What Would Change First If Nashville's Transit Referendum Passes? | Nashville Public Radio

What Would Change First If Nashville's Transit Referendum Passes?

Mar 25, 2018

Much of the discussion around Nashville’s transit proposal focuses on five light rail lines outlined by the plan. Yet those routes would be ready, at the earliest, beginning in 2026.

Much sooner — if voters approve the referendum on May 1 — the initial changes would focus on improving countywide bus service, at a cost of nearly $1 billion.

In recent years, the Metropolitan Transit Authority has openly shared some of the shortcomings of its current services. In particular, the study that went into the nMotion plan found overwhelming demand for buses that run more frequently and with longer hours.

Following that cue, the transit proposal's first goal would be buses that run every 15 minutes along the busiest routes, from as early as 5:15 a.m. to after midnight (1:15 a.m). These changes would roll out between 2019 and 2021.

“Initiatives like light rail and downtown tunnels will take years to plan, develop and construct, but literally we would see improvements on the MTA bus system almost instantly,” MTA Chief Executive Officer Steve Bland said at his recent budget hearing.

Reaching those buses would become easier and the rides more comfortable with additions like:

  • 100 new digital signs with route information 
  • real-time information as to exactly when buses were due to arrive
  • a modern fare payment system
  • Wi-Fi on board

At the same time, a host of other bus-centric changes would be underway.

The program calls for development of 19 “neighborhood transit centers,” which would be far more robust than an average bus stop — typically located in places where several routes intersect (see list of possible locations on plan page 26).

Next on the horizon — still well before light rail — would be the addition of four new crosstown bus routes, as well as what officials are describing as “one-seat rides,” which would allow trips that go across the city (and through downtown) without requiring a transfer at the Music City Central station.

This chart from the transit plan shows the timeline of proposed improvements, with bus enhancements front-loaded.
Credit Nashville Mayor's Office

The MTA has also already been moving on changes to its on-demand AccessRide services, which serve elderly and disabled residents, as detailed in the recent budget hearing

The agency also wants to make it easier to get to transit stops. One prong of the plan calls for coordination with taxis and raid-hailing services to get riders to and from the buses.

While voters are being asked to decide on the "Let's Move Nashville" plan spearheaded by the mayor's office, many of the initial changes follow closely on the prior nMotion plan completed by the MTA. For details on what that strategy has already put in motion, please revisit this story