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The Transportation and Mass Transit Megathread


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Insulin--

I live in Dallas and Nashville, and trust me, you do not want to look to Dallas as developing a city. It is the most spread out city I have ever been to, maybe besides Los Angeles, and their density is not very good. They have a lot of buildings in the downtown, but many sit vacant. They have a light rail system that works very well, but because the city is so spread out, the rail does not extend in multiple directions getting people across the city (boston, new york, chicago), it is one straight, extremely long rail line, which does nothing to help the density in dallas but instead further spreads it out.

IMO people do not know what they are talking about if they simply look at an article of the Music City Star and see ridership is below expectations and then think Nashville cannot support public transportation. You have to look deeper than that people.

First off, the rail line to Lebanon was not a need at all, maybe it would have been ten years from now. It was built simply because it was cheapest. If the rail line had been built to Murfreesboro, with a stop in Franklin/Brentwood... Ridership would probably be twice what it is with Lebanon. Williamson County and Rutherford County are where the bulk of the people working in downtown live. Don't believe me, drive through brentwood and out to murfreesboro in the morning and come back to Nashville in the evening. You will see you are driving very easily and the traffic will be comepletely congested opposite to you.

Second, Nashville's city planners should have first set up a funding system to create a light rail system within Davidson County ala Charlotte. Charlotte is very similar to Nashville and that lightrail is working very well there. On the other hand, Nashville could have set up at least a streetcar system ala Portland. I believe Nashville is bigger, or at least more urban than Portland, if not, we are the same as Portland, and the streetcar system works very well there.

We have busing here throughout Nashville, and you can call me a bigot, but Nashville will not use the busing system because too many people in Nashville (at least working high paying jobs) believe the busing system is for the poor. Light-rail or Streetcars are more trendy, and a rail going through downtown, midtown, west end, the gulch, sobro, etc. Would work very well.

Finally, the Music City Star is set up at 8$ a ride. That makes gas the better option financially. Not only that, it only runs in the morning and at 4 in the afternoon... That means people pay more than gas, and have to use a poorly structured busing system at their destinations!

STILL, the Music City Star is seeing 1,000 riders a day on an expensive train leading to a city without lightrail.

Imagine if Nashville had Charlotte or Portland's system within Davidson County, and the Music City Star instead went to Murfreesboro... That would be a success.

Either way, 1,000 riders on a train from Lebanon to Nashville at 8$ a ride witih no lightrail at its destination with rides only in the morning and 4 pm proves to me that public transportion can and will work in Nashville.

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Well....those "clueless people" happened to do over 100 town halls (attended by over 10,000 people) and a tremendous amount of research in putting that proposal together that many folks happen to thin

There was another couple of articles in the NBJ. It was a both side of the coin approach, as Charles Robert Bone Pro and Joe Scarlett Con shared their views.  The one comment Scarlett proposed wa

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^^^ Great points nashvylle! I totally agree. I just wonder how huge of an impact the leg to and from Murfreesboro and the other to and from Franklin/Brentwood would make if ever built. Heck, throw in the leg to Hendersonville since it has the highest bus ridership in that corridor (I think, correct me if I am wrong), and I think it would be truly amazing to see the effect. Plus a decent system in town would be a humongous step for Nashville in terms of transportation. I believe Nashville and the region can do it. It just depends on how long it will take (money and opposition).

I was in Hartford, CT last month (for a convention), and the city had an awesome FREE shuttle that ran a simple route through the city. Plus they had a few hydrogen cell shuttles, very nice. With the new CC coming to town, Nashville definitely needs to looks into something similar, IMO.

Edited by timmay143
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So Nashville's population density has nothing to do with the problem? Cities like Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta have expanding transit systems due to volume. Nashville doesn't have the volume of people to use the rail (in my opinion). I agree that people are too dependent on their cars in this city and would like to see that change, but I also believe that a gradual population increase in general will do the most for public transportation in Nashville.

i'd hardly use atlanta as an example of density. nashville as a city actually has more people in it than atlanta. that is why it makes since to have rail there, to help cut down on the HORRIFIC traffic from people traveling from the suburbs to the downtown proper. the same holds true with nashville. the lack of density between the city and the suburbs is what is causing the bad traffic on the interstates. you simply can't ignore the fact that nashville's metropolitan area does have 1.5 million (depending on where you look) people. that's is a lot of people traveling the roads. as nashvylle said, they put the train where it was the least expensive. had they put it along the I24 corridor, you would see the ridership numbers increase dramatically. the star had to start somewhere though.

