Emery Hartz of TransitNow, a local grassroots organization dedicated to promotion of a vibrant transportation system, discussed the implications of the proposed Nashville transit plan with Belmont students this week. Mayor Berry’s proposed plan includes 26 miles of new light-rail transit, an expanded busing service and a major underground tunnel below downtown, which would total a $5.2 billion project.
According to Hartz, by the year 2040, Nashville will be as large as Seattle or Denver, and traffic congestion will only continue to increase if nothing is done about the current transit system. She asserted, “We need more than one option to get out of gridlock.”
The proposed plan will expand bus operating hours and increase frequency, allowing them to run every 15 minutes from 5:15 a.m. until 1:15 a.m. All buses will be converted to electric buses as well, which will contribute to Nashville’s sustainability efforts and reduce the city’s carbon footprint. Travelling on the new system would be free for all citizens living below the poverty line and for students under 18. Additionally, the plan proposes new bus lanes to reduce traffic caused by bus stops and expanded sidewalks and bike lanes to preserve foot traffic. As Hartz noted, “We want to keep Nashville walk-able for natives and tourists alike.”
The main revenue generator for this plan would be a one-half percent increase in Nashville’s sales tax, implemented in July 2018, which would increase again to one percent in five years. Mayor Berry has also proposed increases to the city’s hotel-motel, rental car and excise taxes. The $5.2 billion projection is expected to include expenses for free riders, such as those mentioned above, as well as construction of the project and system maintenance for the following 50 years.
Hartz conceded that, should the plan be enacted, “it will be an adjustment, but, in the long run, it’ll make getting around much easier.”
The plan will be put to a vote at the polls on May 1, 2018. She urged students to “get the message out, so that every one can vote on May 1.”
Since 2005, Belmont has offered free transportation to campus for students, faculty and staff thanks to a partnership with Nashville’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). Students, faculty and staff can ride MTA buses, the Relax & Ride commuter bus or the Music City Star rail system free of charge by swiping their BUID.