Lack of funding for public transit impacts affordability and real estate in Middle Tennessee

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — In his State of Metro address Thursday, Mayor John Cooper talked about “our future required investment in infrastructure,” promising to commit to affordable housing and transportation.

“Right now, we’re way behind and with the growth in Nashville, we get behind even further every day,” said Scott Troxel, a real estate agent for Keller Williams and former Greater Nashville Realtors president who’s heavily involved in transit and infrastructure work.

He says it’s time to think big. After all, we are a big city and transit is important for affordability.

“A lot of people keep holding on to an image that never existed or existed 40 years ago when we were a small town or city,” he said. “So, when things like density are brought up, when things like transit are brought up, greenways are brought up, people move toward fear, worried it’s going to lower property values or bring in more crime.”

We saw it take place in 2018 when voters said no to former mayor Megan Berry’s vision for new rail lines and an underground downtown tunnel.

Mayor Cooper, the latest to try to fix Metro’s transit system, or lack thereof.

“I think the mayor has a plan that could become light rail, but it’s mostly built around bus rapid transit, which I think is a great first step toward transit in Nashville,” Troxel said.

In his address, Mayor Cooper said, “in total dollars this will be the largest funding of transportation we’ve ever seen.”

That funding of transportation, part of a $1.6 billion Metro Nashville Mayor’s Office Transportation Plan December 2020.

One major project outlined is a $180 million WeGo Better Bus proposal, which seeks to expand bus services, increase frequency, and add up to 10 Neighborhood Transit Centers.

“On Clarksville Highway, the North Nashville transit center will improve public transportation while increasing access to jobs in the region,” Mayor Cooper said Tuesday.

If the current plan falls flat, Troxel says it’s going to start impacting either attractiveness or affordability in the city.

Nashvillians will be forced, or already are forced to choose between exorbitant housing costs or transportation.

“You see some of the neighborhoods gentrifying,” Troxel said. “The question is, where are people going so? A lot of people have to move to Antioch, Hermitage, or even out of town, but that’s going to require that they definitely have a car because it’s very difficult to have a bus system that works in Antioch, it’s just so sprawling. When you push someone out of a house that their family has been there 50-60 years, it usually means they’ll have to buy one to two cars they didn’t need before.”

Troxel says we must densify and fast.

“I think we’ve had room to play with, but it’s catching up really quickly,” Troxel said. “We’ve never put on the big boy pants, and said we are a big city; we need to start acting like a big city.

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