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^ Nice post, nashvylle..

One thing though.. I'm not sure where people are getting the $8/ride ticket price? Last I heard, and according to the RTA website, its still $5/ride. Here is the Ticket & Schedule Info

Also... just noticed they apparently now have a night train on Friday nights! Inbound at 6:50pm, outbound at 9:30pm

And this sunday.. they are doing a special trip to the Wilson County Fair, according to the website

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Great info Nashvylle...I see the points now. It is laying the groundwork for something bigger and greater that needs to happen in Nashville. I guess I wish the Star had started off on a more profitable/more useful route instead of just the cheapest route. I mean why build something just because the money is there and just to say you have a new mode of pt offered in the city? Anyways, what do you think the next route installment should be and/or the RTA will actually choose to expand?

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I guess I wish the Star had started off on a more profitable/more useful route instead of just the cheapest route.

i think we all definitely agree with that. i was kinda ticked when i heard the lebanon route was chosen over murfreesboro (especially since i was living in the boro at the time and driving to east nashville everyday for work).

I mean why build something just because the money is there and just to say you have a new mode of pt offered in the city?

i think that's exactly why they built it. just to say that nashville has it. that being said, it has taken quite a few cars off of the road. now if they can just get the other more useful lines up and running.......

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completely agree insulin. I wish Nashville would have done what Charlotte has done, or Portland, or even Austin has done first within the Metro Davidson County.... Then started with commuter rail reaching out to Murfreesboro first.

However, I'd rather have some sort of commuter rail reaching out to Lebanon than nothing at all.

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completely agree insulin. I wish Nashville would have done what Charlotte has done, or Portland, or even Austin has done first within the Metro Davidson County.... Then started with commuter rail reaching out to Murfreesboro first.

However, I'd rather have some sort of commuter rail reaching out to Lebanon than nothing at all.

^^It cost roughly $40 Million to implement commuter rail between Nashville and Lebanon, far cheaper than the projected $250 million for the line to Murfreesboro. On top of that, the line to Murfreesboro is owned and operated by CSX Transportation Corporation. They have stated that there is no capacity for passenger rail on that line. New track would need to be built. The east corridor is managed by the Nashville & Eastern Rail Authority and is not a heavy freight corridor. The Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is the regional transportation planning agency. They recently published the final report for the SE Corridor Study on their website. They are currently conducting a study in the NE Corridor between Nashville and Gallatin.

Prior to any additional investment in rail or regional mass transit, there must first be a dedicated source of funding (penny tax, vehicle registration fees) approved by the voters. That dedicated source of funding is why places like Charlotte and Denver can build these systems.

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^It's an interesting but badly written article. The guy says that he has looked at the street car in Charlotte, but no such thing exists. There is a proposal to possibly build a streetcar line sometime late in the next decade but prior to that the city wants to extend its light rail line and build a commuter rail line. Those two items, if they happen, will take up all the available funding for the next decade.

Streetcars are extremely difficult if not impossible to get funded. The example in Portland and New Orleans are cited, but those are examples that won't apply to most cities. Portland has rather draconian land use laws and the NO system was the original system built back at the turn of the century. (the 20th one)

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Instead of a new thread I figured this would tie in best here

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/14/us/14streetcar.html

Nashville used to have street cars; one was routed from Percy Warner Park, down the median of the B. Meade Blvd, up West End to downtown. I always wished this could be returned.

Nice article.. one thing to note is how in Columbus, Ohio.. $12.5mil is planned to be contributed by OSU.

Cincinnati also plans to obtain $30mil in private investment.

Makes me wonder if Vanderbilt could throw in a decent portion of the investment? It would more than likely connect to the university anyway.

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Nice article.. one thing to note is how in Columbus, Ohio.. $12.5mil is planned to be contributed by OSU.

Cincinnati also plans to obtain $30mil in private investment.

Makes me wonder if Vanderbilt could throw in a decent portion of the investment? It would more than likely connect to the university anyway.

It seems that a Mid-Town Partnership (similar to the Downtown Partnership) could be organized to encourage and help fund such a line. I understand the downtown merchants and developers agreed to some additional taxes just dedicated to improving just downtown.

