Matt Genova, MUP 2018

Rendering of the proposed center-running light rail line. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County.

Summer 2017

Organization: Metropolitan Nashville Planning Department, Nashville, TN

Sponsor: Joint Center for Housing Studies Community Service Fellowship

” During weeks 7 and 8 of my internship, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on several meetings. The topic was Nashville’s push to expand transit services throughout the region as a part of the city’s 25-year transportation planning process.

The long-range blueprint, titled nMotion, was formally adopted last fall. It outlines the suite of improvements that are proposed for Middle Tennessee, from new light rail and BRT lines to expanded bus, sidewalk, and bikeway networks.

The plan is certainly ambitious, but it marks a necessary step as Nashville grows from a mid-size southern town into an increasingly dense metropolitan city.

 

A central focus of these meetings is precisely how much these improvements will cost and how they will be paid for over the next 25 years. The public conversation more broadly also centers around the issue of transportation in Middle Tennessee. Nashville’s existing transit network is relatively limited compared to many major US cities. Dedicated transportation funding is a less prominent portion of the city’s current budget than what one might find elsewhere.

Thankfully, the State of Tennessee, through the passage of the IMPROVE Act in April of this year, has set the table to allow local municipalities like Nashville to approve tax increases via public referendum to raise dedicated revenues for transit projects.

Current conditions on Gallatin Pike, the first corridor in Nashville scheduled for light rail service. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County.

 

It’s been both fascinating and instructive to watch this process play out over the last several months.  I’m optimistic that local residents will approve the funding referendum in May of 2018.

In the meantime, much work remains to ensure voters are aware of the types of improvements they’ll see in their neighborhoods.

The final referendum proposal will surely balance the values of equity, cost, efficiency, and access that have been central to the city’s nMotion process more broadly, with the goal of creating a transit system that works well for all Nashvillians for years to come.”