Greater Greater Washington

Tennessee's BRT feud shows even modest projects face opposition

Often when a new city proposes its first rail line, opponents who don't like spending money on transit call for BRT instead. So it's tempting to think cities might have an easier time implementing new transit lines if they simply planned BRT from the start. Unfortunately, BRT often faces the exact same opposition.


Two projects that have faced major opposition, the Nashville BRT (left) and Cincinnati streetcar (right). Images from the cities of Nashville and Cincinnati.

Nashville is the latest city to face strong opposition to its first BRT project, called the Amp. The Tennessee state legislature recently passed a bill blocking the line.

The debate mirrors one going on a few hundred miles north, in Cincinnati. There, opponents tried to kill that city's first streetcar line. The state government even tried to block it.

Both Nashville and Cincinnati are among America's most car-dependent and least transit-accessible large cities. Nashville's entire regional transit agency only carries about 31,000 passengers per day. Cincinnati's carries about 58,000.

For comparison, Montgomery County's Ride-On bus carries 87,000, never mind WMATA.

In places like Nashville and Cincinnati, authorities have ignored transit for so long that any attempt to take it seriously is inherently controversial, regardless of the mode.

Arguments may fixate on rails, dedicated lanes, or overhead wires, but for at least some opponents those issues seem to be simply vehicles for larger ideological opposition.

That may sometimes be true even in places with stronger transit cultures. Arlington's streetcar and Montgomery's BRT network are both controversial themselves. Both have plenty of detractors who say the plans are unaffordable or would get in the way of cars.

Ultimately there are many reasons a city hoping to improve transit might choose BRT or rail. The two modes are both useful, and smart cities use them both based on the specific needs of the location.

But either way, expect similar tropes from opposition. It's inescapable.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for the Arlington County Department of Transportation. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives a car-free lifestyle in Northwest Washington. His posts are his own opinions and do not represent the views of his employer in any way. He runs the blog BeyondDC and also contributes to the Washington Post Local Opinions blog. 

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Most opponents see all transportation spending as a zero-sum game. Calls for BRT as only a device for thwarting rail. BRT is preferable since it costs less (though often only in capital expense, and more in operating expense), but it's like saying the mumps are preferable to smallpox.

by Crickey7 on Apr 9, 2014 12:37 pm • linkreport

should've just called it Truck Rapid Transit and they'd have said, "geterdone!"

by ar on Apr 9, 2014 12:42 pm • linkreport

I think some of the funding and organization against BRT in Tennessee came at least indirectly from major fossil fuel interests.

http://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/04/03/long-arm-of-the-koch-brothers-extends-to-nashville-to-slap-down-transit/

by Greenbelt on Apr 9, 2014 1:03 pm • linkreport

The Cincinatti thing is so sad. I have family that live in the burbs there. They would love to be able to drive downtown and then use the streetcar to get around on the weekend. Hopefully this project fares better than the subway that never was.

by BTA on Apr 9, 2014 1:08 pm • linkreport

Cincinnati also has a subway tunnel they shelled out millions for that was abandoned before it ever opened. Got some short sighted people up there.

by Richard on Apr 9, 2014 1:42 pm • linkreport

Visiting Cincinnati a couple summers ago definitely showed me that they definitely have the land use already right in many neighborhoods in terms of using something like a streetcar/LRT to really increase mode share in many neighborhoods.

Nashville's is infuriating because its written in such a way that it makes the state look like it just wants control over "state" roads even though the ROW has been there long before the state assigned numbers to it.

BUT, that's basically the dynamic we have right now with VDOT (see: Columbia Pike) so I can't fault them too much.

by drumz on Apr 9, 2014 1:48 pm • linkreport

Grr... pet peeves abound:
- Legislation trumping engineering
- Small government advocates getting in the way of local governance.
- and fiscal conservatives disregarding and blocking fiscal responsibility.

by Bossi on Apr 9, 2014 2:05 pm • linkreport

Cincinnati (being an older city) used to have a good streetcar network which makes this particularly painful.

by BTA on Apr 9, 2014 2:12 pm • linkreport

Richard, no more short sited than the anti-Highway hustlers that blocked I-95 and I-270 from going into DC.

by tom on Apr 9, 2014 2:26 pm • linkreport

I'm a Nashvillian opposed to the AMP, and I am tired, tired, tired of pro-transit "journalism" that assumes that any transit project must be a good transit project. The AMP was not--it was an attempt to retrofit dedicated bus lanes along 80% of a long-developed corridor that was not selected because it met an immediate or long-term transit need, but because it was the only route in Nashville that qualified for federal funding.

Here's how to create opposition to a transit project:

1. Develop a long-term transit plan in which the project is ranked among the last priorities.

2. Publish that plan.

3. Discover federal grant funding is available, but because of the way your city is developed, only 1 7-mile route has the population density required to apply for federal money.

4. Do a sudden-about-face, rejigger your long-term plan, and develop a proposal for a BRT service along a highly developed route that will require construction of 2 to 3 dedicated bus lanes in the middle of the street.

5. Allow 2 transit executives who want to be able to brag to all their colleagues in other cities they've built the biggest, baddest, boldest, most bodacious BRT system in the U.S.--since no other existing system situated similar comes close to 80% dedicated bus lanes--to choose the "locally preferred alternative" for federal grant purposes without letting any locals express THEIR preferences.

6. Announce the Amp with a big marketing campaign with the message that the Amp is all positive and will have no negative impact, despite the fact that some businesses will fail due to 2 to 3 years of construction and other issues, and almost 2 miles of the route will involve widening the street a minimum of 8 feet into residential front yards.

7. Don't do adequate traffic studies regarding impact of the new BRT on traffic exiting 3 interstates the route crosses as well as other major cross streets, but say you did.

8. Put out the word that "the mayor says this project is a done deal, and you oppose it at your own peril" and make a lot of people whose employers support it scared to express their concerns about the project publicly.

9. Hold "charrette" meetings at which no one is allowed to ask questions publicly and hear the answers, where most of the engineers really don't know the route very well, and where some of the information is contradictory.

10. Tell everyone the project has received federal money when the project does not yet have a completed federal grant application because it hasn't met the requirements to apply for the grant yet, which include a federally mandated environmental impact study, ADA compliance, traffic impact studies (remember those?), etc. etc. etc.

11. Form a 501(c)4, the Amp Coalition (ampyes.org), funded by local business interests, which hired 2 full-time employees who have marketed the BRT project full-time for the last 2 years and than complain that Amp opponents are using a 501(c)4 formed 6 months ago and funded by $50 contributions from local people to oppose the BRT project.

12. Be really arrogant and constantly assert that (1) all BRT projects are good and (2) all people who oppose them are stupid.

For the record, I think BRT can work in Nashville--but this project was badly planned but extremely well-marketed. The fact that it's falling apart now is due much more to design and engineering problems than public opposition--although a lot of opponents were against it because of, you guessed it, apparent design and engineering problems.

Grrr, pet peeves abound:

- Partisan transit advocates thinking all transit projects are well-designed.
- Local input ignored from the get-go in favor of the biggest, boldest, baddest BRT project out there (and now it turns out it really was bad.
- And poor transit journalism that assumes a good v. evil battle between transit proponents and NIMBYs rather than a more nuanced battle over one poorly designed, oversold BRT project that's now in trouble BECAUSE of design flaws.

You might also note that both of the Nashville transit execs who engineered this particular design disaster that we're trying to dig our way out of are either gone (Paul Ballard to head Fort Worth's transit and Jim McAteer, who is leaving to spend more time with his family at the end of April).

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has offered a compromise on this project of 55% dedicated lanes along the route, implying this compromise was made because of public outcry (and allowing Amp supporters to infer it may also have been a response to proposed legislation

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 2:35 pm • linkreport

Oh, and P.S. 13. Consistently lie about the reason the "locally preferred" BRT route no locals save 2 transit executives had an opportunity to choose suddenly became the first priority after being last in the original master plan instead of being up-front about moving the project from last to first in priority because federal funding might be available.

14. Tell local people who drive, bicycle and walk on the route several times a day and have for years that they are too stupid to comment on the design of the BRT because they aren't engineers. Arrogance about your superior intelligence is sure to win friends and influence people to favor BRT and other transit options. (NOT)

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 2:45 pm • linkreport

@tom: Blocking freeways from coming into DC sounds pretty far-sighted to me. Saves us the additional costs of burying and/or tearing them down to undue the damage.

by alurin on Apr 9, 2014 2:46 pm • linkreport

Thanks for the DL Rebecca. Things around here tend not to be well sourced or researched, particularly since the last associate editor left.

by southeastfreeway on Apr 9, 2014 3:14 pm • linkreport

All interesting, Rebecca. Do you have links to coverage on the various items you mention? I'd like to read more.

by Distantantennas on Apr 9, 2014 3:18 pm • linkreport

If the locals are so against it, why does the state legislature need to intervene to stop it?

I am not going to comment on something in Nashville, but none of your points sounds convincing to me. I mean that local business people are spending money to support AMP would suggest it will have a positive impact. And that transit executives move on is of course no proof of anything about the project.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 3:20 pm • linkreport

@Rebecca

None of those points really have anything to do with the merits or disadvantages of the project. Just complaining about the process.

by MLD on Apr 9, 2014 3:26 pm • linkreport

Even with those points the legislature's reasoning is faulty and could end up harming future, good projects.

by drumz on Apr 9, 2014 3:30 pm • linkreport

Link to a memo from the project engineer & city-employed projected manager (both reputable and competent) about changes Mayor Dean has requested in the project: http://media.bizj.us/view/img/2328301/140401memo-from-amp-project-team.pdf

Article explaining big gap in alternatives analysis: http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/2014/01/24/are-the-lines-drawn-on-amp-design/4855753/ - quote: "But unlike other cities with such projects, Nashville never analyzed whether a bus line with the same mass-transit-style features — such as stations with level boarding platforms and pre-purchased tickets — would prove just as effective without the bus-only lanes. That question lingers as engineers move forward in the coming months on a $7.5 million engineering phase that could largely settle the design of the proposal."

