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bzorch

Mass Transit in Nashville Continued

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As we discussed, I sent Timothy Sanderson, MTA's Director of Planning our 5 questions. I received the following response from him today. We discussed the possibility of him coming to one of our meeting for a discussion on mass transit in Nashville. He was very open to this and said to let him know when we would like him to participate.

To frame all of my responses, I would like to make a few comments which

will really set the stage for the rest of my answers.

First of all, due to a number of issues there really isn't really a Long Term Transit Plan for Nashville. The primary reason for this is that it is extremely difficult to plan future improvements with no guarantee or even expectation of future funding levels. Although the FTA has a number of programs available to fund capital expenditures, our Operating budget is derived from four major sources in these proportions:

1. Subsidy from Metro 48%

2. Self generated 24%

3. Federal 18%

4. State: 10%

The challenge inherent in this type of funding arrangement is that we have no idea what are funding level will be from year to year. We can pretty much estimate 2 and 3, but with such large chunk coming from Metro, we cannot bank on receiving a consistent level of funding. Most of the "star" transit systems have a dedicated funding source which will allow them to anticipate future budgets. With us, we have to compete for funding with Schools, Police, Fire, etc. This makes it really difficult to plan new service any farther than a few months out.

O.K. Here goes with answers.

1. What do you foresee as the future of inner-community mass transit in Nashville? Why?

A: I'm not really sure what would be considered inner-community, but I presume that we are talking about the CBD to Briley area. If this is the case, we have not specifically targeted this area because it is currently the best served in the county. The transit that we have operating in this area works well when compared with other areas.

2. If Light Rail Transit (LRT), Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and/or Electric Street Car Service (ESCS) are not part of this future, why is it not being considered? If Nashville chose to employ any of these transit options, where would be in your opinion the logical place to start? Would the MTA consider phasing in a BRT demonstration project in modules as a lower-cost test to demonstrate the principles of the BRT concept?

A: We are in the very early conceptual stages of a BRT system that would run from Gallatin and Old Hickory (RT 45) through Downtown and on to the Vandy area. We have secured some Federal Money for this and will probably start a study in the near future. BRT is visualized as it can be implemented incrementally, starting with a limited stop express bus that has signal priority and gradually evolving to include off-vehicle

fare payment and dedicated right of way.

3. Do MTA/RTA long-term plans address point to point mass transit along the rim of the city and the region in addition to the traditional wheel and spoke approach?

A: We have tried "crosstown" routes a number of times and have not yet implemented a successful route. The latest attempt was the Route 11 Crosstown, this traveled from Opry Mills to 100 Oaks. This was eliminated a year or so ago, due to poor ridership; our system average is about 23 Passengers per Hour (PPH), the Route 11 carried 5 PPH. The major problem that I see the with crosstown routes is that the streets that they operate on are even less pedestrian friendly than on the main corridors. Crossing OHB is very risky and pedestrian crossing a few and far between and all passengers have to cross a street once for a round trip.

What we have been visualizing instead is satellite system in which the corridor bus would terminate a smaller outlying hub, usually in a shopping center. A number of other routes would operate out of this hub to go into the neighborhoods and comment the hubs together.

4. Do current mass-transit plans include improved service from the airport to downtown and the major exurbs?

A: I have to apologize, I'm not a planner by education and don't know what an exurb is. I presume you mean other cities like Murfreesboro and Franklin. If so, it is the responsibility of the RTA, but I do not believe that they have anything official in the works other than commuter rail. As for the airport, we have included an Airport Express route in our Five Year Service Improvement Plan.

5. Why do you think TDOT continues to fund major interstate projects ( i.e. Widening of I-65 from Kentucky to Georgia, I-40/Briley Expansion, I-840) instead of local mass transit projects?

A: Wow! Pretty hard for me to answer this one in a professional manner.I guess I can say that the current planning process is better than it has been in the past.

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bzorch,

Good info. I'm glad to see that BRT is at least getting a good look.

I still have no word from RTA. I have been too busy to call over and follow up on my email this week. If I don't hear from them today, I will give them a shout on Monday.

Thanks again for the good info from MTA.

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i found this interesting:

The major problem that I see the with crosstown routes is that the streets that they operate on are even less pedestrian friendly than on the main corridors. Crossing OHB is very risky and pedestrian crossing a few and far between and all passengers have to cross a street once for a round trip.

How will improved street-scapes (sidewalks, esp.) impact mass-transit? Significantly, if you ask me. BTW, why weren't a lot of the roads in Nashville created with sidewalks anyway?

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Great thread.

"5. Why do you think TDOT continues to fund major interstate projects ( i.e. Widening of I-65 from Kentucky to Georgia, I-40/Briley Expansion, I-840) instead of local mass transit projects?

