Friday, May 15, 2009

Assuming No Accidents, 7.5 Hour Drive Times to & from Work with May Town Center

Author's note: this morning Scottsboro resident Brenda Butka sent me her own traffic impact study should May Town Center be built. She invokes the iconic traffic jam scene in the motion picture Nashville to underscore the potential for a keen commuter crisis, unless you have time, guitars, and beer to spare. Her commentary is printed below in its entirety:

Maytown: Nashville Gridlock Redux
Brenda Butka

Remember Robert Altman’s Nashville? About all any of us of a certain age can recall about that movie was the iconic traffic jam—remember?
An impromptu social life conjured out of interstate gridlock, complete with music and refreshments?

Well, if Maytown has its way, we might as well call the cameras back.

As first presented last year, Tony, Jack and Frank insisted that one bridge access would be plenty, and that no one in Maytown, including the thirty years’ worth of construction crews, would have to even drive down Old Hickory Boulevard, the tiny two-lane road which currently connects the Mays’ cow pasture to civilization. Their hired-gun traffic analyst agreed—one six-lane bridge.

The obvious connection was through Charlotte Park to I-40, but folks who lived over there didn’t much like the idea, and the bridge site was shifted to Cockrill Bend, near Riverbend, the state prison, where the few semi-permanent residents didn’t object.

By my calculations, allowing 20 feet per car and 20 feet (a minimum) between cars, and traveling 20 miles per hour, one lane can handle 2,640 cars per hour. No fenderbenders, no glitches, no stoplights, no left-hand turns. No one running out of gas, no flat tires, no TDOT calls.

So that bridge with three lanes each way, could manage 7,920 cars per hour. Maytown is projecting that 40,000 people will be employed there—that makes an event-free morning rush hour 5 hours long—let’s say from 5:30 to 10: 30. Even if a few people ride the bus, and all 5,000 condos are sold to people who theoretically can walk to work, and traffic is cut by 25%, we’re still looking at 6 a.m. to 10 a.m, and 3 to 7. Maybe Maytown will mandate flextime.

Of course, every commuter would have to drive down Cockrill Bend Industrial Road to get to that bridge, and Cockrill Bend Industrial Road is only two lanes each way, 5,280 cars per hour—either rush hour will last 7.5 hours twice a day, or CBID will need a lot of work. Taxpayer-funded work.

And, if there is that fenderbender—well, time to break out the beer and guitars and get very well acquainted with the guy in the BMW in front of you.

So, somewhere along the line, the Maytown speculators decided to shift gears a bit and gingerly acknowledge the faint possibility that someone sometime might just need to build Bridge Number Two and Bridge Number Three. Not for sure, mind you, but perhaps.

And now, oh taxpayers of Tennessee, we are no longer talking about fenderbenders. We’re talking about the mind-bending idea that if this land-spec scheme is green-lighted by our Planning Commission, in the service of a fantasy involving property tax income, and if this scheme is successful enough to bring in that property tax income, we are on the hook for multiple bridges, connectors, cloverleaf exits, and interstate widening projects, and gridlock stretching into the future as far as the eye can see. Our children’s children will be paying for these “improvements”.

Really, this land-spec scheme could play out two ways: If the development is a bust, all we’re out is a couple of new cloverleafs, buying rightofway along Cockrill Bend, widening the road there, widening Briley by a couple of lanes each way—maybe a few hundred million tax dollars. And an “unsuccessful” Maytown doesn’t produce that magical flood of property tax money, so we have paid for a pointless exercise in dreamscape fantasy.

If the development is “successful”, all that flood of tax money will be sopped up forever by endless building of the infrastructure to keep up with the mess. So we have again paid for a pointless exercise in fantasy.

And all we’ve talked about is traffic. Although I know something about physiology, I haven’t a clue how to calculate the—uh—waste production of Maytown’s denizens, and the necessary sewer plants, water mains, electrical switching stations, and on and on.

The only winners in Maytown are the land speculators who hold the property—a handful of already-wealthy men looking at land-boom profits if this is approved.

Of course, it can play out another way entirely. We can acknowledge that, enticing as this fantasy is, it is only a fantasy, and that in reality, cities can only be built where people can get to them, and successful cities really happen gradually where people already are.

We might also ponder the extent to which these guys will tell us what they think we want to hear at the moment.

By the way, there are NO taxpayer costs for fresher food, farm employment, and a Nashville reputation as the hip green city where you and I and a bunch of smart young people want to live.