Amp planner Jim McAteer leaving MTA: http://www.tennessean.com/story/politics/2014/03/20/amp-planner-jim-mcateer-leaving-nashville-mta/6664695/

Article about charrette (closest we got to objective reporting on this--the local paper visibly and with editorial policy sided with the Mayor): http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2014/01/16/crowds-force-additional-amp-meeting/4551237/

Article about final charrette meeting (Michael Cass' reporting has mostly been pro-Amp): http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2014/02/03/final-amp-meeting-draws-another-crowd/5195135/

MTA CEO leaves: http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2014/02/14/mta-chief-paul-ballard-to-leave-post-for-fort-worth-job/5478809/

Article about Dean's "compromise": http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2014/04/07/dean-compromises-amp-design-will-enough/7408795/

Alternative newspaper cover story on Amp controversy last November: http://www.nashvillescene.com/nashville/a-messy-fight-looms-over-the-amp-metros-proposed-bus-rapid-transit-system/Content?oid=3954932

Another Alternative newspaper article: http://www.nashvillescene.com/pitw/archives/2013/11/08/more-amp-opposition-emerges-harwell-synagogue-and-others

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 3:34 pm • linkreport

re the alts analysis

http://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/01/27/no-nashville-brt-will-not-work-better-without-transit-lanes/

"The Nashville MTA never compared different BRT variations in the preliminary design phase. That process compared a streetcar, light rail, express bus, and BRT, eventually settling on high-quality bus service. Almost by definition, to be distinguishable from express bus service, BRT needs dedicated lanes in order to bypass traffic and offer a travel option that will compete with driving. Cole says that MTA will be examining different lane configurations in the final design phase, which is just beginning, and he notes that any portions operating in mixed traffic will involve a “performance tradeoff.”"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 3:44 pm • linkreport

these arguments about process and priority and not studying compromise alternatives are exactly in line with what we'd expect, based on this post. and they're irrelevant to the point here, unless somebody is going to ridiculously argue that BRT in nashville would've been universally loved even if had been planned perfectly (lol).

maybe there are legit issues with amp and maybe there aren't, but either way rebecca sounds exactly like a traditional opponent throwing spaghetti against a wall hoping to find some argument - any argument - that sticks.

by ballston guy on Apr 9, 2014 3:46 pm • linkreport

the charette - looks like it was held to get input on the details of the route, and some folks tried to hijack to express their opposition to the project. That is not what a charrette is for.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 3:48 pm • linkreport

"Some people also made their feelings known by writing directly on the maps with markers. One sentiment would have made several constituencies happy, but city transit officials say it would be a non-starter with the bureaucrats who will decide if the city gets $75 million in federal funds.

“Move to Charlotte instead!” it said."

Wow, thats rude.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 3:50 pm • linkreport

"The letter notes past instances of violent acts against the synagogue, and says they "are very concerned that the Amp would impede access of security and emergency vehicles while also making the synagogue more accessible to potential assailants." Another concern the letter cites is pedestrian access, noting that many of the congregation's "ritually-observant members" live nearby and walk to services on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays.

"Having a busy bus line at our crosswalk will make it more difficult for these members to attend services safely," the letter says. "

I would suggest to the shul that antisemites can usually get around without using a transit line. And that a bus line is much better for crossing the street (including of course on shabbos and yomtov) than a traffic sewer with speeding cars.

I am also not clear on how a center running BRT would impede emergency vehicle access.

BTW, if attacks on the shul are so common that this is a big enough issue to determine the shul's stand, I would suggest that the Jews of Nashville have much larger problems.

by JewdishuarySquare on Apr 9, 2014 3:55 pm • linkreport

If people are so against something that might be good for them, my philosophy is to let them sink while I swim for better waters. IE move to Charlotte, or anywhere else.

by JDC on Apr 9, 2014 4:04 pm • linkreport

The only thing I'll respond to is the comment about the charrette. The Amp was announced in February 2012 with a publicly (and privately) funded marketing campaign. This campaign was dishonest in its 'everything is rosy' perspective. There are drawbacks to every project--and there were some serious drawbacks to this one, as there will be for any transit project retrofitted onto an existing thoroughfare.

The charrettes, held in January 2014--a full 2 years after the project was announced--afforded the first opportunity for public input on this project. The first.

The format was "divide and conquer." Attendees weren't allowed to ask the project engineer questions where everyone could hear. A transit exec gave a brief intro (Not much more than "The Amp is great, and we're excited" and then invited people to talk to engineers at tables standing over complex design drawings. People were invited to write comments on the drawings and ask engineers questions. Because so many people attended these charrettes, lots of engineers who weren't actually working on the project were there to answer questions. Many had never driven the route. We had to tell them what various features shown on the drawings were and how they might impact an Amp stop or intersection in that area.

And a comment to the transit wonks:

A "father knows best" (most engineers and transit execs are men) approach, during which transit promoters insist that people who live and work along the route submit completely and without input (because we're too ignorant and unschooled to comment on a project that's going to affect our lives daily) to whatever form of transit they want to build without an honest analysis and discussion of the project's true benefits and drawbacks--an analysis that offers REALISTIC rather than wildly optimistic ridership projections--will inevitably engender opposition rather than a constructive conservation about how to deal with public transit. Having the conversation means the project will take longer, and you may have to compromise. But if you don't have the conversation, you may find yourself in the same boat--or bus--with Nashville, where we're 3 years along in planning a project, and now we're having to go back to the drawing board because the project has serious design issues.

I backpacked through Europe in 1980 and fell in love with the well-thought-out network of trains, subways, streetcars and buses.

The Amp connected to nothing, although its proponents tried to connect it up once that accurate criticism was leveled at the project.

Transit needs to connect. In Nashville, we have a hub and spoke system. The Amp offered nothing more than a new kind of bus service on an existing bus route. It didn't resolve any of the spoke connection issues that need to be fixed either as part of such a project or before such a project is considered.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 4:25 pm • linkreport

To the "I didn't address project faults" issue:

1. Stops inconveniently located for pedestrian access. 2 westernmost stops especially inaccessible.

2. 7.1-mile route only offered a new kind of bus service along an existing route--did not extend or expand service.

3. Western end terminated down a dead-end street in a flood plane, guaranteeing poor access.

4. Route was selected solely because it is the only route in Nashville that qualifies for federal grant funding, and that was only achieved by including a half-mile on either side of the route as its service area. Research indicates people will walk about 1/4 mile to transit, but not much further.

5. Park-and-ride lots were planned to take parking from parks, schools and other sources and reassign it for exclusive use of bus riders.

6. Ridership projections cannibalized several existing successfully services, including regular bus service--more convenient, although slower. Regular bus service was to be reduced in frequency to subsidize the Amp.

7. BRT installation required narrowing traffic lanes for all other traffic, including MTA buses, beyond what's acceptable under state guidelines. It's my understanding that one reason they backed off on dedicated lanes on portions of the route was because it wasn't possible to build them without leaving only one lane in each direction for cars -- not feasible.

8. Ridership was assumed to be high, but people did not realize that a lot of Amp capacity involved standing room. When people realize that, after a certain number of riders board, you only option is going to be to stand for the whole trip, they will be less likely to ride. That wasn't emphasized or mentioned in projections.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 4:37 pm • linkreport

More design issues:

Traffic studies of impact on interstates and cross streets lacking. Amp was supposed to control traffic lights, which would back up traffic on interstate exit ramps and side streets trying to access the main corridor.

Required installation of 9 or 10 new pedestrian traffic lights for stops -- locating these was a problem, because they weren't to be at existing intersections.

Interstate overpasses couldn't be widened, and the solution of a single dedicated lane shared by buses in both directions combined with the need for people to be able to turn left to get onto interstate entrance ramps proved problematic.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 4:41 pm • linkreport

http://archive.tennessean.com/article/20140113/NEWS/301130086/Amp-meeting-East-Nashville-draws-400-people

so some people like it, it seems

"A "father knows best" (most engineers and transit execs are men) approach,"

Engineers and transit execs do not decide what projects move forward - politicians do. Sounds like the Nashville govt moved this forward, and left it to the engineers to determine details, and then the antis attacked the engineers, who told the antis they did not understand the process - which it really sounds like they did not.

" during which transit promoters insist that people who live and work along the route submit completely and without input (because we're too ignorant and unschooled to comment on a project that's going to affect our lives daily) to whatever form of transit they want to build"

I would suggest lobbying with the elected politicians - the mayor and council. if that failed, it may be because the politicians are evil and dont care about the people (and will likely fail to be reelected) or it may be because they think the project though fiercely opposed in one area, has support (perhaps quieter) in others, or that economic development that will result will end up doing more to get them support.

" without an honest analysis and discussion of the project's true benefits and drawbacks--an analysis that offers REALISTIC rather than wildly optimistic ridership projections"

If they are looking for federal funding they will have to do a reasonable ridership study. What evidence is there that their projections are wildly optimistic? Did they do a detailed ridership projection?

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 4:42 pm • linkreport

Also note that ridership estimates in the past for projects (especially rail, not so sure about BRT) have been vastly UNDERestimated. Transit had one of its biggest years ever last year.

by drumz on Apr 9, 2014 4:46 pm • linkreport

"To the "I didn't address project faults" issue:
1. Stops inconveniently located for pedestrian access. 2 westernmost stops especially inaccessible."

So one tries to improve them, if possible.

"2. 7.1-mile route only offered a new kind of bus service along an existing route--did not extend or expand service."

that is usually what BRT does - the places where it makes sense are places that already had some bus service. A place with so little transit demand as to hav no bus service is not likely to be a good candidate for BRT.

"4. Route was selected solely because it is the only route in Nashville that qualifies for federal grant funding, and that was only achieved by including a half-mile on either side of the route as its service area. Research indicates people will walk about 1/4 mile to transit, but not much further."

Since federal criteria are not arbitrary, it seems to make sense to locate it where it can get fed funding. And while the highest transit mode share tends to be within 1/4 mile, up to 1/2 mile can also draw transit riders.

"5. Park-and-ride lots were planned to take parking from parks, schools and other sources and reassign it for exclusive use of bus riders." How will they prevent others from using the lots?

"6. Ridership projections cannibalized several existing successfully services, including regular bus service--more convenient, although slower. Regular bus service was to be reduced in frequency to subsidize the Amp."

If you have new BRT service, naturally you will reduce regular service. usually regular service is not more convenient. Thats not a subsidy, its a logical change. Similarly its to be expected most riders of the existing service will ride the new service.

"7. BRT installation required narrowing traffic lanes for all other traffic, including MTA buses, beyond what's acceptable under state guidelines. It's my understanding that one reason they backed off on dedicated lanes on portions of the route was because it wasn't possible to build them without leaving only one lane in each direction for cars -- not feasible."

If they did that they would need a signoff from the state DOT. How do Tenn standards compare to AASHTO guidelines?
What lane widths are we talking about - there are many people on this site who know all about lane widths.

