I recently had the opportunity to deliver a call to action on Transportation at the “Power of Ten” regional summit. Since traffic congestion is one of the most common complaints that I receive, I thought this was an opportunity to inform our community about some of the issues.
“We don’t want to be another Atlanta” is a frequent comment that I hear and I agree but would add that we have the opportunity to be who we want to be in the future.
Let’s take a look at who we are now. We are the center for job growth and projections support this continuing. Unemployment is the lowest in the State. We are experiencing rapid population growth related to our quality of life and low cost of living compared to our competitors. Combined housing and transportation costs are a significant burden to a high proportion of our citizens.
Much of our community design continues to encourage sprawl which results in more trips in our cars rather than more walkable neighborhoods. Our commuting distance and time are some of the longest in the County.
Surveys have shown that citizens are satisfied with the physical condition of our roads but are not happy with the congestion and lack of mass transit options. Locally, we have seen a high demand for connectivity with sidewalks, trails, and greenways.
Our citizens have indicated a willingness to work regionally to address priority areas of transportation by dedication of a portion of their tax dollars to the solution and in particular mass transit.
There are important studies being released later in the year that will map our future and our opportunities. The Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) 2040 Master Plan, the Regional Transit Authorities’ (RTA) Master Plan, a Southern Corridor Study, our local Cool Springs Transportation Multimodal Network Study, and our Comprehensive Transportation Plan linked to future land use.
The question continues to be who will support more comprehensive transportation options. There are the traditional funders such as the Federal Government, Tennessee Department of Transportation, and Local governments. A number of coalitions have been formed to support grass roots efforts. Elected officials from all levels of government will need to participate as will former opponents to the failed Metro Nashville Bus Rapid Transit Project, the Amp.
And finally, the business community will play an integral part in success. They recognize that economic success and growth depend on getting their employees to work in a timely and an economically sound manner.
Ride sharing or adding additional regional vanpools would offer some immediate relief. The “Relax and Ride” bus service from Franklin to Nashville is already serving our community and is a first step toward mass transit.
Now is the time for action. Let’s build our communities with walkability and connectivity as priorities and create a multimodal system that satisfies all of our needs.
Let’s find a sustainable method of funding transportation on both the State and Federal level as well as a dedicated funding source for mass transit.
Now is the time for all of us to join together to solve our transit issues. Our economic vitality and quality of life depend upon it.
Ken Moore is the mayor of Franklin.