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."