"8. Ridership was assumed to be high, but people did not realize that a lot of Amp capacity involved standing room. When people realize that, after a certain number of riders board, you only option is going to be to stand for the whole trip, they will be less likely to ride. That wasn't emphasized or mentioned in projections."

in fact lots of people will stand on a transit system that has suitable speed. Of course if yuo get high ridership on a regular line, they will also have to stand - and for longer (because its slower)

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 4:49 pm • linkreport

Rebecca--

Glad you chimed in. I'm a Nashville transplant now in DC, and grew up along the proposed AMP route. I'm in favor of better transit in Nashville...boy are they lacking in that department.

But the real value in your comments is that you've exposed this blog post as thin and ignorant of the situation on the ground. How can the author call this project "modest" without offering any details whatsoever? Pretty bogus post GGW, so I'm sticking up for my Nashville folks. Don't single us out unless you've done some research.

by MJ on Apr 9, 2014 4:51 pm • linkreport

The problem with Nashville's Amp was the that major driver for Nashville Mayor Karl Dean was the availability of $75 million in federal money.

It's great that the feds want to support public transit projects--I endorse that.

In this case, unfortunately, the availability of that money provided an incentive to hastily design a project that would garner the maximum possible federal grant--and rather than going through the tedious process of gaining local support, the Mayor's office thought they could sell it through clever marketing to people who were aware of it and otherwise steamroll it through before people figured out what was happening.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 4:51 pm • linkreport

Oh lord. It's a BUS LINE in a BUS LANE. That's it. It doesn't even involve tunneling, FFS.

How are there people opposed to this? There isn't a single place I can think of I'd object to better transit service, even if it wasn't my favorite transit corridor. Sure, I'd rather see LRT or dedicated lanes on 14th St., but if 16th St. or 7th St. get them first I'm okay with that.

IT IS A BUS. YOU ALREADY HAVE BUSES. THESE ONES JUST WORK BETTER.

by LowHeadways on Apr 9, 2014 4:52 pm • linkreport

Walker, I'm going to focus on location of stops, which, in my view, was/is the biggest design flaw. Because the Amp is being retrofitted onto a highly developed corridor and stops require 3 traffic lanes worth of space in the middle of the street, there were only so many places they could put them. Those places aren't optimally located for the destinations they're supposed to service--in fact, all but one of the western stops are really inconvenient to most of the people and businesses they're supposed to serve.

The only way to fix the stops' locations is to go to BRT light. Which, west of one of the interstates on the route, is what Mayor Dean now plans to do. It's infuriating for him to say he's doing it because of public demand when he's actually doing it because the design logistics didn't work, but so be it.

Another issue is traffic congestion. The Amp's optimistic projects assumed full Amp buses and then subtracted cars off the route. But the route only extends 7 miles, and it doesn't start and end in places many people want or need to go. It was billed as a panacea when its initial prioritization as something Nashville should consider between 2025-36 was more accurate. It was a luxury service.

Finally, funding the Amp means other needs go unmet. $75 million from the feds, but $100 million was supposed to come from state and local funds, and the state is really not interested in helping Nashville pay for this bus service. Plus, Nashville's credit rating just got lowered.

End result: There's a desperate need for new routes and expanded service to poorer areas of town where people actually need and use mass transit, and that service will go unfunded while the city pays to build the Amp, which serves one of the wealthiest areas of Nashville.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 5:02 pm • linkreport

Its a 75 million project. We are building a multi billion dollar heavy rail line here. Heck, Montomery county is spending more than 1 billion on a network of BRT lanes. How many years of study makes sense for a 75 million bus lane?

And while the mayor may not have taken the right process to get support, that does not establish the line itself is a mistake.

And the reason this has gotten so much attention nationally, is because the State has reached in to stop it, against the will of the elected govt of Nashville - and with a law designed specifically to stop this - and based on the absurd notion that center running transit is not safe. and with the backing of the Koch Bros.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 5:03 pm • linkreport

Bus lanes shouldn't be controversial. Transit projects like this that have been implemented to great success elsewhere shouldn't be controversial.

It's a different reading of the fundamentals. These aren't exactly new concepts so maybe they don't need as much buy in as we think we do or that we currently require.

by drumz on Apr 9, 2014 5:03 pm • linkreport

"(1) A year-long study concluded that mass transit is needed and can be effective along this corridor. As part of its 2009 Master Plan, the MTA studied density and concluded that the Broadway-West End corridor was a high-growth, high-job and high-housing area where mass transit like The Amp could thrive. "

Sounds like the right place.

"(2) This is an important first step for Nashville, and it needs to be a slam dunk. No other corridor in Nashville has the same high level of growth, jobs, residents, tourist attractions and major destinations. These destinations for work and play, along with the corridor's high density, are critical both for securing the federal funding that is vital for the project and for ensuring the success of The Amp once the project is complete."

Uh huh.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 5:05 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure I understand why we should be advocating for Nashville to do anything. When I advocate for DC to do certain things that seem pretty logical to me, I'm often told that DC residents don't want that, so kindly butt out.

My point of view about DC is from a person who would live in DC, if it weren't for the bad way DC is run from my point of view on certain issues (stadiums, police/schools, transit allocations, and height). So, because of that, I don't live in DC, I've voted with my feet.

If Nashville wants to continue down its path of being one of the biggest cities in the world without any form of rapid transit, let it.

If it continues to grow, it will likely pop up more often on the top worst transportation lists. If gas increases rapidly, it is likely the residents who chose to live there, chose these kinds of priorities instead, are the ones that will suffer... and they will reap what the sow in terms of business competitive advantage etc.

This leads to a larger question for people in the democratic party and federal govt as a whole... why do you guys keep wanting to "fix" red America. Let it be, make the cities who are moving towards a 21st century economy better instead by focusing attention there.

Just an opinion. Let right states keep their state's rights imho, people are smart, this isn't 1850 where people will be stuck, they will eventually leave if they don't like it.

by Navid Roshan on Apr 9, 2014 5:06 pm • linkreport

MJ - boy are you ever right about Nashville needing transit. One aspect of the Amp marketing campaign that particularly infuriating that their talking points including "the time is now."

Well, the time to start planning for better public transit was 25 years ago--or more. Now, whatever we can do will be too little and too late.

But let's at least do what we can do well--and not in a slipshod fashion that pisses people off and builds a route to nowhere.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 5:08 pm • linkreport

I really don't care one way or other having zero affiliation with Nashville. But the likely validity of some of the criticisms aside, there does seem to be some fishy elements to the opposition as well. http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2014/03/inside-nashvilles-oddly-ugly-bus-rapid-transit-debate/8540/

by BTA on Apr 9, 2014 5:08 pm • linkreport

"Another issue is traffic congestion. The Amp's optimistic projects assumed full Amp buses and then subtracted cars off the route. But the route only extends 7 miles, and it doesn't start and end in places many people want or need to go."

That it only extends 7 miles does not mean it will not be heavily used. I presume the projected ridership represents a small portion of total trips on the corridor, so it does not have to serve everyone. Esp if it serves downtown (does it not?) it will capture many trips. And if it has park and rides it can be used by some who are not right near it at the residential end of their trip.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 5:09 pm • linkreport

@Navid: people are smart

I don't know about that; have you heard the people opposed to transit lanes and transit in general? Or the ones who think it's a great idea except, of course, in this particular instance [and every other instance, of course]?

by LowHeadways on Apr 9, 2014 5:10 pm • linkreport

Walker, you are free to buy the mayor and Chamber of Commerce's talking points--and you might even support it if you moved here. We'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. But understand the mayor backed off on elements of this projects design because they DIDN'T WORK, not because of public outcry. The public had been outcrying for 2 years to deaf ears. A competent engineer had to TELL him it wouldn't work. And he did.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 5:10 pm • linkreport

"If Nashville wants to continue down its path of being one of the biggest cities in the world without any form of rapid transit, let it."

NAvid, the city govt of Nashville, the chamber of commerce, I beleive the MPO, all support it. Its the state govt thats opposing it.

Currently federal transit funding gives money directly to localities and transit agencies, with approval of MPOs, bypassing states. Do you think that policy should be changed?

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 5:11 pm • linkreport

Walker, the state of Tennessee will be ask to contribute $35 million to the Amp. In fact, they may be forced to whether they want to or not--there's some weird connection between Nashville MTA's budget and a state budget. So the state has the right to object.

Was the proposed legislation re: center lane boarding a good idea. I don't think so.

Finally, whoever posted the Atlantic cities article--another example of bad journalism where the Good Guys--transit advocates--are having their excellent plans dashed by evil plutocrats.

In Nashville, more of the evil plutocrats are backing the Amp.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 5:14 pm • linkreport

I dont know that - I do know some of the things you have stated that I could check on, or knew enough about, showed your points to be wrong or misleading.

And to you and to Navid, I dont live there, and wouldnt normally be interested. But as Dan points out there is a larger national debate that this is part of - and in this case there are the troubling issues of a state overriding a locality, and of heavily funded tea party intervention. Also in our own region, we often hear that the transit snob elitists are pushing rail, and neglecting the option of BRT. It is therefore interesting to see the kinds of arguments marshalled against BRT.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 5:15 pm • linkreport

Walker - finally, if stops are poorly located, the Amp won't attract riders because the stops are inconvenient. A big factor in public transit is convenience.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 5:16 pm • linkreport

I'm interested in exactly which points I've made are wrong or misleading--or which you simply disagree with because you're comfortable with very high ridership projections being used to justify a transit project.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 5:17 pm • linkreport

the evil plutocrats supporting AMP are at least local, and have little incentive to support it if its not actually going to lead to more development.

The evil plutocrats opposing AMP do not live in Nashville, are owners of a major hydrocarbon company, fund climate denial, and support AFAICT a national war on transit. In the past mainly on HSR and Light rail - interesting to see them fight BRT too.

as for the budget connection, presumably your legislature could simply end that. Rather than ban one project in particular.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 5:18 pm • linkreport

I thought there was no state funding of it, that was the point of trying to get the federal funding to avoid that. If it was just the state, then this would be a done deal.

@LowHeadways - touche, and you know I'm a big advocate for transit spending, its a no brainer to me compared to the funds we throw at potholes and interchanges its chump change, but its just a matter of... why teach the competition? I mean, what gain does DC get, or NYC get, or other strong transit cities by helping Nashville learn from its mistakes (not that I'm sold this is or isn't one).

