Tuesday, July 02, 2013


More like: "moving for whom?"
I am grateful for the opportunities to meet some great leaders since moving to North Nashville ten years ago. Because our kids attended the same public school here, I have had more occasions in the past year to enjoy conversations with two such leaders, Sekou and Tene Franklin. I was impressed, but not at all surprised today to find Sekou's thoughtful, timely, and honest response to the Mayor's transit plan. A number of us have expressed frustration that the bus rapid transit project leaves our community behind in favor of subsidizing and further skewing West Nashville growth. But few of us are as adept as Sekou is at drawing out the nexus between a historical context of prejudice and contemporary transit decisions:

Since last year, community leaders have asked the Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to extend the Amp route to North Nashville, which has one of the largest concentrations of blacks in the Mid-South region. North Nashville also has a historic tie to unjust transportation policies, most notably the Interstate 40 development that dislocated scores of residents, churches and businesses in the 1960s.

Many North Nashville neighborhoods are under-resourced and need better transportation options. The community also has a high number of hospital workers, renters, senior citizens, disabled residents and college students, all of whom could benefit from an Amp stop. However, MTA officials rejected pleas for an Amp terminal in North Nashville in the initial phase of the project. This snub could lead to a system of transportation apartheid in which some communities receive the bulk of transit investment — in this case, more than a $1 billion for neighborhoods in the Amp corridor — while others such as North Nashville are rendered invisible.

In February 2011, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) sent a civil rights team to Nashville to assess whether the MTA was following federal civil rights law. The two-day visit occurred during the initial phase of the Amp design. In their visit, the FTA officers were shown routes in West, East and Southeast Nashville. Yet, for unexplainable reasons, the MTA did not allow them to visit North Nashville. This was yet another example of how communities such as North Nashville are treated as if they are invisible.

That last paragraph is galling. It is shameful that transit leaders intentionally ignored North Nashville on the question of lawful access to transit. It also casts a pall on the arguments of east-west corridor supporters who say they honestly believe West End is a better choice without any reference to MTA's shoddy treatment of North Nashville on a question of civil rights.

The shameless roll out of an east-west rapid transit corridor is the extension of the historic injustices that do not disappear with new generations leaders. While some local progressives attempt the tortured logic of scolding the Mayor for wanting to govern "the fun parts" while absolving him of responsibility for extending the time-honored, sanctioned neglect of North Nashville, Sekou Franklin reminds us that this BRT transit policy, in doing nothing to break from an infamous tradition, is the natural extension of that tradition. The link is not so easily severed just because Mayor Karl Dean is an odds-on jolly for taking down a Republican in a hypothetical run-for-office.

No degree of public relations can cover up the wounds reopened for some in North Nashville. You can pat your progressive self on the back all you want about supporting transit and helping some boiler room workers exit West Nashville faster at quitting time to access the same slower, lesser infrastructure they know all too well along points north. But liberal preening will not alter the reality that AMP extends Nashville's legacy of unequal development, and it serves disproportionally white, affluent communities before any other.

As such, it is transportation apartheid. Sekou calls it out for exactly what it is.


  1. I'm no Amp fan, but this needs to be sourced: "This snub could lead to a system of transportation apartheid in which some communities receive the bulk of transit investment — in this case, more than a $1 billion for neighborhoods in the Amp corridor — while others such as North Nashville are rendered invisible."

    $1 billion is more than $170 million bandied around for the Amp itself. Presumably, someone put pencil to paper to add more than $800 million; it would be good to see what is involved. I assume it is mostly private money. That leads to another discussion, but for my purposes here I just want to call bulls*&t on the number until shown otherwise.

    If Mr. Franklin is for abolishing the East-West Amp, I agree with him. As it is written, he doesn't take a stand, just asking for "equitable solutions."

    I probably agree with him more than disagree him, but it would be nice if some of those opposed to the Amp because it is on West End and not in their part of town would look at the issue on a fiscal/need basis, rather than piling on with the hope of getting even more metro/state/federal money for their neighborhoods.


  2. "Yet, for unexplainable reasons, the MTA did not allow them to visit North Nashville."

    This doesn't make sense no matter how many times I read it.
    Did MTA chain them to their seats? Get a court order forbidding them to travel on Jefferson or Charlotte?
    Couldn't they have done it on their own, rode the bus routes in that area, looked for themselves?

    Unfortunately I think it's too late to change the Amp but what should be done ASAP is add BRT Lite routes at a minimum. I ride the Gallatin Rd BRTL, it's a major improvement over the regular Gallatin Rd bus.

  3. I live in North Nashville and would benefit from a BRT route, but I'm not butt-hurt over the fact that the East/West route has the strongest likelihood of getting federal funding. It's the obvious route, and all of Nashville will benefit of it. I think it's premature for other North Nashville residents to start griping about "being left out." Everyone complaining seems to ignore the fact that there few 'destinations' for locals OR visitors in Nashville. As a North Nashville resident, I fully favor the AMP as proposed and hope to see it built as is without caving to complaints of North Nashville residents. North Nashville needs and deserves a separate BRT route, AFTER the backbone of the system is built. Even when North Nashville gets a BRT route, it won't have dedicated lanes and will be like what already exists on M'boro and Gallatin Pikes.

  4. The anti-Amp yard signs have started popping up. I'm certain that the will of the citizenry will not stop the Amp. It may be stopped, but that will be because funding does not materialize or traffic and environmental studies drag on so long that the time to strike is lost.

  5. i am totally against the amp...as it is the people that actually use the bus do not have adequate shelters with benches!!!!!!!! it is absolutely decadent to put 7.5 mil from whitebridge road tto those 5 corners in east nashville!! we need to put the money into mass transit (like the B<A<R<T) coming frm outlying suburbs!!!!!!