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The Transportation and Mass Transit Megathread

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Hey NashvilleWill,

I agree with you that it would be neat if Union Stations where a transit hub once again. But since thats probably impossible (due to ownership, etc...) how would you feel about having THIS for a transit station?

calatrava%20new%20york%20transit%20station%202.jpg

calatrava%20new%20york%20transit%20station.jpg

Is that not AWESOME?!?!?!

I know you're against having the transit station by the river... but that would look super cool next to the water... looks almost like sails. VERY COOL!!!

I was one of the first to see that NYC station design two years ago at the company headquarters in Manhattan.

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Wow!!! Really?!? That's awesome!

So, is it going to be constructed? If so, when will it be done? It is simply gorgeous!!

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I consider Minneapolis to be a fairly comparable city to Nashville. Here is a recent article I came across today discussing the success they have had with their LRT.

Link To Article: Home on the Hiawatha Development along light-rail transit line exceeds early projections

Except ours is commuter rail, not light rail. Not to mention our line was 17 times less expensive than their line.

Even though we haven't had passenger rail in Nashville since 1979, we're doin it like pros.

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I was not suggesting that our mass transit was comparable. I was referring to the size of the cities. Minneapolis' system is by far more superior to ours. I have been a proponent of LRT over the commuter rail and was only posting it as proof that it is working in other cities. Though having both is not a bad idea. I also just thought the article was informative.

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Minneapolis is a great city for Nashville to look to for an example of smart urban growth and planning. Here is an interesting stat comparing the two cities from walkbikenashville.org---Nashville has almost twice the road miles as Minneapolis, but half the sidewalks.

Also, looking at Charlotte--I think that they have about 8500 people living in their DT area. I am wondering when their LRT began and what their DT population was when it began. I will try to research that myself when I get a chance but if anybody knows I would appreciate the info. I ask b/c in order to look at where Nashville's DT pop. is projected to be in the coming years to compare how our mass transit develops to how Charlotte's has.

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Also, looking at Charlotte--I think that they have about 8500 people living in their DT area. I am wondering when their LRT began and what their DT population was when it began. I will try to research that myself when I get a chance but if anybody knows I would appreciate the info. I ask b/c in order to look at where Nashville's DT pop. is projected to be in the coming years to compare how our mass transit develops to how Charlotte's has.

There are several extensive threads in the Charlotte section of UrbanPlanet on the light rail and other lines being built there. I suggest having a look and participate if you like.

I will give a summary:

  • Charlotte's first LRT will be 9.5 miles long, have 15 stations and trains will arrive every 7 minutes
  • The South LRT is scheduled to open in late 2007. It cost $475M, of which 47% came from the feds, 25% from the NCDOT, and the remaining 28% is being paid from local funds.
  • Charlotte/Mecklenburg is able to afford this system because the voters passed a 1/2 cent county sales tax for mass transit projects. It was this funding that went a long way in getting Federal approval for $197M.
  • There have already been several billion dollars of TOD development proposed along the line.
  • The downtown population is expected to be 15K by 2010. The transit system isn't really driving the growth in the CBD, but it is driving a lot of high density development along the line.
  • Charlotte is also in the plannig stages of a 35 mile Commuter Rail line to the North that should go in front of the Feds late this year and should be operational by 2010. There has already been 1.5 Billion of TOD proposed for this line.
  • Charlotte is already operating an historic electric trolley system in the CBD. There has been $500M in TOD investment along this 2.5 mile long line.
  • The NCDOT is building a new train station in the CBD. This station will be a multimodal facility like Union Station in DC. The North Commuter rail line will terminate there and it will handle Amtrak, the NCRR State Passenger rail system, and will be the southern terminus for the SE High Speed Rail System. It will also handle the express bus system and Greyhound will have a station there as well.
  • The current 2025 plan includes 5 transit corridors and a modern street car network. Two of the corridors I mentioned above. At least one other will be an additional LRT, and the final two either LRT or BRT. The street car system will complement the 5 transit corridors.
  • You can review the entire set of plans and current status at this link.

