To remain economically competitive and meet its stated goals, including some objectives of Vision Zero and slowing climate change, Nashville will need to prioritize improving and funding public transit.
Because it matters.
Back in 2017, Amazon announced plans to expand beyond Seattle and stated its clear preference for a city with good transportation access generally and with a robust transit network specifically.
In a CityLab article, Laura Bliss says, the focus on transit was “a come-to-Jesus moment for cities where high-level [transit] service has long been an afterthought.”
Desirable components for economic development and sustained economic competitiveness had changed. Now, cities need a robust transit network as well as a talented workforce, good schools, and land for expanding.
Investing in more transportation options is now critical to attracting talent and the businesses that follow them. See recent transit wins at the ballot.
Currently, our economy assumes personal vehicle ownership for full participation. That is not an equitable economy (see equity below).
Increasingly, research points to communities boasting robust public transit are overall healthier communities.
Those who use public transit are more likely to have a lower BMI, have lower incidents of heart disease and diabetes, suffer less depression, report higher productivity at work, enjoy better life satisfaction, and could have a longer lifespan.
In 2015, the WHO published a report on the link between health and public transportation.
All this means that investing in public transit can help individuals and communities attain better health outcomes.
It’s no secret on all the ways our environment benefits. From better air quality to reduced noise pollution, it’s definitely a winner for a sustainable environment.
Few tools can physically stitch together a region to expand access, connect workers and employers, and build strong neighborhoods and communities like public transit.
Investing in transit goes beyond attracting the best and brightest talent. It can also build broader, deeper roots of prosperity and improve access to opportunity for more families. Middle Tennessee must invest in a broader, more connected transportation network as a building block toward restorative justice. Economic inclusion leads to equitable economic justice.
A network of frequent public transit modes connected by accessible sidewalks and even greenways would support more widespread access to jobs and services without the stress and expense of purchasing a personal car. Because an economy that assumes participation based on being able to buy a vehicle is not an equitable economy.
Whether young, old, rich, poor, differently-abled, or anywhere in between, whether going to school, the office, the grocery store, or the library, mobility is key to living a full and happy life of opportunity and possibility.
To remain economically sustainable and competitive with cities like Austin, TX, Nashville must improve its transportation system.
To increase environmental sustainability, including lower vehicle miles traveled and improved air quality, the Greater Nashville region must invest in better transit.
To see better individual and community health outcomes, Middle Tennessee will need to invest in better transit.
To create a framework that supports restorative justice and create pathways to deeper prosperity and broader racial and socioeconomic equity, Nashville will need to invest in transit.
The only way to do all of the above is to have dedicated funding for transit.