I'd rather spend my time trying to make this area work better, we still have plenty long to go, than to demagogue opposition 1 time zone away on a project that none of us have the time to really provide the adequate amount of attention to in order to figure out whether its merits out weigh its benefits.

If this is an issue of the state imposing its will on a locality despite little spending in that locality (trust me as a Fairfax resident I know how crappy that is) then I hope the Nashville folks either 1) find a way to resolve that with the state 2) leave and go some place where their priorities and goals are more understood

by Navid Roshan on Apr 9, 2014 5:18 pm • linkreport

I have written enough above to make clear what was wrong or misleading. From the misleading implications about the role of a charrette, to the roles of engineers vs pols, to the 1/4 mile rule of thumb, to the logical place to put a BRT route.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 5:20 pm • linkreport

In the case of Fairfax we all will pay an even higher transportation tax each year so that we may keep a portion of it not under the holdings of the state. Perhaps Nashville should considering something similar so they can avoid having to go get what seems like a pretty small fund of $35 million (I mean surely the city of Nashville can find 35 million in bonds or funds if they really want this, or do like Tysons and have the plutocrats that support it in big business pay a special tax)

by Navid Roshan on Apr 9, 2014 5:22 pm • linkreport

because you're comfortable with very high ridership projections being used to justify a transit project.

Yes. Because ridership has consistently beat projections for new projects all over the country. It's easy to find re: specific projects.

by drumz on Apr 9, 2014 5:22 pm • linkreport

NAvid

Some of us have interests in national issues, as well as local ones. Dan, who has observed LRT vs BRT battles locally, was making a point about the kinds of opposition both draw. Most of us I think would have left it at that if someone from Tenn, representing one side of what is obviously a controversial issue, hadnt come here to make a massive case for her side.

I do not beleive that there is only one side to this issue. However for some reason this post caught the attention of one side down there, and not the other.

And BTW, Atlantic Cities is often QUITE skeptical of transit, to a fault.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 5:23 pm • linkreport

NAvid

THis isnt about state money (i am sure the legistlature could avoid spending that if they wanted) Its as if the dulles toll road whiners got Richmond to ban rail lines in highway medians going to airports, because of "safety".

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 5:25 pm • linkreport

The Amp's was the first charrette I attended. I attended 3 and they were utterly chaotic. That said, people pointed out the design flaws I've mentioned, and the mayor's compromise appears to address some of them.

The quarter-mile thing I'll stick to.

If retrofitting a vibrant corridor that has naturally evolved to combine restaurants, shops, office space, parks, churches and residential spaces--both single family homes and high-rises, with 2 to 3 bus lanes that eliminate any shoulder space and push traffic into people's front yards isn't controversial and doesn't merit public discussion BEFORE the plan is announced, we'll have to agree to disagree on that one.

The biggest traffic issue Nashville has is on its interstates. We need bus service on those, which could run in existing HOV lanes, that connect with park and ride lots in the city BEFORE we build a 7-mile route to nowhere.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 5:27 pm • linkreport

I like Dan, I think he gives good depth of local projects for sure.

I am questioning whether anyone from this area could give this very specific project all of the due diligence that someone who has skin in the game there could. If by covering this here, we are left with a false impression because not all sides have been covered, then that is just as bad as the outside teaparty influence fighting the anti-transit side of this without review of the merits of the project.

by Navid Roshan on Apr 9, 2014 5:29 pm • linkreport

"Opinion polls on the Amp have offered mixed results. One survey, funded by a Rockefeller Foundation grant aimed at boosting transit support, found that around 77 percent supported the Amp after surveying 500 registered voters. In another survey conducted by the Nashville Business Journal in which 2,200 participated, the results yielded an almost 50-50 split. Anecdotally, support appears to be tied to where residents reside, with the East-West divide coming up again and again. "

Evidently it divides folks down there, its not all one side.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 5:34 pm • linkreport

@AWITC

Sure, but where is the evidence that this project is being held up by using blanket state standards. This story really just holds Nashville up and says, "bad decision" but if it weren't for Rebecca and yourself AWITC, we really wouldn't know what makes it a good or a bad decision.

The reason is because no one here lives in Nashville, and writing about the project for someone who doesn't live there would be really difficult, just like someone living in NYC would have a really hard time writing a solid article about the Arlington Street Car. So I can understand why Rebecca, who seems to be legit and not some Koch brother operative, is upset that her side is not in anyway mentioned.

by Navid Roshan on Apr 9, 2014 5:34 pm • linkreport

Cool, a bus line running on highways and connecting park-and-rides. THE FUTURE IS NOW

by LowHeadways on Apr 9, 2014 5:34 pm • linkreport

"If retrofitting a vibrant corridor that has naturally evolved to combine restaurants, shops, office space, parks, churches and residential spaces--both single family homes and high-rises,"

sounds like the ideal place for BRT btw.

"with 2 to 3 bus lanes that eliminate any shoulder space and push traffic into people's front yards"

ah, its about protecting the shoulder space.

" isn't controversial and doesn't merit public discussion BEFORE the plan is announced, we'll have to agree to disagree on that one."

I am not approving or disapproving the process down there. But as someone siad above, thats all process. Up here we study and public meeting everything to death.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 5:36 pm • linkreport

Unless you want folks in Idaho talking about our $1 million bus stops and other such provocative subjects, I suggest we just be better than the teaparty and stay out of advocacy on things we don't have all the facts about. Just my opinion though, hell I mean one could say I'm being a hypocrite considering my stance on DC's height limit.

by Navid Roshan on Apr 9, 2014 5:37 pm • linkreport

Folks in idaho are free to talk about million dollar busstops if they care too.

And again, the debate over mode choice and over the role of transit is a national discussion. You are free to not participate if you prefer. I am not too interested in GGW discussions of DC schools, or the design of memorials. It may be that you are not interested in national debates on transit. I agree that the nitty gritty of each transit project is harder to get from far away, but I dont think that means we need to avoid all discussion of such issues.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 5:40 pm • linkreport

Walker, the AmpYes people have conducted a number of bogus polls as part of their marketing campaign. I can assure you that 77% of Nashvillians do not support the AMP.

Most people who live and work along the western portion of the route don't want it because of design issues and the likelihood of increased traffic jams. And please don't say they can just ride the Amp. One problem is that most people don't commute along the route--they access it from one of 3 different interstates and drive a couple of miles on it to reach their final destination. The Amp is not an option for those people.

AmpYes has far more funding than StopAmp, the 501(c)4 opposition group, which has about $10,000 in its coffers. StopAmp was formed in spring 2013. AmpYes/Amp Coalition has existing since early 2012.

People opposed to the Amp include progressives (me) who are concerned about subsidizing downtown developers and the tourism industry (funders of AmpYes) at the expense of people in north and east Nashville who depend on our abysmal bus system to get to work and shop.

My position: We need more frequent and expanded bus service BEFORE we need to build something bright and shiny so we look cool to national transit enthuasiasts.

The back story on the Koch Bros. Americans for Properity-the Koch PAC--did not contribute $$ to Stop Amp. Someone from the group may have helped draft the proposed state legislation that would prohibit center lanes (which I do not think will pass the state House, which is too busy passing anti-gay bills and other bills enforcing religious bigotry to understand mass transit or much else). But it appears that credit was given in a StopAMP press release where credit wasn't due.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 5:46 pm • linkreport

@Rebecca "My position: We need more frequent and expanded bus service BEFORE we need to build something bright and shiny so we look cool to national transit enthuasiasts."

You sold me on that statement alone, proving there is some nuance to this discussion but I would hope that the funds will actually be pushed to do just this. If StopAMP works is there evidence those supporters will really push to have those funds allocated to the bus routes that do exist? Are you sure, while your goals are nobel, that the rest aren't just penny wise pound foolish folks who don't care if any transit ever gets funding?

by Navid Roshan on Apr 9, 2014 5:50 pm • linkreport

Walker, do people's front yards look like shoulder space to you? Maybe you think exercising eminent domain on properties along a 1.7 mile residential area is a great idea, but I think any transit planning should consider all other options before plowing through a 100-year-old residential neighborhood.

What particularly galls me is that if the people living there had been poor, their houses and yards wouldn't matter--we'd be building this project right now, having paid them as little as possible and dumped them out. People in West Nashville had the wherewithal to fight once they got wind of what was up.

Transit advocates do themselves no favors when every argument favors intrusive transit projects at the expense of the neighborhoods where they will be built.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 5:51 pm • linkreport

Nathan - the "pennywise/pound foolish" problem affects every area of American life.

We need a national healthcare system, but we have one based on insurance--a horrible (and, as people are discovering, incredibly, infuriatingly and unnecessarily complex) way to pay for health care.

We need to invest in public schools, and instead, state governments are trying to sell the public school system to private charter companies. That attempt is currently being made in my state (and is probably a more worthwhile thing for me to fight than badly design transit projects--food for personal thought).

And we need to invest in transit.

Investing in a cool shiny project because 2 guys in your transit department head an organization that operate buses, but view ordinary bus service with great contempt, is a bad idea, especially when Nashville has a number of transit needs.

Nashville's mayor has formed a committee to "help" engineers fix the Amp design. He has made his priority clear: A design that gets us $75 million in funding.

So the flaw may be in the federal grants program. I don't know if money is available to improve our existing bus service. That would be my first choice, and I'd be happy to see Nashville match those dollars

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 5:57 pm • linkreport

Is there any evidence or reasoning that would say that the funds used for the project's capital costs could be transferred to fund more frequent operations?

Or that the operational funds for this project could be transferred elsewhere?

When you bring in the sources of money (like the Federal government) the dollars get less fungible.

Saying that you just want improvements elsewhere without highlighting where that money comes from is the same as just wanting the improvements and the new infrastructure.

But the original story isn't about the merits of the project. It's about certain groups (the Tn. legislature) coming up with reasons for banning something that don't have basis in fact. E.g. claiming center running transit is dangerous when it's a common design element across the country/world.

by drumz on Apr 9, 2014 5:58 pm • linkreport

"Walker, do people's front yards look like shoulder space to you? Maybe you think exercising eminent domain on properties along a 1.7 mile residential area is a great idea,"

sometimes it is.

And if this increases property values downtown I could well see that as positive for the city.

"Most people who live and work along the western portion of the route don't want it because of design issues and the likelihood of increased traffic jams. "

this is why we all need to discuss this - it will cause traffic jams is the case made against EVERY surface transit dedicated ROW line or mixed traffic streetcar. Weve heard it wrt Montgomery's BRT, DC's 16 street bus lane, and Arlington's PikeRail.