Couple of images of Charlotte's new Lynx trains:

post-5-1142434942_thumb.jpg

post-5-1142434954_thumb.jpg

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Wow, thanks for sharing all that monsoon. I swear, I always thought that Nashville and Charlotte were developing at relatively the same rate until I went to charlotte a couple weeks ago. I was just amazed at the density, the amount of construction, and the way mass-transit blends into the cityscape. The bus system seemed pretty elaborate with nice bus stops on most corners in the CBD (correct if I'm wrong, but thats the impression I got). That main drag through downtown - maybe tyron street? - really looked like New York or San Francisco. A wide street with very large sidewalks on either side supplemented with covered bus stops, trees, flower gardens, etc. and surrounded by massive buildings that sit right on the sidewalks with tons of retail. I also loved the crossing guards that counted down. There was so much activity downtown I was honestly astonished.

Although I sure hate to admit it, Charlotte definitley has the upper hand on nashville (by a significant amount) and if all that transit is actually in the process of happening, I think that they will move even further ahead. I'd love to see Nashville's leaders start looking at charlotte as a good way to develop a healthy downtown core.

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yes, thanks metro m. for all of that info. That is pretty mindblowing. Look at all the transit that is planned. Nashville should be approaching 5,000 DT by 2010--doesn't that sound about right? Add in the population in midtown and I think that there is a sufficient amount of people in the urban core to demand the city begin seriously planning for an LRT/Mass Trasit plan. And not just planning, but being willing to spend money on one (I realize there are some baby steps, new MTA station beging built with future in mind). Take notice, City Council, who seems to freak out and panic at the possibility of public projects. I think I would rather see money dumped into a large mass transit plan for the core than dumped into a CC.

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In terms of covered bus stops, Chicago was approached by a company that set up covered bus stops along just about all bus routes throughout the city that include a small bench and a vertical, illuminated advertisement encased in a transparent wall underneath a roof. The company is called JCDecaux and their website is [url=http://www.jcdecauxusa.com] and includes pictues of the street furniture in Chicago. Opinions about the furniture style vary, but they are decent and I'm not sure but I believe that the company actually pays Chicago part of the ad revenue and that the city didn't have to cough up any money to build or maintain the stops. I was surprised to find that they may have done something similar in St. Louis. Perhaps if Nashville's MTA ridership approaches that of St. Louis, the company (or another company) might be interested in doing something similar here and allay politicians' fears.

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Thanks Metro.M... I've been liking what I've seen up in CLT. I can't help thinking that CLT would have seen most of that investment anyway, but at least with LRT, it's being concentrated around the lines. That's a good thing in the long run.

It's interesting to compare NSH with CLT in transit, although I tend to think of CLT as five-to-ten years ahead of NSH in nearly everything. Having said that, I think the Nashville people need to realize that CLT has had better leadership both in their City Hall and on the Federal Level. Charlotte's plan is similar to what Dallas has done on a much larger scale.

Simple comparisons between the two would suggest that CLT's plan promotes urban density while NSH's promotes (additional) spread out development.

Speculating here: I think CLT has an advantage to NSH in passing the tax increase in that most of CLT's constituents still live in the same county. NSH is much more spread out over other counties. As such, I think many of the voters in Rutherford, Williamson, Sumner and Wilson would be against mass transit. I still think that's bassackward thinking, but we saw the same thing happen here with Cobb and Gwinnett counties trying to keep MARTA out.

BTW: Isn't the U.S. Rep from CLT the former Republican mayor, right? What is her name? Sue Myrick, right?

I mention this in pure contrast to the really bad job that Bob Clement and Bart Gordon (both Democrats) have done for Nashville. Not to mention the dismal job that their current mayor Purcell has done as far as leading the way for any transit in the CBD. From where I sit, there's been little leadership on the plan for Davidson. I don't think it's just a Republican vs. Democrat thing with the Republicans running things b/c John Lewis gets nearly everything he asks for. Plus, they're all spending like drunken sailors up there.

Maybe someone from NSH can shed more light on the leadership on both a local and federal level.