Break out the beer and the guitars…


  1. By my calculations, allowing 20 feet per car and 20 feet (a minimum) between cars, and traveling 20 miles per hour, one lane can handle 2,640 cars per hour. No fenderbenders, no glitches, no stoplights, no left-hand turns. No one running out of gas, no flat tires, no TDOT calls.Just out of curiosity, where did those assumptions come from?

  2. Why are only hip young green residents are assumed to exist in Nashville in the next 30 years.
    How does an "expert", self described, in physiology now be an expert in traffic and an engineer in infrastructure.
    Traffic Analysis is exactly that, they attempt to use current information to wisely guess at the future, does physiology aid in this analysis?
    No one has said plans to develop the largest single endeavor the city of Nashville has seen would be easy. It is strange that now the construction of a bridge seems not to be the big stumbling block that opposition 'swore' would be the downfall of May Town Center.
    Opposition has now moved to topics other than land conservation, which was the 'battle cry' for all that opposed anything! and everything! built in Nashville and Davidson County.
    I too have read, "Okay, I admit, scanned" the full 115 pages. Just a school teacher by trade I may not get the same images as an expert in physiology, but I see items that need to be re-evaluated and improvements made. I do not see anything that is a "deal breaker" as some are ready to put the lid and nails to the 'pine box'.
    Anyone who will accept the task of making themself educated on the facts to what is being proposed in Bells Bend will have questions, some challenging and some of interest. All questions CAN be answered and WILL be answered given the opportunity.
    May Town Center HAS the strong support of the MAJORITY of Bells Bend residents. We are VOCAL now. We will answer questions as to why we support May Town Center. We only ask the opportunity to do so. Ms. Butka and friends in the past offered 'olive leaves' of working together before Senator Henry and Representative Moore learned that misrepresentation of facts and figures return to bite you in the 'end'.
    Crying "Wolf" to scare up support gets old news to those who will educate themselves on the truth of this story. The "Little Boy Asleep On the Haystack" eventually learned his lesson.
    The truth is that Bells Bend deserves better than the image that it is getting and the 'alternative' is not what Ms. Butka suggests! The alternative is, One day something will be built in Bells Bend! It can be 500-600 homes using every acre of land and thousands of daily auto car trips in and out of the Bend. Even a physiology expert can figure that it would mean A HUGE EMISSIONS problem, or it can be progress for that young, hip, green conscious, computer age generation that can take advantage of nearly 2,400 acres of trees, green space, streams, river, burial grounds, archaelogical digs, parks and wild life that will remain in our Bells Bend.

  3. I must respond to Anonymous who commented that, "May Town Center HAS the strong support of the MAJORITY of Bells Bend residents". This statement is based on completely misleading information and misrepresentation on the part of Tony G. and the May family. The truth: Bells Bend residents were asked by Representative Moore whether or not they supported Senator Henry's legislation to change the zoning in the area. They were NOT asked whether or not they were in favor of May Town Center. The majority of respondents expressed opposition to the LEGISLATION only and Tony G. completely misrepresented this as indicating that the majority are in favor of his doomed, monstrous development. The truth is that the majority of people in Bells Bend have always been and continue to be opposed to May Town Center. The evidence that supports this truth will be made public at the appropriate time and place. In the meantime, Tony can continue to spread his lies but I can assure you that the truth will win out in the end.

  4. I must comment on the statement by Anonymous that the majority of people in Bells Bend want May Town Center in their backyard. This is an outright lie, spread by Tony G. and his cadre, based on twisting and contorting the results of ballots collected by Gary Moore a month ago. The ballot asked Bells Bend residents SPECIFICALLY and ONLY whether or not they supported legislation to change the zoning to 1 house on 10 acres. The majority stated they did not want to change the zoning. They did NOT state that they want May Town Center in their face. The majority have opposed this monstrosity since day 1 and continue to oppose it. This truth will be made available to the public.

  5. It is so nice to hear from someone, most likely not Bells Bend residents, at least not identifying themselves as so. The vast loud out cry opposing MTC claim to be my neighbor.
    From phone calls from friends, meeting we have had and signatures collected the myth that the majority of Bells Bend property owners do not support MTC is laughable. We had one surprise guest Saturday. During one down pour of rain a "mysterious stranger drove by, not stopping and snap a photo of us. He could have met and ate with us had he stopped. The car was recognized, though. You may be seeing the photo at some time in the future. By the way, it was not mandatory to be present and a collection plate was not passed.
    These sound like the people who concocted the 92% myth that never materialized that mislead Senator Henry and Representative Moore to blindly take the action they did.