The fact is, again, no one says about projects like this "just take transit" - its that as more people take transit, the people who dont will net benefit - transit can carry so many more people than cars, in a given lane. So unless the ridership is totally wrong (and as drumz points out that has not been the widespread experience with such lines in the US, at least recently - and I dont see a specific critique here that strikes me as compelling)

the reason some of us are arguing with you, about a NASHVILLE project, is that you are putting forth memes that extend well beyond Nashville.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 6:01 pm • linkreport

@Rachel - the "pennywise/pound foolish" problem affects every area of American life. I dont disagree, and one thing I do agree with you on is that limited funds that we do have should go towards where it will work best.

by Navid Roshan on Apr 9, 2014 6:02 pm • linkreport

"So the flaw may be in the federal grants program. I don't know if money is available to improve our existing bus service. That would be my first choice, and I'd be happy to see Nashville match those dollars"

There are transit operating subsidies only to rural areas, and to fund job access and reverse commute services specifically for poor areas. There is a grant program to help buy buses and build bus facilities, like maintenance depots. There are also TIGER grants, which can be used for almost anything, but funding is limited and the grant process is very competitive.

The Small Starts and New Starts programs however, are specifically for new infrastructure, IIUC. If Nashville doesnt take it, there are other metro areas that would like the money.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 6:06 pm • linkreport

" but for at least some opponents those issues seem to be simply vehicles for larger ideological opposition. "

I do not see that this is incorrect, and it was Dans point

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 6:08 pm • linkreport

drumz, welcome to Tennessee. Nashville is a red city (purple in areas) in a very blue state.

The mayor, a prominent Democrat who may run for governor or congressman or senator someday, launched the Amp campaign and blithely announced $35 million of funding would come from the state without talking to our Republican governor, former mayor of Knoxville (who might veto this legislation in the unlikely event it passes), or anybody else. The Tennessean published an article in which the governor said, pointedly, that he didn't have a position on the Amp because no one from Nashville's government had talked to him about it. That was last fall, a year and a half after the Amp was launched with a marketing campaign that has involved videos called "Voices of Transit" (see them at ampyes.org).

But the story is a lot more complicated than "Here's a great progressive transit project that the Tea Party/Koch Brothers opposed."

And I'm tired tired tired of reading stories that imply that opposition to a transit project is always by Tea Party types, these projects are always progressive and brilliantly designed, they're always just what the city needs, and oh yes, bogus polls conducted by their supporters, who called only their supporters, say everyone supports the project--and if only the evil conservatives would back off.

Lots of progressives oppose this project, too, because we're in favor of transit equity--and this project is a luxury service in a city that needs to invest in expanding its basic service--which is exactly what the original master plan called for.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 6:08 pm • linkreport

Ha! Walker, Nashville is going to try to take that federak money--that's what this project was all about (which is one source of my anger).

The mayor has made it very clear that the money--not the project design--is his major priority. The 2 guys who pushed the Amp's controversial project design are gone or going soon. I suspect because the design is a mess that the competent engineer and a competent project manager are having to fix.

Stay tuned.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 6:15 pm • linkreport

Oops -- Nashville is a blue city in a very red state -- pardon my lack of color coordination.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 9, 2014 6:16 pm • linkreport

I'm just wondering when people will pick up on the joke I make whenever someone mis-spelled my name... this would be my 15th time, and no one has noticed, I guess I concede that no one will ever notice what my actual name is :P

by Navid Roshan on Apr 9, 2014 8:01 pm • linkreport

One of the reasons I have very little faith in the future of America is that we "debate" solutions that the rest of the rich world just sees as common sense, like devoting a single lane of traffic to mass transit.

DC is just as bad as Nashville with the City killing the bus lane through downtown, in recent months. Every morning and evening the entire downtown is absolute gridlock of a level not present in any similarly-sized cities in Western Europe. Buses can't go anywhere -- those who make the socially-positive and eco-friendly choice to ride the bus are punished by selfish commuters in single-occupancy vehicles.

Let's not cast stones at Nashville when our own downtown is absolutely abysmal for transit riders.

by James on Apr 9, 2014 8:53 pm • linkreport

@James: +1,000,000. This country is rapidly becoming a joke.

by LowHeadways on Apr 9, 2014 9:06 pm • linkreport

Can Rebecca Katz and AWITC agree that if it turns out that ridership is well above projections, the project is a great idea, but if ridership is proves well below projections, it is a bad idea?

I'm wondering if there is a way to test the project, before committing resources for the permanent bottlenecking stations. I don't know: Maybe just make the inside lanes bus lanes and give them the legal status of a school bus and pay policemen to sit at the stops and enforce the stop rule.

by JimT on Apr 9, 2014 9:27 pm • linkreport

Its amazing looking at the list of BRT projects around the country planned, under construction and existing on the Transport Politics' website just how many are nothing more than a painted bus in mixed traffic and how many BRT projects started out in the planning process with dedicated lanes only to end up in mixed traffic. I didn't realize the number was SO low. Of all the operating BRT projects in the US only the LA Orange Line, Cleveland Health Line, Eugene EMX, Las Vegas and Pittsburgh Busways are BRT enough to warrant a rating with the 'BRT Standard.'

by poncho on Apr 9, 2014 11:19 pm • linkreport

Yes, @poncho, it's pretty amazing to note how insanely difficult it is in this country to take a single lane of traffic away from single-occupancy vehicles -- even if we were to allow taxis in the bus lanes (as in London), I still think the backlash would be the same.

And, so, we get a kind of death spiral of support for BRT, whereby new projects come online with lackluster results, and thus support never increases for building actual, first-class -- as in Brazil, Mexico or Colombia -- BRT.

Even the Guatemalans (visit Guatemala City) are kicking our butts in BRT. We, literally, are incapable of doing anything for the greater good, it seems, in this country.

And, frankly, it's not just unfair to the transit riders in our cities, but also to the rest of the world, who use significantly less energy -- and do invest in high-quality transit -- but will still suffer the climate change consequences of our short-sightedness.

by James on Apr 9, 2014 11:25 pm • linkreport

@Navid
but its just a matter of... why teach the competition? I mean, what gain does DC get, or NYC get, or other strong transit cities by helping Nashville learn from its mistakes (not that I'm sold this is or isn't one).

The potential of more people around the country who support transit, which means more elected officials who support transit. That means more and better transit projects across the country and potentially a more robust federal program.

Sorry I'm not so parochial as to say "well who cares if THEY get good stuff, we're good and their good stuff hurts our competitiveness anyway!" This country can't survive on a few places being competitive while the rest of the country suffers.

Knock on Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, or Guatemala all you want, one thing they are better at than us is ramming things through without any public say whatsoever.

Rebecca, the problem with your position is that nobody, and especially not your elected officials, is going to make the distinction between your nuanced position and some Tea Party moron frothing at the mouth about more subsidies for poor people. Hopping onto some blog 600 miles away based on your google alert for "Amp BRT" or whatever in order to run down your list of problems with the project doesn't to me put you in the camp of "transit supporter." If you think the project can be improved then by all means work to improve it through the systems provided. But an argument of "don't use this money for this transit project, use it for these other ones!" never works because that money doesn't exist for other transit projects, it exists for this one. There is no support for putting that kind of money into transit around the region. And there never will be if "pro-transit" people join forces with those who are anti-transit to provide ammo for shutting down projects that do, in fact, improve transit service.

by MLD on Apr 10, 2014 8:28 am • linkreport

@Navid: we should care what happens in Nashville because it's our tax dollars which subsidize the sunbelt car culture. We're the ones paying for them to lay pavement in an unsustainable way.

by Mike on Apr 10, 2014 8:32 am • linkreport

@Rebecca: your problem is that you're confusing your world view about what you want with the reality that is. You're talking about options that don't exist, and ranking them ahead of the only alternative which has any chance of being implemented. Kill the BRT project and you've got nothing. If the BRT gets implemented and works, you might then be able to point to a successful project to gain support for the other things on your list.

by Mike on Apr 10, 2014 8:34 am • linkreport

That and arguments against the project because of the process (saying it's been rammed through for example) is different from the logic behind the state legislature which is focused on the operation (claiming that they don't want center running lanes because of a misguided safety concern). Rather, the Tenn. legislature is hijacking the process themselves under the guise of an operational critique.

That said, even if the mayor of Nashville declared himself the dictator of Davidson county and installed the BRT himself the city would likely be better off for it in the future. To my knowledge a new transit project has never really ruined a neighborhood (meaning: made the neighborhood less desireable) anyway making me wonder why those arguments keep popping up over and over again.

by drumz on Apr 10, 2014 9:11 am • linkreport

@MLD and @Mike, your approach all but ensures the car culture will continue. I assume if you were parents you think the best way to teach a child is also to dictate to them what they must do also huh?

The south has their mind set. The only way that mind set will change is to actually experience the negatives of their choices. The more outsiders act as a lightning rod, the more the benefits of better decisions are ignored. Dallas changed it's culture in the 90s on its own because it was facing a fiscal and development crisis. Now they are being used as an example for other Texas cities. Is it as good as what the east coast cities are doing? no. Is it lagging by a lot? yes. But atleast they aren't in a quagmire of ideological disagreements with the boogeyman outside of Texas.

If Nashville wants to change, then its own residents should be the ones to decide that, if not, then I will more than welcome people who do want better who want to move to the DC region, especially the best and the brightest.

by Navid Roshan on Apr 10, 2014 10:52 am • linkreport

Dumz: "even if the mayor of Nashville declared himself the dictator of Davidson county and installed the BRT himself the city would likely be better off for it in the future. To my knowledge a new transit project has never really ruined a neighborhood (meaning: made the neighborhood less desireable) anyway making me wonder why those arguments keep popping up over and over again."

That mindset--no transit project is ever wrong--precludes any intelligent discussion about the merits of individual transit projects---and that has been a huge problem here in Nashville. No discussion occurred, and transit advocates like you insisted none was needed. And they sent the Borg collective message: Resistance is futile.

Nashville has thus far resisted assimilation by the aggressive transit movement. And the ill will created by this battle has made Nashvillians wary of future 'dictated' initiatives.

Finally, not only does a "my way on the roadway' approach open the door to bad projects--which I believe the Amp is--but it's also macchiavellian and incredibly self-righteous. Compromise is messy and produces a less than ideal result, but in the long run, it's a faster way to move forward.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 10, 2014 11:08 am • linkreport

I think transit has proved itself enough that maybe it doesn't need as much scrutiny for new projects. Especially for bus lanes. We make lots of infrastructure decisions with various levels of community input (example: we don't need a long process to repave a street or buy new buses). Projects like the AMP have proved themselves generally enough that a lot of skepticism has been proven wrong.

