Mass transit such as a monorail along Interstate 24 should come through a public-private partnership to relieve traffic congestion, state Sen. Bill Ketron said. The state Senate Transportation Committee agreed with him, approving Ketron’s Public-Private Transportation Act of 2016 during a Monday afternoon meeting.
Ketron sponsored the legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly that seeks to help economic development take place along with mass transit lines, such as his monorail idea on the interstate’s median or light rail next to the private CSX freight lines that link Murfreesboro to Nashville.
The passage of the legislation through committee “sends a message to the rest of the world that we’re open for business,” said Ketron, who noted that industries want to know that sufficient mass transit is available before they bring operations and jobs there. “We don’t want Austin, (Texas), to get ahead of us, and I think that’s who we’re competing with.”
Ketron hopes his bill will entice companies to pursue development and advertising revenues to make it feasible for a monorail that the Tennessee Department of Transportation estimates will cost $2.3 billion to build. There are 33 other states that have enacted similar private-public partnerships for mass transportation projects, the senator said.
Many millennials don’t want to own a car and would rather ride a bicycle to a mass transit station, Ketron told a Murfreesboro audience Friday morning at a Capitol Connection breakfast at the Rutherford Chamber of Commerce. The Republican from Shelbyville contends that more people are willing to travel on a monorail or light rail than on buses.
In addition to hearing from Ketron, the Murfreesboro audience learned about mass transit from Stephen Bland, the chief executive officer of the Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority and Regional Transportation Authority.
Bland talked about how the Nashville area is the 36th most populated in the nation yet ranks 76th in mass transit. The Nashville area ranks fifth in vehicle miles traveled per capita and is 11th in annual costs per capita for this.
Surveys show that people in the Nashville region want more transportation options to help them commute faster instead of being stuck in traffic, Bland said. “They are getting frustrated.”
If freeway bus rapid transit were pursued, buses could travel at regular speeds in dedicated lanes during rush-hour traffic, said Bland, who noted that bus lanes on shoulders would be able to travel only about 15 mph.
If the region is willing to pursue a more expensive long-term approach to mass transit, ridership will increase significantly, Bland said.
Bland also responded to a question from Rutherford County Property Assessor Rob Mitchell by saying that tax revenues could be generated from the transit-oriented development, such as from apartments built near light rail.