As a taxpayer, I must say that I hope every city is seeing a tradeoff of choices. In other words, if NSH chooses to build more freeways, then its federal allocations for mass transit should be adversely affected. Conversely, if CLT is spending its on LRT then it should get less on highways. It has to do with accountability.

It's an outrage that ATL and the surrounding region keeps getting federal funds to expand our expressways with seemingly no accountability. Now our city leaders have their hands out for the beltway. Such unaccountability enables wasteful spending.

Edited by ATLBrain

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Actually due to political gerrymandering, Charlotte has two US Legislators. One Republican and the other Democrat. But you are correct, the Republican is former mayor Sue Myrick.

Charlotte's plans include extending the system into other counties and even into SC since part of the metro is in South Carolina. The North Commuter Rail line that I mentioned above will terminate in Iredell county. The way this is being handled politically considering that not only are multiple counties involved but also two state governments is as follows:

  • CATS (Charlotte Area Transit System) is the implementor of the transit policy, but it does not make any decisions on how transit will be developed in the region.
  • There is instead the MTA (Metro Transit Adminstation) that is responsible for making transit decisions and funding CATS. They make the decisions, CATS implements it. CATS however is a department of the City of Charlotte.
  • Mecklenburg is a collection of 7 municipalities. Charlotte and 6 towns.
  • The MTA is formed from the mayors of each of the 7 towns in Mecklenburg. They each get a vote on transit decisions. In addition the NCDOT is a voting member as well as a member from the Mecklenburg county council.
  • All of the surrounding counties and municipalities that wish to participate in the future transit system are also members, but they have non-voting status. They get voting status when their respective county decides to fund its share of the transit system. Currently several of the NC counties and York in SC are members. I am not sure but I think there is also participation from the SCDOT
  • Because of this arrangement there is general buy-in from the surrounding counties on supporting transit in the region. The first big test on if this will work or not is that Iredell is being asked to fund 3 of 12 stations of the line on the commuter rail line that is headed into that county. (actually just 2 stations, it looks as if Lowes Home Improvement is going to kick in money for one as this station will be next to their new corporate HQ (12,000) employees. )
  • Eventually there are long term plans to run commuter rail into Union County, NC and York County SC. Rock Hill, SC is working on an independant plan for light rail/street trolleys that may connect to this system.

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Great points you made ATL--interesting insight on leadership as well. The leaders can always fall back on the fact that Nashville is too spread out as excuse for not having mass transit. It almost seems like a catch-22 with density and mass transit in Nashville--and what's the result?--more sprawl, more unfriendly pedestrian development, more people saying its too spread out for transit to be worth it. At least we are seeing some progress swing back in the other direction recently.

Mass Transit would be one thing I would like to hear brought forward as an issue in the mayor's race. Changes in the Metro Council would be nice. Nashville is a city that is progressive--but its leadership in places like the Council are certainly not. This needs to change.

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Interesting stuff metro.

It gets me thinking... how is the commuter rail in Nash being funded? Is Wilson Cty kicking in anything for the line thats under construction?

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I mention this in pure contrast to the really bad job that Bob Clement and Bart Gordon (both Democrats) have done for Nashville. Not to mention the dismal job that their current mayor Purcell has done as far as leading the way for any transit in the CBD. From where I sit, there's been little leadership on the plan for Davidson. I don't think it's just a Republican vs. Democrat thing with the Republicans running things b/c John Lewis gets nearly everything he asks for. Plus, they're all spending like drunken sailors up there.

Maybe someone from NSH can shed more light on the leadership on both a local and federal level.