You would think the Mid-Town hoteliers, restauranters and others would agree to a dedicated tax increase to fund a line from downtown to Mid-Town and allow the downtown tourists to travel to the booming supply of restaurants and hotels to the west.

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It seems in this city, there are three very different rail needs. 1) commuter rail from the suburbs. 2) Downtown/Midtown light rail to serve tourists, students, nightlife goers that will add vibrancy to the area. and 3) Mostly lower income and mostly minority bus riders who need transportation in and around Nashville. It's not politically correct to talk about, but certain things associated with #3 give certain perceptions to many Nashvillians whether or not it's fair or accurate.

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A Midtown Partnership has always seemed like a given to me.. I don't know why it hasn't happened already. Vanderbilt also needs to be a big part of this, IMO.

Commuter rail is important, as are the bus lines.. but some sort of LRT, Street Car line, or whatever, is more important at this point I think... and should be #1 on the list.. without it, expansion of the commuter rail system seems impractical.

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some of the people over at n.charrette started a great blog on transit for nashville. They posted a link to an excellent video on BRT in Bogota which was really amazing. I think it is especially interesting for us Nashvillians considering that Mayor Dean is planning to implement BRT here. The video really exhibits the ways in which this form of mass transit can be utilized as a more affordable but excellent option. The intergration of cyclists with BRT is especially exciting. We can only dream of having something so extensive here one day.

It would be nice to see the city include the beginning of a really ambitious mass transit plan as part of the designing of the new convention center--something that helps this move this city towards being more walkable. I just visited the Highlands neighborhood in Louisville this weekend and came back a little depressed at how much more urban and walkable it was there than here. It was a super cool urban neighborhood--we really have nothing quite like it in Nashville.

But it WAS just 15 years ago that urban renewal began here in Nashville--before that dt was a largely ignored/avoided. So, really, we are just getting started over in many ways. The next 15 yrs will be great--just hope we continue to work on becoming much, much (much) more pedestrian friendly. We still can become so much better.

Edited by southsideJ
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This is an article (might have already been posted) about the streetcar system in Cincinnati. I REALLY think Nashville should adopt a streetcar system as well.

Cincinnati's phase I of streetcars is a 4 mile loop, costing approximately 100 million (25 mill/mile). Tonight, I drove from the intersection of 21st Ave S. and West End to the Sommet Center (approximately 1.9 miles) through Music Row and back to Vanderbilt's campus (totaling approximately 4 miles). In this 4 mile loop, Nashville could implement it's streetcar system and be very effective IMO.

The article states that what makes Portland's streetcar system work is it's proximity to Portland State University students (i.e. Vandy, Belmont further in the future), and it's proximity to its hospital (i.e. Baptist, Vanderbilt Hospital, Centennial Hospital). Cincinnati does not have a college nor a hospital, but it does have fortune 500 companies in the downtown area (we have Regions Bank, 5th 3rd Bank, Pinnacle Bank, Bass Berry & Sims to name a few).

Not only do we have the hospitals, college students, banks, and law firms, the streetcar route would take us right next to the Sommet Center, and close to LP Field and the Music City Star station. Saving the best for last, the streetcar loop would also run right by the Music City Center (as public transportation is a talked about factor in the planning right now).

I think this is something we have to start talking about now, and hopefully can take action sooner rather than later. I would love for Nashville to approve a half cent tax increase to fund this system, as well as some private investment by either a company or Vanderbilt University.

I know people like Monsoon are not advocates of the streetcar system (mainly because it does what buses do), but the people who choose not to ride the buses for whatever reason will ride the streetcar because it's trendy and "sexier".

Federal funding is available as Cincinnati has obtained some.

We have to get this!!!

http://citybeat.com/2007-02-28/news.shtml

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Portland's street car system works because they have land use laws there that force people onto public transit. Those same kind of land use laws (which I tend to agree with) are generally unacceptable elsewhere because of the issue of property rights. Streetcars also work in places with historic centers where cars are very difficult to have and where they have been established for a long time. San Francisco's cable car and the historic trolley in New Orleans are examples but keep in mind they are also tourist attractions. I am not sure they are in practical use elsewhere in the US. I do think Tampa and Memphis are running historic streetcars that were installed in the last few years, but they don't carry many people.

If you want a good place to see what other cities are using you can click here at UrbanRail.net.

