One Year After Nashville Transit Defeat, A Coalition Forms To Push Improvements | Nashville Public Radio

One Year After Nashville Transit Defeat, A Coalition Forms To Push Improvements

May 2, 2019

Exactly one year after Nashville voters soundly defeated a mass transit referendum, a coalition says it is renewing the push for better transportation.

The group — Connect Mid TN — say it will have a more regional focus and will pay more attention to the grassroots, instead of corporate, interests.

Some transit advocates say, in hindsight, the prior referendum felt rushed and that supporters basically had to rally behind a plan written by the mayor’s office and backed by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.

“This time, we kind of want to turn that on its head. So we hope to be the ones to be pushing whoever is mayor, whoever’s in council,” said Nora Kern, executive director of Walk Bike Nashville.

Her group is one of 19 organizations signed on for Connect Mid TN.

Some high-profile players are still there, like the Chamber of Commerce, Vanderbilt University and the Greater Nashville Realtors. But so is the group the Music City Riders United — a feisty crew of current bus riders who weren’t totally sold on the last transit plan.

“We sometimes agree and sometimes disagree,” Kern said, “but at the end of the day we all agree that we need to make serious changes. What we have today isn’t good enough.”

The group’s announcement on Wednesday included few elected officials — and WeGo, the city transit agency, did not appear to be in attendance. But supporters did include Councilman Fabian Bedne, who said Nashville cannot sustain growth, or be equitable, without transit. 

“You can’t just kick the can down the road and hope that future generations will be able to address this,” Bedne said. “If we don’t take responsibility for equity issues in the city, we’re going to pay later on, when we become a city divided by class.”

The coalition wants some fixes as soon as possible, such as better bus shelters and more crosswalks. And the group made clear it wants a dedicated funding source for transit, which likely means an eventual push for another vote on raising taxes.