In what could be Nashville’s most ambitious mass transit endeavor since the failed transit referendum in May, officials are seeking federal funds to examine a possible “bus rapid transit” line along a 6-mile portion of Dickerson Pike between downtown and northeast Nashville.
It is still early for the idea. The city needs funds to perform a detailed study, which itself could take two years.
But officials say the corridor could showcase transportation innovations, combine transit and housing ideas in ways to minimize gentrification, and show the kind of progress that could gain backers for future transit plans.
“We need more examples on the ground of exactly how transit would work in our community before people are going to be willing to make the kinds of investments that we need,” Mayor David Briley said this week, reflecting on the failed referendum.
The vision for Dickerson Pike would be a cohesive overhaul of sidewalks, traffic signals, bus service and — crucially — land use, including a potential redevelopment district to guide so-called “smart growth.” Briley defines it as “trying to get out ahead of the curve on some development that’s likely to happen there in the coming decades.”
Metro’s application to the federal BUILD program describes the Dickerson Pike corridor as fast growing, with a projected 35 percent population increase by 2040, and an even larger jump in jobs.
Officials also know that the area is home to many low-income residents, and relatively high bus ridership — even though current service is not as frequent as other city pikes — so a push for affordability runs throughout the application.
In all, the study would cost $2.3 million, with Metro covering $807,000.
Dickerson Pike was already included in the previous referendum as a bus rapid transit corridor — which is a type of service that gives buses dedicated lanes, express service and more robust shelters for passengers.
At that time, officials estimated a 7-mile stretch would cost $65 million to overhaul — including sidewalks and numerous other streetscape changes — with operations costing $4 million annually.
The city’s grant application also makes several mentions of autonomous vehicles, and Metro’s interest in adaptive street technologies and high-tech traffic signals, similar to what is being installed now along Murfreesboro Pike.