Campaigns Need Advocates
- Be vocal about the need and value of multimodal transportation options, including public transit.
- Support transit-supportive policies.
- Support increased funding for transit and infrastructure.
- Stay alert to budgeting discussions at the city level.
- Show up and give public comment.
Metro Nashville’s Fall Capital Spending Plan (CSP) Email Your Councilmember before the December 7th Meeting!
As per usual, Metro Nashville’s public transit agency, WeGo Public Transit, faced uncertain funding in early 2021. The Spring CSP allocated only a very small percentage of WeGo’s request and the 2021 Fiscal Year Operations Budget offered only baseline funding to keep service going. You can watch the council discuss funding WeGo at the June 14, 2021 Budget & Finance Committee: YouTube of Metro Budget & Finance Committee (conversation about WeGo funding 1:08:08-1:50:14).
Still, with the Spring CSP and annual operating budget, there was no funding to expand or improve service.
The bottom line? Funding for WeGo lags behind 2018 funding levels! It would take at least $26 million more in funding to get there.
Enter the 2021 Fall CSP. Which just so happens to total just under $27 million. There’s even an amendment by Councilmember Freddie O’Connell to increase that.
2021 Fall CSP Funding Proposal and Recommended projects for MTA and RTA:
$5,000,000 – MTA Grant Match for State and Federal Grants
$760,000 – RTA Grant Match Through MTA for State and Federal Grants
$10,000,000 – Replacement Buses (40’, 45’ and 60’)
$2,000,000 – Replacement Body-on-Chassis Small Buses
$2,000,000 – Expansion Buses – Better Bus Service Improvements
$3,000,000 – Transit Stop and Shelter Improvements
$2,000,000 – Murfreesboro Pike Planning for Bus Rapid Transit
$2,000,000 – Clarksville Pike, Planning for Bus Rapid Transit
$26,760,000 – Total
If approved, this allocation of Metro Capital funds will represent the 3rd highest commitment of capital funds to public transit from Metro in the past 10 years–by far the highest level since FY2018.
As long as the Fall CSP is approved by the Metro Council, this funding will allow WeGo to advance their Board-adopted Capital Improvement Plan.
While this is considered to be good news overall, there is much more that could be done, and should be done. Nashville is currently playing ‘catch up’ with its transportation system, including public transit and that requires increased funding.
WeGo’s total request for the Fall CSP was $56.76 million. Projects in the full list that aren’t funded include:
$18,000,000 – SoBro Hub – Land Acquisition and Project Planning. The SoBro Hub is part of the nMotion Strategic Service Plan and incorporated into the December 2020 Metro Nashville Transportation Plan. NDOT and Metro Planning had requested that we submit the funding request, as it would provide a critical link between proposed Bus Rapid Transit in the Murfreesboro Pike Corridor, Transit Corridor improvements in the emerging East Bank corridor, and future transit priority through a yet-to-be-determined downtown corridor connecting it to WeGo Central. Note, this project is part of the Council-adopted Capital Improvement Plan after FY2024. More detailed project advancement will likely occur subsequent to the ongoing Downtown Traffic Study (in early stages).
$10,000,000 – Neighborhood Transit Centers. This project would have funded additional transit centers following Hillsboro and North Nashville (both of which are fully funded). Note, Hickory Hollow is the only other transit center in active development at this time.
$2,000,000 – Expansion Buses & Better Bus Service Improvements. This project was funded for $2,000,000 (see above list), but the original request was for $4,000,000. Funding expansion and service improvements also depend on future gains in the annual operating appropriation from Metro to support the operation of expanded service. This means that the more buses that are in operation, the more annual operating funds needed to continue that service.
This is why dedicated funding is so critical. The demand to expand and improve service is prevalent but to reach the level of service our growing city and region demands, the funding needs to be reliable and match that growing demand. Having a dedicated funding source also makes Nashville projects more competitive for the Federal grants because it means we are ready to build, operate, and maintain infrastructure and service.
What you can do:
- Call and/or email your councilmember to tell them you support efforts to improve our transit system, including increasing its funding! Find your councilmember’s information here.
- Use our sample language to help build your statement of support.
- Learn more about Nashville’s budget. Councilmembers Delishia Porterfield (email@example.com) and Kyonztè Toombs (firstname.lastname@example.org) hosted a virtual series early in 2021: Nashville Budget 101.
- Attend a local council event and/or meeting in your district to learn more.
- Participate in a program to learn more:
- Become a transit advocate.
- Share on social media
- Attend a council meeting where the budget is being discussed to give public comment in favor of funding transit.
- Email and call your councilmember plus the five at-large councilmembers to express your support for funding transit.
Nashville’s public transit agency, WeGo Public Transit, petitions the Metro government each year for annual operations and capital funding to continue providing service. In fact, infrastructure and transportation combined are only 5% of the metro budget.
The years before 2017 saw slow but steady funding increases for transit. Then, in the years 2017 through 2019, the funding was stagnant, or flat. By 2019, this meant an annual operational funding deficit of nearly $9 million. Not surprisingly, this meant route adjustments (cuts).
In the current fiscal year, 2020, funding for WeGo Public Transit was cut by another $22.8 million (45%) in order to address other budget challenges facing the city.
However, it was imperative that we remembered the FTA CARES Act funds are one-time funds and that the Nashville Metro Government will be expected to restore the funds to WeGo’s annual operations budget.
With increased funding, WeGo is able to restore service to near 100% pre-COVID service levels in areas and on routes that need it most!
APPROVED–Nashville Transportation Plan
Mayor John Cooper has published a 348-page plan. His “neighborhood-first” transportation plan for Nashville is a 10-year, $1.9 billion plan. This plan includes a central traffic operations center, the potential for a Metro Department of Transportation, WeGo Public Transit’s Better Bus Network service enhancements, sidewalks, an interstate cap over I-40, and more.
It relies on an opportunistic funding strategy which means the mayor’s office is not seeking to take it to referendum for a dedicated funding source.
While not ideal, the mayor’s office believes this is the best way to fund improving Nashville’s critical transportation system.
- This was presented to the Metro Council for a vote on a Resolution of Endorsement. This was endorsed in December 2020.
The Metro Council called a special meeting held on December 8th. This consisted of several council committees including Budget and Finance, Public Works, and Traffic, Parking, and Transportation, to discuss the Transportation Plan.
What you can do: