MTA's $1.6M mass transit study hitting stride at midpoint

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 9:05pm

At the approximate midpoint of a one-year $1.6 study that will reveal the ideal mode of mass transportation for Nashville’s Broadway-West End corridor, the Metro Transit Authority official overseeing the effort said the effort is progressing well.

Jim McAteer, director of planning for MTA and the Regional Transportation Authority, said two recent public meetings generated “a lot of support for the project.” The next public meeting will be held either in August or September.

By late 2011, the Nashville office of Parsons Brinckerhoff, the New York City-based consulting firm working to determine which of three transit options – bus rapid transit, light rail or modern streetcar — is best suited for the city, will recommend the proposed system’s street alignment and one of the above-mentioned three modes.

A final report is due in December.

“It’s gone really smoothly,” McAteer said of the process. “One of the surprises has been a consensus from the public keying on [modern] streetcar and light rail [and not bus rapid transit].

“Folks do want it to be simple to use,” he added. “They want to focus keeping it on Broadway and West End.

McAteer declined to note what he predicts Parsons Brinckerhoff will recommend. However, MTA has a video of a modern streetcar that can be viewed here.

In general, and compared to light rail systems, which feature two to four cars, a modern streetcar is lighter and stops a bit more frequently. BRT busses operate in an exclusive right-of-way lane, with limited stops and enhanced stations.

Examples of each of the three are as follows: Kansas City, Mo., and Cleveland offer fully implemented BRT; Baltimore and Charlotte, N.C., have light rail systems; and Portland, Ore., and Seattle feature modern streetcar systems.

In January, MTA announced it had hired Parsons Brinckerhoff, a planning and engineering firm, to perform a transportation study of the Broadway-West End corridor. The corridor was identified because it can connect residents and visitors to the downtown business district and tourist venues, as well as restaurants, hotels, medical facilities and retail, among others. The corridor is also known for its high-profile business, educational, cultural and residential offerings.

The 12-month study is to identify preferred transportation investments for the study area — which stretches from Five Points in East Nashville and extends down Broadway, West End and Harding Road to White Bridge Road. It is the first step in putting Nashville in line to receive federal dollars for a potential modern streetcar, light rail or bus rapid transit to move passengers along what is likely the city’s busiest and most high-profile stretch.   

MTA secured a $1.18 million federal grant and matched it with $437,800 to fund the study.

McAteer said no progress has been made on a dedicated funding source.

“A project of this scope and magnitude will be very beneficial but will require a significant investment,” he said. “We’ll need to look at that.”

To obtain federal funding, three steps will be required: 1. alternative analysis (currently underway); 2. Refining that analysis with preliminary engineering and environmental analysis; 3. Determining final design and construction costs.

McAteer said the hope is to start actual work on the transit project in four years.

Mary Beth Ikard, spokeswoman for the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, said she is pleased with the progress to date.

"A robust and successful regional public transportation system begins with top-notch transit circulation within the urban core,” Ikard said. “This study for Broadway-West End — a highly-congested corridor with strong economic activity — is the flagship effort toward that end. From the public involvement efforts currently in progress, we're confident that a pragmatic recommendation for fixed guideway transit will emerge.”

Ikard said the MPO will be ready to assist MTA on actual implementation.

“The MPO is committed to aligning this project with existing federal funding streams that already come to our area, as well as providing support and leadership to compete for additional federal dollars."

9 Comments on this post:

By: boyer barner on 7/12/11 at 11:59

Why not just look at the trolley and train rail systems we had many, many years ago?

Nashville pretty much falls along the same lines.

As far as bringing folks in from the suburbs, like Bellevue and Brentwood?

Maybe a line down 8th out to Brentwood. And maybe a line down West End, past the Belle Meade Mansion and out to the Bellevue.

Will people ride these?

Close to town, yes. Where we have density.

I would ride a regularly scheduled hard-rail train or trolley to get places. A bus? I have never ridden one in 25 years. I live in the Belmont area. A trolley makes sense to me.

What does not make sense:

Hiring an out of town firm for millions to figure out what people in Nashville want to do when it comes to mass-transit.

By: Moonglow1 on 7/13/11 at 7:47

Moonglow1: finally we have support for mass transit. I often see signs on our highways saying our air is dangerous so car pool. So to reduce air pollution we need an alternative to cars.

By: bfra on 7/13/11 at 8:00

boyer - For people that haven't got the point yet, Karl bought himself the office of Mayor of a Town that was below what he thinks is entitled! Therefore, he has set about, using taxpayer's money to bring it up to his holiness. He said, you (the public) are not on a level to talk with me. We need a Mayor that doesn't think he is above all, except the ultra RICH.

By: judyboodo@yahoo.com on 7/13/11 at 1:12

I'm amazed at how in this time of fiscal distress the government and the public servants who should be concerned with how they recommend the publics money is spent continue to come up with the same old ways. Paying millions to out of state consulting firms started by Purcell is one important issue, but the real issues are whether or not the people of Davidson county want it and what the real end game is. Will it be used by enough people to justify the cost or are the people who promote it like magpies that are attracted to new shiny things. I drive up and down this corridor most of the day five days a week, the traffic is bad for an hour in the morning and an hour or so in the evening. Is this worth tens of millions even if it works? A real study should be done by people unaffected one way or another to find out how many people would benefit.

By: boyer barner on 7/13/11 at 10:11

What's sad, is that Karl Dean does not roll up his sleeves and make a decision.

He just hires consultants.

When you do see him with his sleeves rolled up, it is for a photo-op.

By: bfra on 7/14/11 at 6:50

boyer barner - You have Karl pegged to a T!

By: MusicCity615 on 7/14/11 at 8:08

I really like reading this article. I have wanted a light rail or streetcar system in Nashville for years. I applaud Mayor Dean for taking this necessary approach to making Nashville not only more environmental friendly, but also less dependent on cars.

Karl Dean - I am proud you are Nashville's mayor, and I will vote for you again.

By: slzy on 7/14/11 at 10:30

instead of spending all that money on a study,would'nt it be easier to add trips on the existing bus routes when the busses are near to their capacity regularly?

If the busses are not full,why build a super mag-lev anti-gravity monorail,or whatever the mayors investments are in first?

By: GammaMoses on 7/16/11 at 8:17

Extend the bus/rail/streetcar down 70S to I40. Have a park&ride lot by I40 and Old Hickory Blvd.