A: Wow! Pretty hard for me to answer this one in a professional manner.I guess I can say that the current planning process is better than it has been in the past."

LMAO @ that response. LOL!!! I wish him and his office all the best in securing funding in the future. I think the sysyem we have in place is fine, just needs improvment. I just wish, and Cliff and I talked a little bit about this earlier this week, that they would have thought out the commuter rail better. I really see a log jam developing with that transit option in the future.

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BTW, why weren't a lot of the roads in Nashville created with sidewalks anyway?

That's a good question. I suspect but dont know for sure is that a lot of the county didn't have sidewalks when it went to a Metro form of government here. So that explains some areas of the city, but there are a lot of streets in East Nashville without sidewalks that were inside the City when Metro happened. Just drive along Stratford Ave and you see what I am talking about. Looks as if there was no fore-site from the city leadership from way back.

It would be nice to see if anyone has the answer. Dave you out there?

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How will improved streetscapes (sidewalks, esp.) impact mass-transit? Significantly, if you ask me. BTW, why weren't a lot of the roads in Nashville created with sidewalks anyway?

Good sidewalks and streetscapes are important components to the success of a mass transit system because they promote walking to the stops. The system can not effectively reach every single block in the City. It is also important to remember that a good streetscape (public realm) is formed not only by the sidewalk, but also the scale of the buildings and their presence on the street. If buildings are built to the street with active frontage it also promotes walking. In addition, street trees, benches, misc street furniture, adequate lighting, parallel parking, crosswalks, handicap ramps and buffer strips are also important to the streetscape.

As for the presence of sidewalks or lack thereof, this is partly due to the fact that we are a Metro area. Typically the Pre-WWII neighborhoods have sidewalks, but anything between I think after WWII to the early 90's did not require any sidewalks to be built. It was not until 2002 that sidewalks were required on all streets except in areas with lots greater than 20,000sf.

The Nashville_Davidson Co. Ped and Bike Plan is a great resource to learn more about this.

I pulled this from one of the presentations from 2003 to give you some idea where Nashville stacks up. Keep in mind, we have added a lot since 2003.

Sidewalk%20Table.jpg

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It was not until 2002 that sidewalks were required on all streets except in areas with lots greater than 20,000sf.

that is great to know. i honestly have dreamt about being mayor and passing this ordinance. little did i know, someone already has. if anyone doesn't know, or has a hard time imagining, this is a serious problem in Nashville. I (as a everyday user of MTA) always encourage people to try the system. nothing complicated, dont use your first time trying to get to work and back. just take an afternoon trip to the store with the bus. even if you never do it again, you will learn a few of the advantages and frustrations of the system.

im tired, and going to bed. all i want to say is.....try the bus...then you will understand the need. sidewalks, sidewalks, sidewalks!

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Here are some answers to some of my follow up questions with Timothy Sanderson, MTA's Director of Planning:

Q: Do you think gas prices would speed up the implementation of the BRT?

A: It's tough to say on gas prices, we have seen a dramatic ridership

increase since last summer, but we won't know for sure how that

translates to funding until our budget is approved. I would hope that if

they remain high, a movement to create a dedicated funding agreement

would be passable.

Q: Base on your response, it sounds like LRT will not be seen in Nashville

for decades.

A: As far as LRT goes, I think that our direction to get there is through

baby steps. I see LRT as a natural transition from BRT. It is a lot

easier to lay track on right of way that you already own for a busway

than it would be to try and make a massive purchase all at once. I would

really hope that by the time I retire, there will be light rail in

Nashville! I only have 25 years left!

There was a study done about 10 years ago on light rail out to West End,

but it wasn't very good and the idea fell by the wayside. I think that

once we open central station (here is a link)

(http://www.nashvillemta.org/centralstation/index.html )there will be a

renewed interest in transit in Nashville.

Q: Are there other agencies like the MPO that are thinking more long term? Is there any framework for thinking further than a few years?

A: The MPO does take responsibility for the longer range stuff, but the problem is that

the LRTP has to be fiscally constrained and the constraints are

developed by looking at previous funding levels. So.......it kind of

ends up being a chicken and egg thing. During the last LRTP, we pushed

for rapid transit corridors throughout the county for the 2015 and 2030

windows, but they could not be included because there was no indication

that funding would be available.

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Here are some answers to some of my follow up questions with Timothy Sanderson, MTA's Director of Planning:

Thanks for the interview. I think high gas prices are going to be with us from now on, ridership hopefully will continue to increase, and MTA will get the added funding that it needs so desparately. I believe the idea of graduating from BRT to LRT makes quite a bit of sense. If we can continue to increase density, and have forward thinking leadership from the community leaders, his dream of LRT through Nashville before he retires can be realized.

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