NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — This August, Nashvillians will head to the polls to vote in the Metropolitan General Election.
Earlier this year, Mayor John Cooper announced he would not be seeking re-election, creating a wide-open field of candidates in the race to be the 10th mayor of Metro Nashville.
News 2 submitted questionnaires to each of the candidates running for Nashville mayor. The form featured six questions addressing some of Music City’s biggest issues. One of those issues candidates were asked about was mass transit.
| READ MORE | Latest headlines from Nashville and Davidson County
Below you will find the answers candidates submitted for the question: What does the future of mass transit look like in Nashville, in your opinion? (Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.)
“Light Rail, Underground Transportation and Amtrak needs to be given to the ballot box with the voters. Currently, for mass transit, BUT it doesn’t need to be at the taxpayer’s expense – our primary focus should be on the homeless. Would like to commit to having a Grant Committee/Board to seek federal funds to have additional transit for the city of Nashville. Additionally, need more studies to ensure that alternative transportation would actually relieve Nashville’s Traffic Issues. Many new people are moving to Nashville daily – would they use alternate transportation or continue driving their vehicles/riding the bus.”
“Nashville is growing exponentially and in order to keep up with the growing population of people moving to Nashville and those who are residents. Under my plan, I would like to reintroduce light rail, increase the number of bus routes, development of safe bike lanes and other infrastructure to support active transportation for all Nashvillians. This could provide residents with more options for getting around the city and help relieve road congestion. In order to pursue the light rail, it will take proper planning and public buy-in with such a large investment and infrastructure.”
“Nashville’s economy will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. We must prioritize managing this growth to benefit all Nashvillians. While big ticket items often get the most attention, our aging and overburdened roads, sewers, waste management, and stormwater systems are at capacity; these are some of the biggest threats to our overall quality of life, and economic prosperity.
From maintaining our roadways and bridges, to high-speed broadband and mass transit, quality infrastructure is the backbone of our economy and our public safety. I believe it’s past time to get the ball rolling on projects that will move us towards useful transit and multi-modal connectivity, as traffic gridlock continues to take hold of our federal interstates, state highways and local arterials. We can’t pave our way out of this problem, and we need to take a fresh look at how we get people out of their cars and into reliable and safe forms of public transit.
As a senator, I’ve passed legislation to have the Tennessee Advisory Committee on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) study passenger rail opportunities in our state. I currently serve on the Senate Transportation Committee where we just passed the largest transportation bill in the history of our state. Getting into the weeds with these processes has taught me a lot about the challenges our city faces, the importance of working with the public, and engaging community stakeholders. With unprecedented state investment in infrastructure, now is the time for Nashville and Middle Tennessee to get moving.”
“There has been amazing growth and development that has created traffic congestion within our city and suburbs. Many have proposed space-aged ideas that could not become reality for decades. We need to manage growth, and with that, traffic into and out of the city. That is something that nearly every candidate approaches in their platform, and rightly so. However, my position is that we must manage that growth within our budgetary constraints, which means, we should not invest billions of borrowed money now to build a pipe dream of transportation solutions. We can do more with less if we’re smart about incremental improvements. Mass transit in regards to the Nashville bus system has more than 50 routes across the city. A good place to begin would be to increase or even double that number of routes. This would be a good place to start. However, I would work with my transportation team to figure out how we increase that service in a responsible manner.”
“Years of unrestrained and unchecked growth have congested our streets and made our city unsafe for pedestrians.
As Mayor, I see dealing with our transit and traffic as a critical component in dealing with our unrestrained growth.
I will urgently implement solutions to our transit – from investing more in our public transit, investing in pedestrian safety, and working on a long-term regional solution to traffic.”
“When you ask people what the number one issue in Nashville is, most people say affordable housing. The second thing they’ll tell you is traffic. We cannot fix the traffic problem without investing in mass transit. Prior administrations have kept kicking this problem down the line. With the amount of traffic people face now, we cannot avoid it any longer. Mass transit is also an equity issue. Because we don’t have reliable mass transit, people without cars are missing jobs and doctor’s appointments. From my experience, we need both short-term and long-term goals for this problem. In the short term, I plan on working with local companies to promote more flexibility in work hours to ease the nine-to-five rush hour traffic. I also want to encourage hybrid working models. We can also work with MNPS in the same way. In the long term, I want to invest in a multifaceted mass transit package, including expanding protected bike lanes, investing in light rail, and paving out bus-only lanes.”
