MTA: Expand transit service, add funding
Nashville’s transit system is lacking and needs more money to improve.
That’s according to the Metro Transit Authority’sState of the MTA System report, released Friday. In it, the MTA concludes that Nashville offers a “small city service” for an area no longer small and that the city needs to not only catch up with its population growth, but also plan for projected growth, now estimated at 1 million more people by 2035.
“Despite significant improvements over the past 10 years, Nashville’s transit service has not kept pace with the fast-paced growth of the city,” said Steve Bland, Nashville MTA and Regional Transit Authority CEO. “Our work has begun to identify a number of opportunities for improvements to our system.”
The report is part of the local transit department’s nMotion plan aimed at developing a more advanced mass transit system for the next 20 years. It comes as transportation has emerged as a top priority for Nashville residents, playing a prominent role in the mayoral race and Metro Planning Commission’s NashvilleNext initiative.
In the report, the MTA points out both the city’s transit shortcomings and how much Nashville is lagging peer cities when it comes to addressing transportation needs. While Nashville is close to the size of Austin and Charlotte, it offers only 34 percent of the services provided by Austin and 46 percent of services in Charlotte.
Few potential riders consider services convenient enough to rely on public transportation in place of cars, according to the report. For those who lack vehicles, the limited service hours and routes impair their economic opportunity.
Limited hours affect those who work during off-peak hours and also those looking to attend entertainment venues at night, a big part of Nashville’s economy.
The MTA says additional service is needed in high-growth areas, such as Charlotte Pike, Nolensville and Murfreesboro pikes, as well as in Green Hills and West End Avenue, and demand exists for more frequent weekend routes.
“Transit is most attractive when it is frequent enough that people don’t need to consult a timetable, and can instead just go to a stop and know that the bus will arrive shortly,” MTA said in the report. “Creating a network of frequent routes would dramatically increase the convenience and legibility of the system.”
While downtown Nashville is the main intersection for most commuters, more crosstown routes are needed for those not passing through the city’s center, according to the report.
MTA also pointed to types of higher-quality transit services that could improve the overall system in place, such as light rail, bus rapid transit or street cars.
Funding is a significant factor in Nashville’s ability to make improvements, the MTA said. The city has increased its funding for transportation, but local investment is lower than in peer cities, who have dedicated funding sources.
“To build a great transit system, additional funding will be needed for both capital projects and ongoing operations,” the MTA said in the report.
The MTA will be seeking input from areas residents over the coming months at community meetings and online as it develops its final plan. A regional transportation report will be released in August.
Reach Jamie McGee at 615-259-8071 and on Twitter @JamieMcGee_.
Nashville’s MTA system today
5 bus services
3 Bus Rapid Transit routes
15 routes with frequencies of 30 minutes or less
13 routes with frequencies between 30 and 90 minutes
12 limited routes operating at peak periods
3 Music City Circuit routes with free service around downtown
33,000 passengers carried by MTA per weekday
16,000 Saturday passengers
How Nashville compares
Compared to Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Kansas City and Raleigh, Nashville ranks second to lowest in the number of hours of service provided and lowest in ridership per capita.