Via David Plazas at The Tennessean
The Hampton Inn in Green Hills is 7.2 miles from my home in Salemtown.
Typically, driving to Green Hills from North Nashville can be a nightmare, possibly taking anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes.
However, I got lucky with streetlights and traffic on I-65, I-40, I-440 and Hillsboro Pike and made it there in only 12 minutes last Wednesday (I promise I wasn’t speeding).
The purpose was to attend the launch of the new Green Hills Alliance and hear how Metro Council members who represent the area are addressing that very issue that gave me angst: traffic congestion — and neighborhood walkability.
The alliance seeks to use its civic leadership to advocate for more money for sidewalks — because you literally have to get in your car to navigate short distances in the area — and mall shoppers as well as motorists driving from Williamson County to Nashville for work exacerbate that congestion.
On a related note, that evening I attended my first of seven sessions as a member of the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee’s Transit Citizen Leadership Academy.
I am one of 24 attendees from six counties and representing a diverse group of businesses, local chambers, nonprofits and municipal governments.
What I am hoping to take away from the Transit Citizen Leadership Academy is a better understanding of our options, opportunities and possibilities, and keep readers duly informed.
This is the Transit Alliance’s sixth class, and the recurring theme from speakers and classmates was that congestion had doubled in only the past five years.
A mass transit solution for Nashville is essential, and giving people alternatives to driving their cars will alleviate the headaches on the roads.
A combination of a skyrocketing population in the region (about 86 new people a day), commuters coming into Nashville (with many commutes exceeding 35 minutes) and the fact that Tennessee does not have the money to build new roads (the gas tax hasn’t been increased in 26 years) is only going to make things worse.
In addition, 70 percent of the Middle Tennessee region is made up of millennials who say they want options to get from point A to point B besides a car.
“Millennials are multimodal, they choose the best transportation mode (driving, transit, bike, or walk) based on the trip they are planning to take,” according to the American Public Transportation Association’s Millennials & Mobility report.
There are many things aligning right now in Nashville that will help move the needle:
The Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority and Middle Tennessee Regional Transportation Authority are in the midst of their yearlong strategic planning and community engagement process known as nMotion.
The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce has launched the Moving Forward initiative to bring community stakeholders together behind a transit solution we can agree with and that could come to fruition in the next five years.
This fall the chamber will release its latest iteration of the Vital Signs report, which will give us a glimpse into whether commutes have worsened, which I suspect they have, given anecdotal experience.
It has been nearly a year since former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean told a citizen panel that he would not be seeking state or federal funds to build the Amp, the controversial east-to-west bus-rapid transit line from Broadway to West End.
Since that time community leaders through the chamber have visited Salt Lake City, Utah, to learn how a conservative community successfully built an efficient and effective transit system.
This is the Year of Transit.
This also is an opportunity to reset the conversation away from the Amp and to a working solution that can be embraced by the community as a whole.
It will not be easy, it will not be cheap, and it will not be immediate.
However, if we are to invest in our future and continue to be a place that prospers and welcomes more newcomers, businesses and creatives, creating that transit solution is essential.