Nashville is a city of about 500,000 citizens with an additional 1-1.5 million living in the surrounding ‘donut’ counties, including the citizens of New Atlantis.
|We’re going off the rails on this crazy train!|
Because residential living and industry are spread out and intermingled, you don’t have a situation where folks are heading to a single focal point of employ in overwhelming numbers from a limited number of directions (e.g. New York City, Philadelphia, Atlanta and to some degree L.A. (405 much?)). So, traffic isn’t bad. It would be un-American to not bitch about traffic so we do.
West End Avenue is a notorious source of traffic as it is a major artery of eastbound traffic from affluentia (west Hillsboro Village, Richland, Whitland, Belle Meade, West Meade and Bellevue) to three major hospitals, an interstate access point, Vanderbilt, and ultimately downtown.
Hillsboro Pike is a major artery of northbound traffic from affluentia (east Hillsboro, Green Hills, Forest Hills) and suburbia (Brentwood and Franklin).
Three interstates converge on downtown as well, namely I-40 (E/W), I-440 (southern part of town E/W) I-65 (N/S) and I-24 (NW/SE) with interchanges (largely I-440 with any of the others) that suffer through rush hour.
Nashville’s mayor, Karl Dean, a really nice man, is enamored with the idea of transforming Nashville into a progressive city with where the majority of folks can get about easily via bike paths and (clean) public transportation that is the envy of cities Nashville’s size and beyond. To his credit, his honor walks the walk and can be seen as he ambles a nice distance from his home to the nearest bus stop and dutifully waits for his chariot to whisk him downtown.
Unfortunately, his dream is not realistic for all. Public transportation as it exists is a bus network that is useful to a small subset of the population. It is helpful primarily to those who can’t afford the cost of a car if they’re lucky enough to be able to use it to get from their respective point A to their respective point B.
A miniscule second group are hipsters who think globally, act locally, and for whom it is convenient. Indeed a 4 or 5 block difference for pickup or drop off points relative to starting point or destination, bad timing, or a great circle route is sufficient for one of these hipsters to decide to drive their Nissan Leaf (manufactured in Smyrna TN) rather than take the bus.
Few places of employ are convenient to the right bus stop, so for many, it is still bloody inconvenient for folks to to use public transportation, especially when parking is so darned cheap ($50 a month is expensive in Nashville). When Dr. J. was a resident in the northeast, parking was $7-10 a day, and that was well over a decade ago. Don’t get him started on bridge tolls.
For the rest of us, the buses obstruct the flow of traffic with their frequent stops to let people on and off making rush hour more inconvenient. More frequent buses along our routes of travel will make traffic much worse for commuters who represent the overwhelming majority of Nashville’s employees. Dr. J. doesn’t hate public transportation. He just believes that if you are going to create a money loser, it had better provide some form of a value added to the community.
Furthermore, for those that live in Nashville’s affluentia, a majority of their children attend independent schools, therefore parents are dropping them off at school on the way to work to pay for said independent schools. These schools aren’t typically on bus routes, nor are they on a straight line from home to work. Indeed, Dr. J.’s commuting distance is doubled as he drives two legs of an equilateral triangle when dropping the kids off at at school. This is not a lecture on education policy, but, if Nashville public schools (beyond a handful of great elementary schools, all of which are in affluentia, and its stellar magnet schools, located downtown) were stronger, this would be a very different debate.
|Affluentia, where all the little ponies are above average.|
When Dr. J. was in the northeast, there were 5-15 folks typically waiting for a bus on a given corner in the city. Bus stops are typically empty in affluentia.
Mayor Dean is trying to fund the expansion of Nashville public transportation through federal grants which have been challenging to secure. In the process of applying for one of these grants, he proposed to increase the transportation budget via a recent property tax hike superimposed upon by a second property tax surcharge for those who live in portions of affluentia within walking distance to the bus route. The hope is that once folks are paying for it and see how great it is, they’ll stop driving and start busing. Grants don’t last forever, and that means a greater tax burden on the citizens who largely aren’t using the service once federal support ends.
The steps towards realizing his dream have been slow over his time as mayor as this effort is not a priority with a majority of the citizenry. When money is tight for Nashvillians, especially those whose operating costs (food/fuel) and taxes have been creeping upward despite everything being perfect in Obama’s economy, said Nashvillians do not see a monorail as the panacea to their traffic congestion woes. Furthermore, we like our cars and the freedom of movement that comes with them.
So, Mayor Dean, it appears, has taken a page from Cass Sunstein’s book, and is beginning the process of ‘nudging‘ affluentia in hopes that her position will change on public transportation.