Clement is no longer the Congressman from Nashville, having since been replaced by former 4th district Congressman Jim Cooper (in 2003). Though being a Republican and not much of a fan of any of these guys, I'd at least credit Clement in attempting to bring in some $$ for certain projects. Alas, the one he was successful at getting was that boondoggle public trans platform off of Demonbreun Street (built just in time for the street to be closed when the bridge needed replacing). I don't know what Cooper is doing, he cuts such an incredibly low profile (in stark contrast to when he served in the rural 4th), he has been an even bigger disappointment than Clement (whom I never thought I'd miss). Bart Gordon has little reason to do anything for the city of Nashville since he solely represents the ever-increasing GOP suburban counties. I expect him to be replaced by a younger, more dynamic Republican by 2013 when the lines are corrected. One last mention on Clement, he is already a declared candidate for Nashville Mayor, and I expect he may very well succeed in that endeavor, following in the footsteps of Dick Fulton and Bill Boner, both Congressmen who went on to become Mayor.

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Just a few notes about Federal Transit Funding.

note: This does not apply to the current commuter rail line being built in Nashville

  • Most LRT lines being built in the USA require funding in the magnitude of $500M or more for each line. This gets more expensive each day due to increases in costs for anything having to do with construction.
  • Most localities can't raise the funds on their own to build a line like this so they turn to the federal government like the Charlotte and Minneapolis systems mentioned above.
  • Congress has decided they do not want to be in the business of deciding funding for individual systems, they have passed those decisions on to the FTA. As a result, the individual legislators from each area have litte input on if a system gets built or not.
  • The FTA administers a plan call New Starts. If a system is to receive funding for New Starts then it has to recommended under this plan.
  • For any system that is requesing more than $75M (I might be wrong on this number) it has to be funded via New Starts.
  • Under New Starts, federal funding can't exceed 60% of the total cost of the line, and for the system to be seriously considered, the federal amount should be 50% or less.
  • The FTA decides either a recommended for funding or not recommended based on a large number of factors, but key to their decision is commitment to local funding, will it get people out of their cars, and ridership/dollar spent.
  • Each year the FTA will submit a list of these systems to be funded by Congress and the Administration. They must vote to either fund or not fund the list as a whole. Generally the recommendations of the FTA are almost always followed.
  • There is a thread here on UrbanPlanet that shows what happened for the 2007 funding year. (not yet approved by congress) You can see it here.
  • There is another program in the works called Small Starts that would have funded the system in Nashville as it is designed for requests that are less than $75M. But it is not off the ground yet. Nashville's CR funding was included in the 2007 funding request from the FTA, but it was a special case.

The key here is not who your US legislators are senators are because they don't have a lot of influence over the details given the way that Congress has decided to structure it. What really counts is a commitment from the local and state government to fund the system. If that doesn't happen, then not much money is going to come from the federal government.

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Clement is no longer the Congressman from Nashville, having since been replaced by former 4th district Congressman Jim Cooper (in 2003). Though being a Republican and not much of a fan of any of these guys, I'd at least credit Clement in attempting to bring in some $$ for certain projects.

OIC... Thanks. The only thing I know about Cooper is that he came and had dinner with several of us in my law class at Duke back in (I think) '95... and he had just lost his bid for Senate (I think)... and maybe he also lost some healthcare bill he had sponsored in congress. Anyway, he was one boring and bitter guy. He was so critical of those idiotic Tennesseans who voted against him. Obviously they didn't know a great thing when they saw it. I'm kind of surprised he was elected from Nashville, but that explains a lot. I was unimpressed by him.

If Clement really is a supporter of mass transit (namely LRT), and if he gets elected mayor, then maybe he'll go to school on Charlotte's experience. I do think Nashville sorely needs some form of mass transit in its core.

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OIC... Thanks. The only thing I know about Cooper is that he came and had dinner with several of us in my law class at Duke back in (I think) '95... and he had just lost his bid for Senate (I think)... and maybe he also lost some healthcare bill he had sponsored in congress. Anyway, he was one boring and bitter guy. He was so critical of those idiotic Tennesseans who voted against him. Obviously they didn't know a great thing when they saw it. I'm kind of surprised he was elected from Nashville, but that explains a lot. I was unimpressed by him.

If Clement really is a supporter of mass transit (namely LRT), and if he gets elected mayor, then maybe he'll go to school on Charlotte's experience. I do think Nashville sorely needs some form of mass transit in its core.

