At a glance: Public transit and transportation services in a city the size of Nashville deserve a sustainable and dedicated funding source.
The Issue: What’s the deal with the Metro budget process and WeGo Public Transit funding?
The Process: Each Metro Department submits a requested budget. The mayor then looks at the needs of the city, including education, public safety, debt, transportation, infrastructure, health and social services, etc. Then, based on revenues, funds each department to the best of the city’s ability. Public transit can only be allotted what the metro budget can afford based on revenues in any given year.
And this year, that allowance was exactly what they received last year and the year before that. Which ultimately translates to a budget deficit of $8.7 million. So, while technically not a decrease, due to inflation and increased cost of service, it is a de facto decrease in funding.
This has angered many in the community–and rightfully so. Cutting the WeGo Public Transit budget seems harsh in light of the city’s growth and evident need for augmented, not limited, service.
We understand the frustration.
However, the outcome of this Metro budget, while not ideal, is anything but surprising. And it is certainly not the fault of a person.
At fault is the process by which our public transit service is funded—it lacks dedicated funding. Meaning, it’s dependent on what else is going on (i.e., Metro Nashville Public Schools in crisis).
The mayor used this year’s budget to address a number of important issues facing the city:
- affordable housing (BARNES FUND)
- students and education with an increased MNPS budget and Nashville GRAD
- healthcare with fully funded Metro General Hospital
- debt challenges
Has transit ever gotten budget increases? Yes. In the past, there were times when transit received an increase (2014-16). Unfortunately, for the last three years, it hasn’t. It’s anyone’s guess if public transit’s budget increases are over for good.
What we do know is that this cycle will continue until dedicated funding is secured and transit’s budget is no longer dependent on the unpredictable nature of city revenues versus departmental needs. Until then, the city is forced to fund affordable housing, education, police/fire, healthcare, debt, and transit from the same pot of money.
Until then, we invite you to attend a Transit Citizen Leadership Academy to learn more about transit and transportation options, funding, projects, etc. in the region.