Not that community input is uneeded or unnecessary but that the level of acrimony I see is usually unfounded.

Nashville has thus far resisted assimilation by the aggressive transit movement.

One reason why it may seem so aggressive is that basic choices are fought against so hard and then turn out to either be unfounded or wildly popular. But people get scared at the prospect of traffic being just a little bit worse and thus dig in, even though its that very intransigence that won't make it any quicker to get to where you're going.

I have no idea about how well run nashville is or whether their democracy is paticipatory enough. I do have the confidence to say that once its built and running that it likely won't be a total disaster. If it was then it wouldn't be a popular solution.

by drumz on Apr 10, 2014 11:22 am • linkreport

related example: We're putting in a lot of bike lanes around the region. So much though that it's fairly easy to predict the changes to a street once a lane goes in. Mainly, bike usage goes up and the parking situation more or less remains unchanged.

That said, there are still huge fights in some neighborhoods where bike lanes are proposed. I think opponents though no longer have standing. We know that bike lanes work and it leads to an overall goal of having 75% of trips made in DC be made by a mode other than a car.

I don't think we need a public meeting for our basic bike lanes. The time to argue about that is when city government is talking about overall transportation goals and if the people really do hate bike lanes, they can vote in officials that direct the DOT not to install any. It's just as democratic but its more efficient overall.

by drumz on Apr 10, 2014 11:27 am • linkreport

"no transit project is ever wrong" ≠ "a new transit project has never really ruined a neighborhood."

Some transit projects are severely overbudgeted and suffer from insane costs (see: 7 train extension, Second Avenue Subway, East Side Access, ARC). Bu that doesn't mean they're actively harmful.

The ARC Tunnel is actually a pretty good example of this. It was not a great project in the grand scheme of things, but it was still a vital project to double the rail capacity between New Jersey and New York, allow for far more trains between the two, and expand the range of transit options available to New Yorkers and New Jerseyans alike - convincing even more to take a train instead of driving. Chris Christie canceled it because reasons, or whatever. Where did all that funding go?

Well, for starters, New Jersey owes the federal government tens of millions of dollars. And there have been approximately no New Jersey transit improvements since the cancellation (wait, sorry - Christie diverted the funds to roads). Oh, and we continue to cram hundreds of trains a day through a pair of century-old tubes, with no augmentation in sight.

So those are the stakes. This is why we care. A project might not be perfect, but it's a project. It's progress. It's something. And if we always wait for the perfect proposal to come along, we will literally never build anything again. It's something or nothing and I will always choose something.

by LowHeadways on Apr 10, 2014 11:35 am • linkreport

I dont want any municipal dictators, and I dont think all transit projects are good ideas. But I do think its appropriate to have national discussions on these issues - even planetary discussions - since the impact on green house gases will impact everyone on the planet.

I think Dan was trying to make a general point about ideological factors taking a role in transit opposition (and AFAICT that IS the case in Nashville, both in the State legislature, in Koch Bros involvement, and in SOME of the local opposition - despite of course other motives to oppose) based on the assumption that AC was reasonably accurate (the article was written by someone in Nashville, IIUC) - not initiate a GGW discussion of station locations, commute shed distances, etc - as if this were Pike Rail or the 16th Street bus lanes.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 10, 2014 11:37 am • linkreport

Drumz, I'd actually fight in favor of bike lanes. I cycle to work when it's not freezing or raining. There are no bike lanes on the proposed Amp route, but cyclists use shoulders and a right-hand parking lane, and that works well enough. The Amp eliminates both of those.

ANY public works project needs scrutiny to make sure dollars aren't wasted and that you don't end up with an unworkable design (and that has happened with the Amp, which is why Nashville's mayor has backed off on dedicated lanes on 2 segments of the route) or shoddy construction.

Would you renovate your house without a careful up-front review of the design, the scope of work, the budget. potential problems you might encounter--and without making sure the contractors you hired were reputable, knew their craft, and would deliver the work and quality materials they promised? Only if you were a fool. Suggesting transit projects are inherently so good they don't require public or supervisory scrutiny is naive at best and inviting corruption at worst.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 10, 2014 11:39 am • linkreport

My point was that the project is different from the process.

Only if you were a fool. Suggesting transit projects are inherently so good they don't require public or supervisory scrutiny is naive at best and inviting corruption at worst.

I'm not saying that, I'm saying that its very often that objections raised by opponents to these projects have already been unfounded. Example: saying that the ridership numbers are inflated when its almost always the case that they're too conservative.

Therefore, we shouldn't waste time rehashing old arguments. The state legislature ignoring all the evidence of successful transit systems using the center of the roadway is one of those things.

by drumz on Apr 10, 2014 11:44 am • linkreport

I think Rebecca has shown herself to be a reasonable and well informed person. Maybe what GGW could do is ask her to write a good counterpoint article. At the end of the day that will leave us all more informed which is really the ponit of this type of post since few of us have any strong connection to Nashville.

by BTA on Apr 10, 2014 11:45 am • linkreport

I'd actually fight in favor of bike lanes.

Great, in DC and some its neighboring jurisdicions I'd argue that the fight over bike lanes should be over. It was over when our elected officials decided to do what they can to cut down on car trips and adopt a complete streets policy. If someone thinks that's a mistake then they should support politicians wou want to reverse those decisions.

Similarly, I think the fight for bus only lanes on certain roadways should be over. The time for those battles is when the city is deciding on its larger transportation goals.

by drumz on Apr 10, 2014 11:47 am • linkreport

Walker, I think it's appropriate to have national, state and local discussion. One good thing about the Amp is that it has made locals aware of the desperate need to improve transit in Nashville. My hope is that there will be support for transit projects that actually make sense once the Amp controversy dies down.

Amp opponents fall into several camps:

- Tea party conservatives who don't want any government investment in anything
- People who have long favored investments in public transit, but think this project is nuts because of its design and the fact that it serves an existing route and will curtail more convenient local bus service (I'm in this camp)
- People who think the project is too limited in scope and location to benefit the larger community (I'm also in this camp) because it doesn't really connect up to anything
- People who will never use the Amp because they don't live or work in this area and don't want to pay for it for that reason
- People who are concerned that the time and $$ invested
in the Amp will preclude or prevent investments in improving/expanding transit to areas where the need is greater in the foreseeable future(I'm in this camp)
- People who are really angry about the process with which the Amp was designed and promoted (I'm in this camp)
- People who will be negatively impacted by the construction and installation-in this case, "not in my front yard" is literal (I'm not in this camp, but know people who are)

Amp proponents fall into these camps -

- Mayors office, Chamber of Commerce, business interests -- want $75 million in federal funding
- the Drumz community--all transit projects are good and Nashvillians should defer to transit execs and engineers who tell us this project will be good
- People who have a financial interest in seeing the Amp go through or who are paid advocates of the Amp--employees of MTA, Metro Nashville, 501(c)4, Chamber of Commerce and 2 PR firms who have made a lot of money marketing the Amp as well as downtown developers, stadiums and sports teams, local engineering, contracting and landscaping firms, other vendors
- People who genuinely think the project will improve public transit in Nashville
- People who think the Amp is a "good start" just because it's a start--this is the logic that offends me most. A project needs to stand on its own merits.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 10, 2014 12:02 pm • linkreport

the Drumz community--all transit projects are good and Nashvillians should defer to transit execs and engineers who tell us this project will be good

Well, I didn't arrive there suddenly. I've reasoned that most public transit projects have great benefits and thus their burden of proof doesn't need to be so high.

That's why when I say we shouldn't have to worry about this much I'm not trying to scoff, I'm genuinely positive in my outlook about this or another project. It can always be improved and I hope it is.

by drumz on Apr 10, 2014 12:12 pm • linkreport

*reasoned over time and experience

by drumz on Apr 10, 2014 12:16 pm • linkreport

"Similarly, I think the fight for bus only lanes on certain roadways should be over. The time for those battles is when the city is deciding on its larger transportation goals."

Nashville did not have this conversation.

Since the Amp's design has proven unbuildable in at least a couple of segments and a 'public input committee formed,' perhaps we'll have it now.

I am NOT defending the Tennessee legislation. But if you are Nashville Mayor Dean and you and your transit executives used all the many means at your disposal to preclude and prevent any public dialog while steamrolling a big transit project through,and your project happens to be in the state capital, and people start angrily yelping at their state representatives about having an aggressive bus project rammed down their throats and up their a$$es, you shouldn't be shocked, shocked when those people use the single means at their disposal to oppose the project when it becomes apparent that you won't otherwise listen to their concerns.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 10, 2014 12:16 pm • linkreport

"I'm genuinely positive in my outlook about this or another project. It can always be improved and I hope it is"

Me, too. If we had followed the original transit plan and implemented BRT light along a much longer route first, and then explored the possibility of a BRT system 10 years from now, we would not be at loggerheads today.

But BRT light wasn't going to bring in the federal $$. I think these grant programs need to be revised to accommodate well-change in stages.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 10, 2014 12:23 pm • linkreport

Nashville did not have this conversation.

A: I hope they can start having it soon.
B: but as a corollary, while Nashville is a wonderful town, I think its pretty much like the rest of the country when it comes to how its people move and how its streets are designed.

This is not a bad thing!

It means that successes in places in other parts of the country/world can work in Nashville.

We know what makes complete and safe streets and we know the conditions needed to make transit successful. Therefore, we can do it in Nashville and assume that it'll probably work and not fail because of a really weird geographical quirk.

If there is something then point it out but note that the same thing has been said about many other cities and its always (thankfully) proven to be false. When transit is available and competitive with driving. People will choose to use it.

by drumz on Apr 10, 2014 12:27 pm • linkreport

LowHeadways - I like your point (in the story about Chris Christie) about the major investments in transit needed. One issue I have with the Amp and BRT is it's a "second best" solution. My neighborhood was originally served by streetcars. They're a lot more expensive, but I think they'd attract a lot more support and ridership.

