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downtown cliff

Nashville Mass Transit

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I thought this might be an interesting topic based on some of the side conversations on other posts. I think the commuter rail post is good, but I would be interested in a discussion on "in-town" mass transit.

I work downtown but have been teaching twice a week as an adjunct at Vandy this semester. On several occasions, I have taken the bus to and from my class. I like not having to find a parking place over at Peabody, plus I get to ride for free with my faculty ID card. I have generally been impressed with the service. Clean, prompt, and efficient. The 7 route has always been full when I have ridden, with an interesting cross section of Nashvillians.

My only gripe is that the time between buses is too far apart. I really think this line would be perfect for Bus Rapid Transit implementation. Given energy efficient, sleek new buses with dedicated lanes and less time between buses, this could be mass transit magic. It would be great for close-in commuters, students wanting to go downtown to party, downtown residents wanting to hit the Village or go to one of the hospitals. You could even do a park and ride at the outer limit (like Atlanta and other cities do with their rail).

I think light rail is great, but probably too pricey for Nashville. At the very least, BRT could be seen as a trial run for some of the light rail concepts, too guage interest before a huge investment.

BTW, Here is good link on the topic:

Bus Rapid Transit Policy Center

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this route could do with more buses. during the peak hours, it's like a 15 minute headway, which isn't bad -- and the bus is almost always full. after 6 pm, though -- the headway falls to 60 minutes. it's a total pain in the neck when you miss that 6:15 and have to wait an entire hour for the next bus. But, i can't blame MTA cause in the evenings the bus is usually empty.

the MTA 5-year plan has this line extending South to Burton Hills in yr 5. Perhaps that would satisfy a park-n-ride location?

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The onlly thing I'd hope gets looked at closely is how much of the street is rendered useless as a result of the dedicated lanes in BRT. This option seems to be more cost effective... and it seems like a good approach to gauge the depth of demand for mass transit in the core. But every example I've seen of BRT takes away too much of the street activity both for pedestrians and motorized traffic.

I think it will be worth it for Nashville to wait a few years instead of jumping into BRT. Then with a solid feel for LRT, Nashville MT boosters could sell it to the public after learning from other cities successes and failures. IMO, every smaller major that has tried LRT has been a little bit better than their predecessor... Portland, Sacramento, Dallas come to mind. You can see how Charlotte's works out. Then improve on their experiences. It takes lots... lots... lots (did I say lots) of planning and even more leadership to put the plan together and sell it to the public.

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Rail is in fact more expensive yes. But it does carry more weight with developers and it carries more people at the same time. It is, in the long run more economical and enviromentally friendly than bus transit.

I personally, would rather foot the bill for rail transit now and get it over with than foot it later on when it is double what it is currently to build it.

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^ Good point.

I think if they wanted to implement BRT, the first thing they would have to do is fix the stoplights. The timing & sensing of the stoplights in this city is way off, at least most of them. I hate when the light turns red for NOBODY lol.

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I undersand where you are coming from. I have a friend that has to take the bus to get to temp jobs and the busses do not run very often, I think every half hour and then go to every hour. There are parts of Nashville that are not being served. He has to walk at least a mile to get to a bus stop and he lives in East Nashville. I think Metro could do a better job of getting to the passengers.

In order for rail to work you have to have a good bus service too.

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Rail is in fact more expensive yes. But it does carry more weight with developers and it carries more people at the same time. It is, in the long run more economical and enviromentally friendly than bus transit.

I personally, would rather foot the bill for rail transit now and get it over with than foot it later on when it is double what it is currently to build it.

Lexy,

LRT may carry more weight with developers, but the BRT fact sheet at the link I posted tells some pretty impressive stories of BRT related development. Several cities are using BRT stations as retail magnets, just like LRT stations.

As far as more people, I don't buy that one. Unless you are talking really long subway like cars (which seems unlikely for the West End corridor) the BRT routes have proven themselves capable of moving just as many people, faster than LRT.

What strikes me is the number of European and American cities with LRT, that are going with BRT for their new projects. What do they know. And, Nashcan, Metro's taxpayers aren't going to support the capital costs for rail just because we think buses are boring.

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I undersand where you are coming from. I have a friend that has to take the bus to get to temp jobs and the busses do not run very often, I think every half hour and then go to every hour. There are parts of Nashville that are not being served. He has to walk at least a mile to get to a bus stop and he lives in East Nashville. I think Metro could do a better job of getting to the passengers.

In order for rail to work you have to have a good bus service too.

