Sunday, March 29, 2009

Nashville: Poorly Positioned Gateway in the Megaregion?

Facing South considers how Charlotte, NC is surging ahead of most of the Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion (PAM), but especially Atlanta, GA. Along with Miami, FL, Nashville is considered a "gateway" to the region.

Charlotte's rise in power is due to its commitment to infrastructure. Its new, well-planned light rail system set it up to pull in $8 billion in the Obama stimulus package set aside for development of railway transportation grids.

Nashville, by contrast, got some money for police, but nothing for mass transit that I know of. Is our Mayor too committed to private growth and not committed enough to public infrastructure to put us in a position to maximize available federal revenue?

Photo credit: Patriarca12

UPDATE: Christy and Freddie below assert against my ignorance that Nashville is getting stimulus money in millions for mass transit thanks to shovel-ready projects. So, I'll ask again: has this administration done everything possible to maximize available federal revenue? Billions (a billion equals 1000 million, right?) vs. millions seems like a huge disparity between Charlotte and Nashville.

UPDATE: Is my math correct here? If we got $14 million in stimulus for transit and Charlotte got $8 billion, did we actually receive less than one-quarter of 1% of Charlotte's haul for having an exemplary people moving system that the federal government wanted to invest more money in? Relative to what we could have received had we had a Charlotte-like grid, isn't our stimulus take inconsequential? If inconsequential is it not more likely to sustain Nashville's mediocrity?

CORRECTION: The math above is not correct because the $8B is the total Obama allocation to high speed rail nationally. Thanks to Freddie O for pointing out my error. I should have let common sense cue me that $8B is an incredibly high amount for one metro statistical area, let alone a state. According to another report, Charlotte is actually getting around $4 million more than Nashville for public transit, and transit officials there were disappointed that they did not get more to save some cancelled routes. Contra the rather rosy picture for Charlotte painted by the Facing South article, Obama's limitation of the $8B to high speed rail means that Charlotte's light rail and buses did not get any that went to North Carolina.


  1. For what it's worth, I think Nashville ended up with about $14M in stimulus money for public transportation out of Tennessee's overall $72M designated for mass transit. Not that it has anything on Charlotte's $8B, but a few of the improvements look promising.

  2. Nashville is absolutely getting some stimulus money for transit. In addition to getting a new station at Martha for our light rail system, we're also getting funds for our bus rapid transit implementation. We had plenty of shovel-ready transit projects, and a number of them will see stimulus dollars. Few are a basis for future systemic development, but having a functional BRT corridor will be a nice proof of concept of the advantages of additional multimodal options.

  3. Where are you getting your $8 billion figure for Charlotte alone? I thought that was the total amount allocated for transit.

  4. S-Town Mike, I think you misread the editorial. The author states that Charlotte is positioned to get a "significant" chunk of the $8 billion set aside for rail transit projects in the stimulus bill. As in $8billion total for the entire country, not just for Charlotte.

  5. You have to notice, though, that the greater Charlotte metro area (combined statistical area) is 2.27 million, to our 1.5 million. They have the density to support light rail and mass transit that we don't have. The Music City Star is hemorrhaging money, and that's not just because people are more used to driving (though that's certainly a big part), there just aren't enough people to make it worth the expenditure.

    A big part of Mayor Dean's campaign was the promotion of mass transit, starting with a sustainable Bus Rapid Transit system. He can't help the fact that we're not as big as Charlotte. But given a decade or two, we'll probably be ready for it.