How to pay? I'd favor a fat gas tax. Because the only way you're going to get people out of their cars is higher gas prices. But the transit you offer instead should be better than bus transit--worth a long-term investment.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 10, 2014 12:29 pm • linkreport

I am pretty sure that the Small Starts program does not require dedicated lanes. A "BRT lite" project with signal prioritization, off vehicle payment, etc, is eligible, IIUC. OTOH if it was clear that dedicated lanes were important to reduce operating costs and get competitive travel times, FTA might be reluctant to fund something without them on a particular corridor.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 10, 2014 12:32 pm • linkreport

"They're a lot more expensive, but I think they'd attract a
lot more support and ridership. "

Oy. I suggest searching GGW for "street car" Lets just say that if there arguments against BRT in Nashville, there are just as cogent argument for BRT as better than street car in many corridors. A dedicated lane street car would present most of the same problems you have with BRT. A street car in mixed traffic is generally only worthwhile where a dedicated lane BRT is not possible, and where certain other criteria hold (some of which do not appear to hold in your corridor)

There is some controversy about whether street car gets significantly better ridership than bus for the same operation (IE dedicated in both cases, or mixed traffic in both cases) (I lean to the rail DOES get more ridership camp, but you should be aware its no slam dunk) But I think there are few who would argue that a street car in mixed traffic will draw more riders than a BRT in a dedicated lane - the dedicated lane allows for faster more reliable operation, and thats important to transit riders.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 10, 2014 12:37 pm • linkreport

Ms Katz

We just had an election in Arlington COunty, Va, where a key issue was an "elitist, arrogand" board of supervisors, that "ignored public opposition to impose its vision of street cars, when buses are just as good and less expensive, because it hipster constituents think they are too good to ride the bus"

This is why I think it may be worthwhile to look at the national debate - if anything it will give you a realistic look at what your favored alternative may face. And BTW, Atlantic Cities is not a bad place to start (if its contrarianism sometimes leads to silly mistakes)

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 10, 2014 12:41 pm • linkreport

I'm confused as to why "serves an existing route" is a bad thing. You wouldn't build a subway system in a cornfield, would you?

You want high-quality transit in the places where transit is already successful. This is an upgrade to service - it should go where service is already used so we can guarantee that the upgrades are providing the most benefit they can.

Furthermore, the assertion that this is displacing "more convenient" local bus service is off-base. The local service is only "more convenient" if you define convenience as "distance to my stop" and ignore everything about frequency, how long it takes you to get anywhere, etc. You may have to walk longer to get to a BRT stop, but if the service is more frequent (it will be) and faster then you're likely to get to your destination more quickly. The local bus service sure won't be convenient 15 years from now when it is crawling through gridlock rather than zipping along in a dedicated lane.

The complaints about widening the road also seem to be happening in a vacuum. Yep, it sucks that the project might cut into some laws along the way. But what are the alternatives for this corridor in the long-term if BRT is not built? The alternatives analysis lays out what's in the long-range city plan - widening the road for more traffic! So again, people need to think about the realistic options presented to them, not some other idea of what they think should be there.

As for "it doesn't connect to anything," what should it be connecting to? It runs along a commercial corridor. There is a hospital at one end. There is a popular neighborhood at the other. There is downtown in-between. What more "stuff" (activity centers) could you possibly connect to in 7 miles in Nashville?

by MLD on Apr 10, 2014 12:49 pm • linkreport

Walker, here's my question: Do streetcars run on fossil fuels? Can BRT buses be electric/less polluting?

Ironically, our battle has been over the merits of regular bus service (more stops and seats) versus BRT (lots of standing room, which proponents haven't emphasized)--although they're done everything possible to imply it's not a bus.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 10, 2014 12:55 pm • linkreport

regular bus service (more stops and seats) versus BRT (lots of standing room, which proponents haven't emphasized

It's been observed that people actually value frequency (meaning the average person will stand on a crowded bus than wait for a seat). Even if consumer preference surveys would say that they value comfort.

Streetcars can run on anything though most systems run on electricity. Now, the electricity can be generated via fossil fuels but it can also come from renewable sources.

by drumz on Apr 10, 2014 1:00 pm • linkreport

Me, too. If we had followed the original transit plan and implemented BRT light along a much longer route first, and then explored the possibility of a BRT system 10 years from now, we would not be at loggerheads today.

But BRT light wasn't going to bring in the federal $$. I think these grant programs need to be revised to accommodate well-change in stages.

Probably the reason why this approach wasn't selected is that it's incredibly wasteful. You can't build a system of improved stops for a curb-running service and then turn around 10 years later and rip it all up to make it center-running. That would be a silly use of funds. The alternatives analysis looked at BRT light if you are interested in the estimates it made.

And again, I still don't understand the derision directed toward "federal money." These grant programs exist to get projects off the ground. Your local officials want to take advantage of what is essentially other people's money. Why is this a problem again?

by MLD on Apr 10, 2014 1:04 pm • linkreport

"Walker, here's my question: Do streetcars run on fossil fuels? Can BRT buses be electric/less polluting? "

Street cars run on electricity. So go look at how electricity is generated in your area. For extra economist/nerd points, look at how the marginal Kilowatt is generated.

BRT buses can be powered the same way any other buses are. Electic or natural gas as well as conventional fuel or hybrid. Note that natural gas requires specialized support infra, so likely does not make sense for only one line (nat gas nerds can chime in here, if anyone else is still following this thread)

BTW, you earlier stated that many of the origins and destinations envisioned are not right near the route stations on this corridor. I would suggest that indicates an advantage to BRT over rail - since you can run buses off the dedicated lanes, in mixed traffic, to access those more dispersed places. Rail is stronger when most origins and destination are walkable from the line.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 10, 2014 1:16 pm • linkreport

"Ironically, our battle has been over the merits of regular bus service (more stops and seats) versus BRT (lots of standing room, which proponents haven't emphasized)--although they're done everything possible to imply it's not a bus."

To the extent that fewer people ride bus than rail because of bus stigma, that makes perfect sense for attracting ridership. Plus, leaving bus stigma aside, it makes sense to try to get the advantages of rail (for - arguably - less money) If you are really interested in a discussion of buses and rail and their relative advantages, I suggest looking Human Transit, a transit blog run Jarrett Walker. For a POV more sympathetic to rail than Walkers, look up rail vs bus on BeyondDC, a blog run by Dan Malouff, author of the above post.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 10, 2014 1:20 pm • linkreport


Exactly how many lawns are we talking about, here? There are only a handful left between West End Middle and MBA. Granted, they're probably some of the most expensive in town...

by Matt Edens on Apr 10, 2014 1:21 pm • linkreport

It is NOT the case that dedicated ROW is required to get $$$ on the Small Starts program. You do need features similar to a rail system, but they can include:

Defined stations;
o Traffic signal priority for
public transportation vehicles;
o Short headway bidirectional
services for a substantial part
of weekday and weekend
days; and
o Any other features the
Secretary may determine
would support long-term
corridor investment, but the
majority of which does not
operate in a separated rightof-
way dedicated to public
transportation use during
peak periods.

http://www.pbtransportationupdate.com/pdfs/legislation/map%2021%20nswg%20nssscc%20approval%20process.pdf

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 10, 2014 1:27 pm • linkreport

+1 for MLD's comment on Apr 10, 2014 @ 12:49 pm.

This BRT project is a start, and it connects to SOME things but not all things. And that is OK as a start. Metro rail did not connect to a lot of things at first and it took years and years for it to expand to the system we all use (and need) today.

This BRT may replace a local service, but I presume it is heavily used and important to people (why Katz is defending preserving it). So except for more distance spaced stops (boo), it has all of the benefits transit riders want (yay).

If Katz' real concern is that there is so much else to do, then let this project be the catalyst for all of those next improvements. More bus service into poorer areas, established routes go BRT-lite, and then over time more pieces of the map go full BRT (and even streetcar afterward). That seems like a logical progression here.

How about this: if not BRT here to start with *(assuming it has to be BRT vs. Katz' preference for more local service, etc), where in Nashville?

by JDC on Apr 10, 2014 1:31 pm • linkreport

You folks are missing my point about federal funding.

I endorse it.

I just don't think it should be the sole basis for project priority and project design. The Amp route was dead last in priority in the original master plan. The possibility of federal funding moved it to the head of the line.

Some basic facts about the proposed Nashville project:

My understanding is that the current bus service on the route proposed Nashville Amp runs at max 30% of capacity--partly because buses only come every half-hour to 45 minutes. MTA is projecting that the Amp will attract a maximum of 14% incremental riders--new bus riders--its first year of operation. If you eliminate new riders who are forced to use the Amp because existing, more convenient, cheaper downtown shuttle services will be asked to shut down to boost Amp ridership, the ridership gain is nil. It seems like simply increasing the frequency of regular bus service would be a good first step.

Nashville's major thoroughfares radiate outward in spokes. The Amp is a new service along an existing spoke. It does nothing to resolve the major problem of Nashville's mass transit system--passengers have to go all the way downtown and change buses to go anywhere but destinations on your spoke. Nashville's MTA doesn't sell transfers, so you also have to buy two tickets to get anywhere that's not on your spoke. That makes it cheaper to drive. The Amp project as planned does not include shuttles or buses to connect the spokes. That means Amp riders can travel up and down the spoke or change to other buses downtown--things they can already do on the regular bus.

Finally, the Amp ends in down a dead-end street on a hospital campus that's hard to access because it backs up to CSX railroad tracks on one side, is bounded by a college campus on the other, and is adjacent to a creek that regularly floods. This location is the lesser of several evils--a third-mile up the road is one of the worst intersections in Nashville. But it means the Amp doesn't connect with a major shopping and office space area and a major cross route--it's a third of a mile away down a hill in a flood plane in an area with abysmal pedestrian access. I believe this is one reason why the Mayor has pulled back on proposing dedicated lanes on this portion of the route. BRT light could terminate near the major intersection and adjacent to shopping and offices--which makes much more sense than the proposed Amp terminus.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 10, 2014 3:31 pm • linkreport

Matt Edens - I think the number of properties is between 50 and 60. Some are single-family homes; some are multi-unit complexes. 3 or 4 are part of Welch College; 6 or 7 churches/synagogues, 3 with private schools/day schools with parent drop-offs daily; 2 major private school campuses. My understanding is that Metro can take the property they need via eminent domain, but they may in up in court for years over property value.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 10, 2014 3:38 pm • linkreport

It does nothing to resolve the major problem of Nashville's mass transit system--passengers have to go all the way downtown and change buses to go anywhere but destinations on your spoke.