I completely agree. I see no point in spending upwards of millions to billions of dollars for BRT or LRT while we still have an inadequate bus system. I would much rather have an amazing bus system that serves more of the community and have buses arrive every 10-15 minutes as opposed to 30-60. I would gladly take the bus to work every day if it came for frequent. The thing is, if I don't have work at just the right time, I could end up being an hour early or having to wait thirty minutes to get home. It's just not very convenient even though it goes right where I need it to. I too, would love to see LRT (especially down west end although to broadway and the river), but I see that as a needless expense when the buses don't go where you need them to as often as you need them to. A great bus system can do wonders for a city (I.e. San Francisco), instead of digging subway tunnels or messing up roads to install rails, you just buy more buses and build better bus stops. It's cheaper, it's faster, it's much easier, and if quality buses are purchased, it can be cleaner as well. Now, of course, it doesn't necessarily help congestion as much as rail would, I think you would notice a sizeable decline in traffic among the more heavily dense areas of town

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Hey Cliff, you mentioned that you think LRT might be too pricey for Nashville. What did you mean by that? Do you think that taxpayers would just be unwilling? I would think that the major obstacle for any city that doesn't already have LRT right now would be getting federal funds.

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A great bus system can do wonders for a city (I.e. San Francisco), instead of digging subway tunnels or messing up roads to install rails, you just buy more buses and build better bus stops. It's cheaper, it's faster, it's much easier, and if quality buses are purchased, it can be cleaner as well.

I totally agree. What you have described are the essentials of a basic BRT system. A BRT doesn't have to mean spending lots of money on special lanes, etc. It can be done as a modular system of improvements to meet the needs of the city, or expand as those needs increase.

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Hey Cliff, you mentioned that you think LRT might be too pricey for Nashville. What did you mean by that? Do you think that taxpayers would just be unwilling? I would think that the major obstacle for any city that doesn't already have LRT right now would be getting federal funds.

southsideJ, I think you are right about federal funding being the biggest obstacle. With the small pool of federal funds available, I think we would have a better chance of getting enough money for BRT, vs. enough for LRT. I also think the public would be more willing to stomach the local match amounts for BRT. With the residential density picking up along the West End corridor, I think there will be a market for either, but you still have to convince the rest of the county (or their elected reps) to come along.

I wonder if the market could be robust enough for this to be a private or a private/public venture?

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I think (perhaps foolishly) that convincing the rest of the county is very doable. I think even people who live outside of the urban core would appreciate being able to come dt, perhaps via commuter rail, and shop on west end, eat downtown and then attend a sports or cultural event somewhere like coliseum/tpac/symphony hall---and do it all w/o having to worry about getting in a car and driving just a few miles (that take 15-20 minutes) and finding parking at least a couple of times.

Convincing their elected reps? Who knows

That is an interesting question about private or private/public ventures. Forgive my ignorance, but what type of company would represent the private aspect of such a partnership?

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That is an interesting question about private or private/public ventures. Forgive my ignorance, but what type of company would represent the private aspect of such a partnership?

I'm not sure any such company is out there right now. I know that there are some public-private partnership toll roads, but I don't know of any mass transit endeavors. That may be because it isn't viable, or it may be because no one has figured out the business model yet. I will ask around to see if any of my transportation buds know of any examples.

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One of my buds tells me that the closest thing to a private mass transit program that he knows of are those privately owned commuter van lines. He opined that any mass transit program would probably have to have a public component, due to the virtual requirement for federal funding and subsidies. That doesn't rule out a public-private partnership.

If I had a few million sitting around, I would give it a go. :shades:

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I couldn't agree more that the most important part of any mass transit system is an extensive and frequent bus system. Although our MTA has made some great improvements in the last few years, it still has a long way to go. More frequency, more/extended lines. (trust me, i use the ststem everyday) Perhaps one of the most needed improvements (besides less headway) is more cross-town lines. Currently, if you need to go anywhere in town, you must go to Deadrick St. first. One of the most traveled roads in Nashville is Old Hickory Blvd. Why? Because it makes a loop around the city. Not everyone needs to travel towards the core.

As far as BRT is concerned I think it could be great, but possibly a waste of time. Most people see buses as "transportation for the poor". If you make a bus look futuristic it is still a bus. If you want improved travel time, use a regular bus, with limited access points(just like the current express buses) and paint markers on the central median of Broadway that designate it for buses only.