Yes, Cooper is sort of a strange fella. He was a bit of a "wunderkind" when he was elected to Congress in 1982 at the age of 28, when we regained a 9th House seat, beating the daughter of then-Sen. Howard Baker (though Cissy Baker was clearly not ready for prime time). Cooper was the son of long-ago Governor Prentice Cooper, a Conservative Democrat bitterly opposed to Sen. Albert Gore, Sr. (Gore, Sr. being somewhat similar to Arkansas's Sen. Bill Fulbright, a liberal Democrat and supporter of racist segregation) and unsuccessfully attempted to unseat him in 1958. Cooper was, as was Gore, Jr., anxious to avenge their respective father's losses. He actually had been leading in the polls against Fred Thompson early in '94, but once Thompson campaigned, he fell behind and never recovered (and to add insult to injury, his House seat went to Republican Van Hilleary, the first time the district had elected a Republican since the legendary Cordell Hull was beaten in the Harding/GOP tidal wave of 1920, when TN sent a whopping 5 Republicans to Congress, more than any other southern state combined). Cooper, though nowhere near as Conservative as his dad (who would be a "DINO" as opposed to a "RINO"), attempted to forge a moderate record during his first 12 years in Congress.

Like Cooper, Bob Clement (also the son of a former legendary Governor, populist Frank Clement), had "carpetbagged" into Nashville's 5th (Clement narrowly losing the newly-reconfigured GOP 7th district in 1982 to future RINO Governor Don Sundquist). Clement at least managed a non-extremist moderate record, but after Cooper won the primary over the embarrasing ultraliberal Sheriff Gayle Ray and my moderate Antioch State Rep. John Arriola, and the general, he shockingly started voting like Nashville was San Francisco, and his record is now even more to the left than Memphis's Harold Ford, Jr. ! As I mentioned, he keeps such a low profile that he risks someone challenging him for that alone (they probably should). After 3 years in office, I couldn't even tell you one thing he has accomplished (the only thing I remember was his whining in the Tennessean about serving in a Republican Congress, of which he never had the opportunity to serve in during his prior service, and he seemed so depressed and despondent about it -- hey, if that's how he feels, maybe he ought to retire and get someone who is more interested in getting involved, being aggressively pro-active for the city and not whining by the sidelines ?).

I'm presuming at this point, and if someone who is close to Clement can confirm, that he'll probably be the candidate of the business establishment, in which case, that'll be about the best one can hope for where Nashville is concerned.

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I was up on the Shelby Street Bridge today and took some photos of the Train Depot. It is really coming along. The clouds were great today so I could not resist the skyline photo.

train_depot1.jpg

In context

train_depot2.jpg

skyline.jpg

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I am excited to see how many people will take the train downtown. I only hope they run this for special events downtown like titans games, Fourth of July, New Years, etc. They would miss a grand opportunity.

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Thought I would bring the discussion of LRT/ BRT back to the Transit thread. Found an interesting blog discussing the Twin Cities transit system.

Twin City Transit

I think the interesting point is we should be thinking of how to incorporate both systems. I feel the LRT model should be used on the major corridors leading into and out of downtown. The BRT mode would be great for connecting the 'spokes' of the wheel, thinking of Blakemore/31st to connect West End and Hillsboro as one location.

Here's another interesting article from Ottawa.

Ottawa BRT

Of course it all boils down to what side of the fence you're on and who's funding the studies. I'm sure many out there can argue for BRT equally because of cost, but permanence is a major factor contributing to development along LRT corridors. Yeah, with BRT, you have some stations and dedicated lanes, but nothing a streetscape overhaul couldn't replace. Once you lay the lines for LRT, you've shown you're committed to Mass Transit and to a specific area. Take for instance the Gulch. The city showed the investment in the overall streetscape of the area and look how developers have responded. Not necessarily an argument for or against LRT/BRT, but shows one instance in which the cities investment has had a great outcome. I'd be curious to see the total investment and how long increased property taxes would take to pay that off.

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There is an ongoing discussion here on UrbanPlanet on Twin Cities transit as well. There are several good posts in that subforum on what they are doing with transit there.

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