“Each district council member will work with the local transit authority to implement circular transportation hubs within their districts. Leading door-to-door campaigns encouraging and educating residents on new alternative transportation methods. Some districts are ready to connect to mass transit, and others are falling behind. Working within each district to work on the connectivity will bring each district up to a standard for us to connect a mass transit system. Each district’s implementation process makes it easier to get mass transit support. Community issues need communal solutions. We will work to change a culture that is greatly dependent on cars. This is not a one-and-done task; it will take time and deeply integrated efforts to make a difference.”
“Having served as the chair of our transit authority board and as an experienced transit rider, I can tell you that there is low-hanging fruit that can get Nashville moving in the near-term. This starts with addressing the hub-and-spoke system that forces buses downtown and makes riders transfer there to go anywhere else. By creating more community transit centers and crosstown routes, I will bring transit right to the riders, helping people get where they need to go faster and reducing congestion in some of our busiest areas.
As Mayor, I would also use my expertise as a former Chair and board member of our transportation system to ensure that we fully implement the excellent three-year program prepared by WeGo Public Transit (formerly Nashville MTA), which includes investment recommendations within our existing budget — so we don’t need to raise taxes.
Big picture, we need to invest in a system with more mobility options and revisit a conversation about dedicated funding for transit so that we can improve affordability for residents, and ensure our economy remains strong. In cities like Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Portland—cities that we see as both our peers and our competitors—bus rapid transit (basically, trains on rubber wheels) and light rail have been an effective way to move forward. I think our best light rail option would connect the airport to downtown, but nothing is off the table.”
“Locally, we need to continue to invest in improvements in service where there is ridership – particularly the work begun to have more cross-town connections and alleviate congestion into downtown through creating and supporting neighborhood transit centers, covered bus stops, and clean and safe park-n-ride lots to reduce congestion.
Regionally, it looks like reversing the “go-it-alone” approach which Nashville followed to spectacular failure with the 2018 transit referendum. To achieve regional transit aims will require regional cooperation to secure dedicated funding not only from Davidson County residents, but from residents of adjacent counties whose residents commute into the city for work or entertainment. My experience as Assistant Commissioner in Governor Haslam’s administration for Economic & Community Development makes me uniquely qualified to bring a much needed reset to build a more productive relationship with our surrounding counties.
Apart from mass transit, Nashvillians want to see adaptive signal control technology implemented – this is common sense and critical to improve the lives of Nashville residents.”
“The future of mass transit in Nashville will involve working with our neighboring counties and other cities in Middle Tennessee and the federal government. We must have all stakeholders at the table to accomplish a regional approach to transit and I plan to do this as Nashville’s next Mayor.
When addressing the future of mass transit, Nashville must also work toward its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. To achieve this goal, mass transit must involve using the latest technologies, such as electric buses, and have a focus on sustainability.”
“The transportation infrastructure in Nashville needs to work so that parents and employers can spend more time with their families and less time sitting in vehicles. Beginning to build a skeleton on which our city can grow will put us in a good position for the future. The first investment that I will make as Mayor is dedicated-lane mass transit from the airport to downtown along Murfreesboro Road. There are huge opportunities to put affordable housing at transit stops so that workers can get downtown or out to the airport, which is a large employer, without having to pay $20, $30 or $40 for parking. With this initial investment we can build a track record of success and take that momentum forward to build a broad-scale structure. This investment will pull traffic off the interstate and help build a culture of mass transit in Nashville.
There are some operational improvements we should be making in our current transit system, such as extending the hours of service and increasing the frequency of the bus system. I’ve also been very outspoken about my support for building transit-oriented redevelopment — like what’s happening in Donelson and Madison — and building up neighborhood nodes so that folks can live and work in proximity to neighborhoods.”
“Nashville has to stop changing the future of mass transit every time the city elects a new Mayor. The planning, design, financing, and construction of meaningful mass transit takes place over decades rather than four-year mayoral terms. The most critical leadership task is taking our various plans and studies and forging a strategy that has the buy-in of key stakeholders across our community. Ultimately, Nashville should not be the biggest city in the United States without transit, and we should be moving towards dedicated funding and towards dedicated lane bus rapid or light rail transit, particularly on high-demand corridors such as from down Murfreesboro Road toward the airport and connecting to Rutherford County, which is the largest source of daily commuters in and out of Nashville. First, we should invest in improving the frequency and reliability of our existing bus service. Second, we should use data analytics to make targeted investments in adding new routes and in developing the micro-transit, pedestrian access, and bus station infrastructure that will improve the quantity of riders and the quality of their time using transit. Third, we must immediately recommence the work with regional mayors as well as the state government to identify areas where we can build a stronger foundation for regional transportation.”
To read candidates’ answers to the other questions submitted addressing some of Music City’s biggest issues, click here.
The Metropolitan General Election takes place on August 3. A runoff will be held on September 14, if necessary.