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Thanks for the website Monsoon. Can you further explain the "land use laws" that force people to use the public transportation? I wouldn't mind that here in Nashville. Also, do you know how Portland funded their streetcar system, but more importantly their light rail?

Nashville could really benefit from a half cent tax increase to fund a streetcar system connecting midtown to downtown, and a light-rail connecting downtown to Green Hills, the airport, oprymills, etc.

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I am in Portland right now and have really enjoyed riding the great streetcar system. Many times my thoughts have wandered to how this system could be adapted and function in the Nashville area. I've pictured a route that circulates from downtown to Baptist hospital, Vanderbilt, Hillsboro Village back through Midtown and the Gulch and returning to the center of the city. Another that might work well right away would be a line from downtown into East Nashville. If the connections could be close to the current Music City Star station it could improve ridership on the commuter line. (I've also dreamed that Nashville could have the beautiful canopy of green trees that Portland has, but the climate and soil conditions here are more suited to that ammenity.)

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Dallas/Fort Worth

I would argue that Dallas and Fort Worth are good models to look at right now. Although they are sunbelt sprawl cities....they do represent a model of how a region can transition to a more urban form. The density level here are higher....and we do not sprawl as much as Nashville...or Atlanta because there are few barriers...such as topo and flood plain.

Currently, the City of Dallas and Fort Worth are moving forward to create modern streetcar systems for their respective downtowns to complement the regional rail plan. Completing the regional rail will cost at least $6 billion...but the region is close to reaching an agreement on funding.

Links of Interest.....

Trinity Railway Express

http://www.trinityrailwayexpress.org/

DART

http://www.dart.org/

Denton County Rail

http://www.raildcta.net/

Tarrant County Southwest to Northeast

http://www.sw2nerail.com/

Streetcars for Dallas and Fort Worth

http://www.pegasusnews.com/news/2008/jul/1...il-inspiration/

Regional Rail

http://www.nctcog.org/trans/transit/planning/rrcs/

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Thanks for the website Monsoon. Can you further explain the "land use laws" that force people to use the public transportation? I wouldn't mind that here in Nashville. Also, do you know how Portland funded their streetcar system, but more importantly their light rail?
Basically about 30 years ago Portland decided that it was going to develop differently and focus on using transit instead of building for the automobile. So they more or less drew a line about the city and declared that an urban growth boundary. Development could occur on one side and on the other side there is none allowed. This is a simplification of course but it is similar to most European cities and the reason you go in the countryside there and don't see it littered with subdivisions and big box retail.

Because Portland did this, it has allowed them to achieve densities that easily support rail and other public transit and make owning a car more difficult and in some cases unnecessary. So they in fact did it the right way. They decided they city was going to be using mass transit for its needs and put in the restrictions to make it happen. Rail transit then came after the fact to support that model. This is quite opposite of what happens elsewhere and why you see so many transit projects fail and get off the ground. In almost all other cases, the plan is to build the transit line and then assume that it will generate the ridership and urban development on its own. It almost never works that way and there are some big notable failures that are testimate to it.

It's this difference that is never considered when Portland is mentioned as an example for using streetcars and its why when these proposals hit the FTA they are almost never funded by them. The municipality is then left with either 100% local funding or the project dies.

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good points. But how did Cincinnati receive federal funding?

I am not aware that they have. Do you have some specific information that would describes what they have received? The Bush administration has already announced which systems will be receiving money for systems in 2009 and Cincinnati was not on this list. The FTA will pass out money to systems to do studies but they have not received funding to build a system.

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Basically about 30 years ago Portland decided that it was going to develop differently and focus on using transit instead of building for the automobile. So they more or less drew a line about the city and declared that an urban growth boundary. Development could occur on one side and on the other side there is none allowed. This is a simplification of course but it is similar to most European cities and the reason you go in the countryside there and don't see it littered with subdivisions and big box retail.

For what it's worth,Tennessee also has passed 'Urban Growth Boundary' laws making it one of the three States to do so. Admittedly, the motivation for doing it was a little different from the other states; This from Wikipedia:

The U.S. states of Oregon, Washington and Tennessee require cities to establish urban growth boundaries. However, in states such as Tennessee the boundaries are not used to control growth but rather to define long-term city boundaries.

However, the results will be the same. High density zoning will be encouraged within the u. g. b., leaving areas outside to remain rural with low-density development.

There is more on it at Planners Web.

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