Getting the public/politicians on the side of rapid transit is a different story. We (as fans of urban America, and urban/transportation improvement) forget sometimes the real mentality of the general public. "My SUV can take me everywhere without having to deal with the general public, i can afford to do it, and if a pedestrian is in front of me they need to move!" Sadly, most areas generally considered "urban" are mainly comprised of suburban voters. Although politicians are simply citizens with a real vote, they are typically informed more than the average citizen. (not that i think politicians are intelligent) Until commuters have some incintive to leave their cars at home(or a park&ride), and a better understanding of mass transit, i think we are going to continue to sprawl into a flat city with no way to travel around it.

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If I had a few million sitting around, I would give it a go. :shades:

I would support ya!!!

I have experienced one of the biggest BRT systems in the world in Ottawa, Canada. I must say, it is quite impressive to see and experience. I am not opposed to BRT, just open for "other" ideas. LOL!!!

otwbu01.jpg

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...Not everyone needs to travel towards the core...

As far as BRT is concerned I think it could be great, but possibly a waste of time. Most people see buses as "transportation for the poor". If you make a bus look futuristic it is still a bus...

...Until commuters have some incintive to leave their cars at home(or a park&ride), and a better understanding of mass transit, i think we are going to continue to sprawl into a flat city with no way to travel around it.

nashvillwill,

You make some great points. I especially agree with you on the loop vs. spoke and wheel concept. We should do more mass transit along the outer loops rather than making everyone come in and then go back out. Of course, when dollars are tight, which they usually are, there is an appeal to the cheaper spoke and wheel concept.

About a BRT still being a bus and having a bus stigma. This was a concern of mine when I first started reading about the topic. However, the experience in other cities that have tried the concept have found people are able to get past that stigma when the service meets their needs. Having a sexier looking bus seems to help.

Finally, I agree about the continuation of sprawl. I'm not as much concerned with the commuting needs of those who have decided to suck up an hour or more of Interstate commuting a day as I am with making mass transit options viable for those who live in the urban part of the city, either by choice or due to economic necessity. Of course sprawl bothers me because of its effect on the environment and its negative impact on the region's viability. Will the suburbanites and edge city denizens take advantage of mass transit options? Good question.

Oh, and Lexy, I'll let you know when we schedule the IPO for a private BRT. :silly:

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Some of those buses look great. The design of the buses would make a difference. It is depressing to read stories like in today's paper. MTA Article in CityPaper

I looked at the bus routes the other day and the times since I see the buses on my walk. I have considered jumping on. The maps and schedules were not clear. There are a lot more bus stops on the street than are shown on the map. Do they stop at all of them or just the ones on the map? With the delay between times and the distance the hub is from work, it seems I can walk faster. I am still thinking of trying it out just for fun though. I can buy one of the 20 trip cards and get on when I want if it works out.

With all of this talk about BRT vs LRT, I thought we should start a dialogue with the people that are making the decisions to see where they stand on the issues. This would give us a better perspective of the future. If we gather up a group of questions from the urban planet, they could then be emailed to the head of MTA and other organizations (RTA, MPO, other suggestions) to get their feedback. I think they would respond, especially coming from the prestigious Urban Planet organization. What do you think?

Whoever would be interested, what would be some of the questions you would want to ask?

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With all of this talk about BRT vs LRT, I thought we should start a dialogue with the people that are making the decisions to see where they stand on the issues. This would give us a better perspective of the future. If we gather up a group of questions from the urban planet, they could then be emailed to the head of MTA and other organizations (RTA, MPO, other suggestions) to get their feedback. I think they would respond, especially coming from the prestigious Urban Planet organization. What do you think?

Whoever would be interested, what would be some of the questions you would want to ask?

Good idea. I'll see if I can think of any to add.

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With all of this talk about BRT vs LRT, I thought we should start a dialogue with the people that are making the decisions to see where they stand on the issues. This would give us a better perspective of the future. If we gather up a group of questions from the urban planet, they could then be emailed to the head of MTA and other organizations (RTA, MPO, other suggestions) to get their feedback. I think they would respond, especially coming from the prestigious Urban Planet organization. What do you think?

Whoever would be interested, what would be some of the questions you would want to ask?

Perhaps, you guys could start by asking the heads of the Nashville CofC why the hell they're advocating widening Interstate 65/24 from stateline (north) to stateline (south) instead of a plan for Light Rail.

Their agenda for the current FY only gives "Commuter Rail" a passing mention. It made me wonder if those knotheads even know the difference between commuter and light rail.

Check out their infrastructure agenda -- page 12:

http://www.nashvillechamber.com/government/06agenda.pdf

And isn't building a transit plaza tantamount to putting the cart before the horse? If/when a DT transit system is determined, won't it need a specialized transit plaza? This thing next to Municipal Auditorium is for buses only. :wacko:

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