Wednesday, June 05, 2013

An entirely reasonable conclusion: AMP would drain resources from North Nashville transit

I have been watching with interest the debate on the Nashville neighborhoods elist about the proposed bus rapid transit line down West End. At one point neighborhood leader Jennifer Pennington tries to pin down Metro Transit Authority executive Jim McAteer on the question of ridership, which transit leaders and boosters of the Mayor's "AMP" plan seem to dance around every time I'm paying attention to what they say:

Futuristic visions, no matter how grand, must not ignore the needs and wants of the current tax payers, period.

The highest ridership and need for public transportation is North Nashville. Federal funding is supposed to look at need, and in West Nashville, those who "ought to" use BRT/AMP don't want it and don't need it. Those who need improved transportation will likely get worse than what they have now, as funding from MTA gets funneled to BRT/AMP.

One of the lessons some of us learn about municipal politics (and particularly about Metro politics in the last few years) is that allocation of resources is a zero-sum game. What is spent in one place has to be taken from some other place when the annual budget is seeing increasingly smaller returns. So, I tend to agree with Jennifer. The casualties with the building of BRT/AMP will be riders who stand to gain from it were it not in West Nashville or at least not so far into West Nashville in order to run rapid transit northbound. Funding to support North Nashville ridership will be at risk with the new project because there are only so many resources to go around. "AMP" will be the new baby; other lines, the tired, old stepchildren.

Metro seems to be hurtling toward dropping $7.5 million on BRT/AMP in order to leverage $75 million from the federal government. Prospects are just as good that--if the federal dollars do come through (a big if)--that future administrations could just continue to divert more money into transit upgrades to the east-west line as a nod to the symbolics of mass transit without substance for North Nashville and its shrinking benefits. Running bus rapid transit down Charlotte Pike makes more sense due to service to greater potential ridership, but Charlotte is not nearly as sexy or as marketable as is the West End-Vandy "brand".

Finally, notice that Mayor Karl Dean refuses to make any promises to North Nashville about transit upgrades on the horizon. I'll wager he does not because he will not want to be accused of breaking those promises in any future run for higher office. AMP could be his signature transit project with which to campaign (with an assist from Washington DC). He has doubled down on West Nashville by ignoring the need for and refusing commitments to similar transit upgrades in North Nashville.

While I generally support quality mass transit, I cannot support BRT/AMP as it stands with no firm commitment to points north. There is little in this plan for us.


  1. Amp is not about ridership; it is about (real estate) development. I'd suggest that that development would be swifter and more far-reaching on Charlotte than on West End. It, however, would not be as sexy.


  2. Here's hoping that more lines are added to the North Side. The new university connector seems pretty busy. It would be nice to have more crosstown services like it.

    1. Tom,

      The University Connector route is a joke. I live on the route, and we shake out heads daily at the ZERO riders morning, noon and night between Vanderbilt and TSU. Have you ever observed how few people actually ride West End buses? Where are all these potential riders going to park? I feel sorry for the small business owners on West End who aren't going to know what hits them once autos are unable to make left hand turn into businesses.
      This is simply King Karl Dean ramming another albatross down the taxpayers throats. Not to mention I live in that "special tax zone" created to pay for it if needed. You think?

  3. I'm of two minds on the Amp.
    I'm a big fan of buses, I ride the Gallatin Rd BRT Lite daily.
    I can understand that this may be the only route likely to get the federal grant but I do think that a fixed line is not a good solution.
    I'd prefer we expand the Lite buses: Charlotte, Jefferson, Nolensville Rd and West End.

  4. Get real. Charlotte Pike west of 440 is only 4 lanes. No turning lane at all. How does it make sense to take 3 lanes from a 4 lane road?