Nashville-area WeGo Public Transit is the only local transit agency in Davidson County. WeGo also operates commuter transit bus routes and the WeGo Star commuter rail into Wilson County.
Since 2017, the city of Nashville has either flat-funded or cut funding from WeGo. Due to those funding decisions, WeGo has been operating on a reduced annual operations budget since.
WeGo’s annual funding was concurrent with sister cities until 2017. Then, 2019 became the third consecutive year of no funding increase, or ‘flat-funding.’ With growth and inflation, that equated to an $8.9 million budget shortfall. Routes were affected. In late 2019, some routes were adjusted while others were cut.
We thought that was tough.
Enter COVID-19 . . .
Last year, the Metro Nashville government gutted WeGo’s budget by $22.3 million.
Luckily, this amount was offset by Federal FTA CARES Act funding. Note: CARES Act funding is one-time funding. So, we are kind of still in a pickle.
Now, there is a new federal stimulus package. Regardless of WeGo’s total funds from this new stimulus, it is vital that Nashville restore full funding to WeGo.
We cannot get complacent in relying on Federal bailouts to fund our own transit system. It is better to restore those funds now rather than wait for Federal funds to dissipate.
Plus, this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put a sizable down payment on WeGo’s new Better Bus Network proposal which is a large part of Nashville’s approved 10-year, $1.9 billion Transportation Plan.
It’s absolutely critical that we see the immediate restoration of full operations funding for WeGo for FY22.
The Metro budget process
The mayor creates his budget, presents it to the Metro Council, it is read at three Metro Council meetings where public comments are heard. The budget will then be passed as presented or amended by the council and must be passed by the council no later than June 30, 2021, for implementation on July 1, 2021.
A note on the Capital Spending Plan, CSP (not to be confused with annual operating budget).
Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced his Capital Spending Plan (CSP) in March.
It was approved by the Metro Council.
It is one of the largest in recent history at over $430 million. It allocates $122 million for transportation, including $10 million for sidewalks.
While we are thrilled to see investments to enhance the quality of life for Nashvillians, the Transit Alliance is disappointed that WeGo Public Transit only received 30-percent of its request. Out of $122 million, WeGo’s allocation is only $6.6 million.
WeGo, our city’s public transit agency, will receive only 5.5-percent of the overall $122 million allocated in the CSP for transportation. According to CSP documents, it’s roughly $2 million for transit stop improvements and $4.5 million for grant matching for making improvements in transit.
In the years leading up to 2017, WeGo’s allocation would be anywhere between $13 and $30 million from the CSP.
This CSP has already been approved by the Metro Council, but there is still time to show your support for funding transit through Metro’s general and operations budgeting process.