like ours inherently lack.
Self-driving cars can be highly complementary with high-capacity transit. They can provide improvements to last-mile connections between transit centers and local destinations. These new technologies also will allow us to expand our service territory/coverage area and reach more areas with on-demand service more cost-effectively.
Metro Nashville is also developing a self-driving/autonomous vehicle demonstration project, which will focus on using self-driving vehicles for “first-mile/last-mile” connections to transit, specifically targeted at improving transportation options available for low-income college students. “First-mile/last-mile” refers to the legs of your journey to get from home to a transit stop and to get from a transit stop to your final destination.
- But what about a ridesharing fleet of vans and small electric buses?
Ride-hailing services and vanpools are part of the transit solution in Nashville, but just part. Ride-hailing apps like Lyft and Uber are an important link in Let’s Move Nashville. Let’s Move Nashville intends for people to utilize ride-hailing apps for the last mile of their commute from their door step to transit stops. Our first- and last-mile transit connections through Mobility-On-Demand partnerships with Transportation Network Companies like Uber and Lyft will make an ideal avenue to introduce AVs to Nashville while simultaneously gathering the necessary data to better discover where and how to make new transit investments.
But evidence from other cities is pouring in that ride-sharing doesn’t improve congestion, it adds to it. High-quality transit providers faster service than driving so people choose it instead of their car. Hundreds of buses on our most congested corridors running in mixed traffic is not likely to attract riders and will just add to our congestion.
- Why aren’t we doing an all-Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan, which has lower per mile capital costs?
nMotion proposed an all-bus scenario that included BRT corridors, but the thousands of Nashvillians that weighed in during the two-year community engagement process preferred a bold, comprehensive transit system that included rail and bus options. Full dedicated lane-BRT is also harder to implement in Tennessee after the passage of SB 2243 in 2014. There is also evidence across the country that high-quality BRT projects are easily downgraded during the design and community engagement process.
There are 24 light rail projects across the country and ridership on light rail systems is up 19% over the last 10 years. Light rail has been shown to attract more riders, retain more riders over time, and encourage more transit-oriented, walkable neighborhoods.
- With the implementation of Let’s Move Nashville, how will the supply of affordable and workforce housing be impacted? How will Metro combat displacement and gentrification? Won’t this make Nashville unaffordable?
The ways to combat the challenge of affordable housing is through 1) increasing the supply of it and 2) prevention efforts within the surrounding neighborhoods to combat displacement.
Let’s Move Nashville’s new bus and rail corridors will provide the roadmap needed to incentivize affordable, walkable development that’s going to make it easier to live without the expense of owning a car. Since 2015, there have been several initiatives to build, fund, and maintain housing in Nashville including over $50 million in investments, creating and preserving nearly 2,000 affordable and workforce housing units. With the implementation of Let’s Move Nashville, we can add another financing tool to increase the supply of affordable housing through transit oriented developments.
We want Nashville to be a place where families who currently live here can remain and families who want to move here are able to see that as an option. Affordability is not just comprised of housing costs. In fact, housing and transportation costs are the two biggest costs to families.
According to the Center for Neighborhood Technology, it costs Nashvillians an average of $12,000 to buy, own, insure and maintain/run a car. Some residents cannot afford a car or a second car for someone else in the household who also works. Some have mobility or health issues that make it hard to drive on their own. According to the Federal Highway Administration, one-third of Americans does not or cannot drive. When a car is the only option to get around, thousands of Nashvillians are left behind.
According to the Center for Neighborhood Technology, among Davidson County residents with moderate incomes, 57% of salaries are spent on both housing and transportation. 25% is spent on transportation alone. Let’s Move Nashville provides cheaper ways to get around for young and old, people who have lived here their entire lives, and households with limited means while providing access to jobs and opportunities so you don’t need to own a car to get a job.
Metro Nashville and Davidson County formed a Transit and Affordability Taskforce, led by former Mayor Bill Purcell and Davidson County Clerk Brenda Wynn, to recommend policies that will ensure our investments in transit lead to MORE affordable housing as well as the preservation of affordable housing in these areas. The Taskforce’s recommendations focused on completing inventories along the corridors to help prevent displacement and protect home-owners from predatory realtors, guide the Transit Oriented Development process to prioritize affordable housing, and identify dedicated funding, including TIF financing along transit corridors and funding from private sources.
- What is Transit-Oriented Development?
During the NashvilleNext planning process, we heard from Nashvillians that they wanted to concentrate growth along our transit corridors, in order to preserve our residential neighborhoods and protect our open space. Transit-Oriented Development combined with transit infrastructure helps us achieve this goal. Transit-Oriented Development encourages a mix of uses, including housing units, services, and retail to create more density and walkable neighborhoods along transit corridors that will increase transit ridership and reduce the need for personal vehicles. Transit-Oriented Developments are an important tool to increasing affordable housing. Tax Increment Financing (TIF) will also be used along the transit corridors to invest in affordable housing through partnerships with developers interested in building along the corridors. Transit-Oriented Development is also good for improving social equity as transportation costs are lowered and access to job opportunities increases.
Transit oriented development districts will be created to ensure that the broader community gets the uses and they want and need for years to come.
- How does Let’s Move Nashville benefit special populations, such as senior citizens, citizens living under property, persons with disabilities, or high school students?
The primary outcome of improvements in mobility from Let’s Move Nashville would be an increase in service. Longer hours and higher frequency would result in more efficient service to more people, plus potential cost savings to those opting to commute by transit rather than personal vehicles.
Annual savings would accrue to those switching travel modes, since transit has a lower out-of-pocket cost than personal vehicles. Annual savings from switching to public transit has been estimated to be $152.6 million in 2033. This would especially benefit low-income households who could use the much-needed monetary savings for other necessities.
To enhance the mobility of those populations that may be more dependent on transit, MTA offers subsidized passes to senior citizens, persons with disabilities and public school students under the StrIDe program. In addition to current subsidies, Let’s Move Nashville will offer free and reduced-fares to seniors, youth under 18, those experiencing poverty, and individuals with disabilities.
Availability of reliable transit options is especially important to the sectors of the population that may rely on transit because of physical impairments. Let’s Move Nashville’s improvements to the level of service and design considerations compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will allow Metro’s senior citizens and persons with disabilities to access a safer and more reliable public transportation system. For the elderly population, which will increase by 28% between 2020 and 2040, improved access to transit may reduce the level of dependence, while increasing activity engagement and enhance their quality of life. The same is true for those with varying levels of disability, for whom perceived safety and level of service is also enhanced by the implementation of accessible design at transit stations.
- How many jobs will be created from Let’s Move Nashville?
Let’s Move Nashville is projected to create or maintain 3,850 jobs per year over the 14-year construction period, generating $4.76 billion in additional GDP growth and providing $3.66 billion in additional labor income in Davidson County. Metro Nashville wants to ensure that businesses across the city have access to the jobs and opportunities that Let’s Move Nashville will ultimately bring to our region. By establishing a DBE participation goal of at least 30%, small-, diverse-, women- and minority-owned businesses will have an equal opportunity to receive and be awarded government contracts produced by Let’s Move Nashville. We will see new jobs created right away. As soon as Let’s Move Nashville passes on May 1, MTA will work on hiring hundreds of new bus drivers and operations and maintenance staff. These are high-paying jobs that provide opportunities for promotions and career advancement.
- How will Let’s Move Nashville improve equity in our city?
Let’s Move Nashville brings the city together like never before by creating and enhancing a multi-modal transportation system that connects employees with employers, neighborhoods to other neighborhoods, families with amenities, and tourists with attractions. Investments in public transportation infrastructure can greatly improve mobility and access – radically impacting our quality of life. Transportation costs in Nashville are high. The average Nashvillian spends $12,000 per year on transportation costs. Moderate-income Nashvillians spend 25% of their income on transportation costs alone. Nashville is 92nd out of the top 100 cities in a worker’s access to employment.
Longer hours, higher frequency, improved reliability, and faster travel times will result in more efficient service to more people. Investing in transit will reduce transportation costs on Nashville households and improve access to good-paying jobs. Let’s Move Nashville is expected to make 28.5% more jobs accessible by transit within a 30-minute travel time. Shifting from driving to riding transit will save residents an estimated $7,808 per person annually.
- What are the health benefits associated with Let’s Move Nasvhille?
Let’s Move Nashville is expected to bring Davidson County a number of benefits that go well beyond increased and improved transit service. Transit provides other benefits that come in the form of healthier and safer Davidson County residents. For example, transit encourages increased physical activity such as walking and biking when system users travel to and from boarding stations for trips, yielding several health benefits. To supplement this, reduction of vehicles on the road translates to fewer car accidents. Let’s Move Nashville incorporates a vigilant concern for the safety of everyone who accesses our multi-modal system, whether commuters riding high-capacity modes or children using sidewalks that connect their neighborhoods to their school.
- What are the environmental and social benefits associated with Let’s Move Nasvhille?
Let’s Move Nashville is a win for everyone, putting everything residents, businesses and visitors love about Music City within easy reach of all. By loosening gridlock’s hold on the city, the plan keeps intact all those things that have made Nashville so attractive as a destination in the first place.
The fact is the transportation sector contributes 37% of the county’s greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions and 85% of the county’s smog. A transit system will keep thousands of new cars off the road, meaning cleaner air for all of us to breathe. This is especially important to our more vulnerable citizens, such as children and the elderly, helping reduce asthma rates and respiratory issues.
Air pollutants and GHGs harm the environment, the economy, and human health. Metro’s Transportation Solution would reduce pollution-based damage to human health and the environment in Davidson County by an estimated $7.2 million annually. The estimated avoided emissions include annual GHG emissions of about 22,235 metric tons of CO2e, which is equivalent to planting over a million trees every year or the electricity use of 3,333 homes for one year.
- How will Metro’s Transportation Solution benefit people who do not ride it?
It’s an investment in the entire city of Nashville and even if you don’t use it, you will benefit from it. Think about it this way: a comprehensive transit network can reduce the rate of increase in traffic congestion overall. Light rail lines and Rapid Bus corridors will drastically increase the people-moving capacity of our transportation system. Each transit rider is not contributing to rising congestion, which helps to ease the movement of drivers and freight on our roads.
If you don’t plan on using transit to commute to work every day, you still might want to use it for special events, particularly downtown. We saw firsthand earlier this year when the Predators were in the Stanley Cup Finals that our downtown street grid has a hard time handling thousands of event fans coming into and leaving the core at one time. Metro’s Transportation Solution will make it easy to enter and exit downtown smoothly, even when we have a Predators playoff game and CMA Fest happening on the same day, and even once we have 1 million more people living in our region.
People will have other transit options on those occasion when their cars are in the shop or during bad weather when they’d rather rely on a more fail-safe method like Rapid Bus or light rail to get around. Even if you don’t plan to ride transit, other members of your family might. Perhaps your spouse will want to access light rail, or your teenage child will be able to get to school or events downtown on transit. If one member of your family rides transit, your whole family will save thousands of dollars a year in monthly car payments, insurance, and gas.