No, but it's not meant to, either. No one project will solve all problems. However, if service on the existing spokes is still just every 45 minutes, then that would be a big problem as well - a problem that the Amp seems to address.

by Alex B. on Apr 10, 2014 3:43 pm • linkreport

>I think Rebecca has shown herself to be a reasonable and well informed person. Maybe what GGW could do is ask her to write a good counterpoint article.

counterpoint to what, exactly? i dont see any great defense of the merits of amp in malouff's post, just a broad statement that picking BRT won't automatically deflect you from criticism. how will a bunch of criticism from rebecca (even if it's all true) be a counterpoint to that?

by ballston guy on Apr 10, 2014 3:44 pm • linkreport

Alex, the problem is, the Amp is more frequent along 7 miles of a much longer route, and MTA is going to decrease other bus service along the entire route to help subsidize a service that's an option for fewer people.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 10, 2014 3:47 pm • linkreport

What Ballston guy said

We don't generally even get into the details of transit projects or zoning issues in Baltimore for crying out loud. We're going to debate a project in Nashville like its the street car on Columbia Pike? Dan's post was a reflection on broader political issues relative to mode choice. It was not intended to be a dissection of Nashville politics, Nashville transit ridership, or project planning procedures in Nashville. And the fact that non-ideologues (or leftwing ideologues for that matter) have substantive and procedural issues with the project (whether justified or not) does not at all contradict Dan's point about right wing ideologues.

Let's point Ms Katz to sources on the issues she is concerned about, so she can learn more, and move on.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 10, 2014 3:52 pm • linkreport

@Rebecca: looking at first year numbers seems to miss the point when looking at generational infrastructure which is intended to spur new development. You continue to sound like you're focused with tunnel vision on your priorities, which may be great, but are irrelevant. (Unless there's an actual alternative on the table to provide a ring route instead of this BRT line.) This sort of planning needs to look at 20, 30, 40 years out, and you're focused on what you need right now and in the next year. It similar to arguments we have around here about short term rail ridership and population numbers when we're planning rights of way that will be here 100 years from now.

by Mike on Apr 10, 2014 3:56 pm • linkreport

MTA is going to decrease other bus service along the entire route to help subsidize a service that's an option for fewer people.

They've said they're going to decrease service outside of the AMP corridor? Or is this just an assumption?

Also, you cite federal funds as the reason they picked this corridor - funds available based on the density (population and employment). Density and transit go together; that density represents potential riders. If you were going to increase frequency along one part of the line, it sounds like this would be the best place to do it.

by Alex B. on Apr 10, 2014 4:01 pm • linkreport

Mike, while I agree we need to look long-term, I think there are also significant differences among Nashvillians in our vision for the city long-term. That's a conversation we're actually trying to have in Nashville, but the results of that conversion appear to be a foregone conclusion. Community meetings have a perfunctory feel.

There are also conflicting stories about rates of growth.

I think it's very hard to plan out much beyond a 20-year horizon because of evolving technologies. I'm hoping for a more fluid and less perfunctory-community-meetings-and-then-we're-going-to-upzone-like-hell-near-downtown approach.

The Amp has been such an acrimonious issue it has tainted what should be positive discussions about Nashville's future--although everybody agrees on one thing: We don't want to become Atlanta.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 10, 2014 4:09 pm • linkreport

Alex, MTA is going to eliminate one small side route off the Amp corridor served by regular buses, and reduce the frequency of regular bus service. The reduction in frequency will affect the entire bus route, which is more than twice as long as the Amp corridor.

If you think of Amp service as an improvement (and I don't--it's more frequent, but less convenient, and you're more likely to end up standing when what I look forward to on a bus ride is reading), it's an improvement near downtown that reduces service further out. IMO, we should be doing the opposite.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 10, 2014 4:14 pm • linkreport

The post might not have started as a critique of the opposition but it certainly devolved into that argument. Seems like it would be more fitting of the spirit of the blog to just give the local a venue to make their case if they want to so that people want to have a civil discussion about it.

by BTA on Apr 10, 2014 4:20 pm • linkreport

I can read while standing. Its done all the time on the DC metro. I used to be able to stand while reading, and carefully folding, the daily New York Times (back when it was a lot thicker than it is now) I suspect few who have not lived in NYC have such skills ;)

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 10, 2014 4:23 pm • linkreport

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by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 10, 2014 4:24 pm • linkreport


I'm quite familiar with the area, Rebecca. My sister-in-law's mother used to live in one of the condo complexes and the best man at my wedding grew up on Brighton (Just off Bowling).

Not surprising that when it comes to opposition, the uproar out there "driving the bus" (so to speak...). Were you around when 440 was built? And in light of that, I'm surprised Metro leadership didn't see this fight coming.

Personally, they probably would have been smarter not to go past 440 on West End and perhaps make up the difference building a branch route out 21st, through the Hillsboro Village/Belmont area.

by Matt Edens on Apr 10, 2014 4:31 pm • linkreport

If you think of Amp service as an improvement (and I don't--it's more frequent, but less convenient, and you're more likely to end up standing when what I look forward to on a bus ride is reading), it's an improvement near downtown that reduces service further out. IMO, we should be doing the opposite.

The 'IMO' reveals a lot. You are couching your complaints as objective concerns, but really you do not share the goals for the service.

You want more service to the edge of the city; this provides more service in the core. You want a route that cuts across the spokes, this emphasizes downtown as a hub.

Also, I would say that more frequent transit serivce is absolutely an improvement. I certainly think so for the buses and trains I ride. It's one of those mathematical truths that more frequent service is more frequent. If you don't share that goal, that's fine - but I don't think you can say that more frequent service isn't an improvement.

by Alex B. on Apr 10, 2014 4:45 pm • linkreport

I DO remember the uproar over 440--not long after I moved to Nashville--but we desperately needed 440, and I was in favor of it.

One significant difference is that there was a huge right-of-way where 440 was slated for construction already in place when I moved to Nashville in 1981. The Amp will be retrofitted onto a highly developed corridor, and almost every business west of I-40 opposes it because of access and business disruption issues.

Mayor Dean has now backed off on dedicated lanes past 440--because (I believe) there is not way to make it work without a lot more pain and expense than the benefit derived from the 1.7 miles of dedicate bus lanes.

It

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 10, 2014 4:50 pm • linkreport

Alex, transit shouldn't be a zero sum game. Adding what amounts to a "luxury" service on a route that's already served shouldn't subtract from or eliminate service on other routes.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 10, 2014 4:57 pm • linkreport

Calling modestly frequent transit a 'luxury' is an awfully value-laden statement. I agree that transit shouldn't be a zero sum game, but I haven't been convinced that this project is zero sum. It seems like a substantial improvement.

by Alex B. on Apr 10, 2014 5:05 pm • linkreport

Alex, what we will have is 10-minute transit along a 7-mile corridor, and transit every 45 minutes to an hour along the remainder of the route. I think that's a net loss. It's sort of like giving the schools near the richest people modern textbooks while those in poorer areas of town get textbooks from the 1960s.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 10, 2014 5:23 pm • linkreport

Er no, its not like that at all.

If you beleive that you will need to oppose streetcars, because you will always start them one line at a time, and generally only in denser areas. Ditto for subways.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 10, 2014 5:32 pm • linkreport

Walker, do Transit Authorities always scale back on services on other routes or that extend beyond existing routes to underwrite the operating costs of a new service?

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 10, 2014 5:57 pm • linkreport

I'm not doing a good job of explaining this scenario--my apologies.

The Amp will run every 10 minutes along a 7-mile route.

It will not replace regular bus service on the same route. That service serves a route that's twice as long as the portion covered by the Amp.

However, the frequency of regular bus service will be decreased along the entire route. Rather than running every half-hour, buses will run along the entire route every hour.

So, if you live or work beyond the Amp's reach, your existing bus service will be reduced. And if you used a service that currently connects two adjacent bus routes, that service will be discontinued to help underwrite the cost of the Amp.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 10, 2014 6:04 pm • linkreport

Arlington County does not have a Department of Transportation, as stated in the author's information.

by Yerp on Apr 10, 2014 7:41 pm • linkreport

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by selxic on Apr 10, 2014 10:12 pm • linkreport

"Walker, do Transit Authorities always scale back on services on other routes or that extend beyond existing routes to underwrite the operating costs of a new service? "

They often reconfigure services when a new service is introduced. For example when the 29K buses Nothing in transit happens "always".

But change happens and due to limited resourcs, some gain, some lose. For example Metrobus recently changes the 29K bus from old town to Annandale, to run express on the Alexandria portion - fewer stops, higher speed. If you need to go to the local stops, you can use the DASH buses run by the City of Alexandria (they existed before, and as far as I know, there are not more of them than before) If you go from Old Town to the local stops on that route, you have less frequent service. If you go from the local stops on that route to Annandale, you now have to take two buses instead of one. OTOH if you are going from Old Town to one of the express stops, or to Annandale, you have a faster ride. Thats life. Tradeoffs. The only way to avoid those kinds of tradeoffs would be to put more total money into transit, but that too involves tradeoffs.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 10:12 am • linkreport

Its increasinly beleived that giving up close together stops to get better speeds is a good tradeoff.

see

http://www.humantransit.org/2010/11/san-francisco-a-rational-stop-spacing-plan.html

two more interesting articles you should read

http://www.humantransit.org/2011/04/basics-walking-distance-to-transit.html

http://www.humantransit.org/2010/05/basics-should-we-redesign-our-bus-network-and-how.html

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 10:18 am • linkreport

"Alex, transit shouldn't be a zero sum game. Adding what amounts to a "luxury" service on a route that's already served shouldn't subtract from or eliminate service on other routes. "

given constrained resources, it is and will be. If you want to increase operations on one route, without cutting somewhere else, you need to increase total funding. Many cities and regions struggle with how to do that.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 11, 2014 10:19 am • linkreport

While AWITC is correct that sometimes some people will get worse service to generate the funds to create better service elsewhere, in this case it is palpably unreasonable in a way that seems designed to create opposition.

With BRT the outer portion should have greater demand. Has snyone considered keeping 1/2 hr service in these outer areas and just going as far as the BRT terminus, with a timed transfer?

by JimT on Apr 11, 2014 3:05 pm • linkreport

It is unclear to me that service outside the BRT corridor is being affected. That is being asserted but I have not seen a plan that says that.

by MLD on Apr 11, 2014 3:28 pm • linkreport

Fair enough. My comment was assuming that Rebecca Katz had her facts correct in her most recent comment. If she got that wrong, or its just a scenario, people on the outskirts of those spokes should be demanding no reduction in service.

by JimT on Apr 11, 2014 8:35 pm • linkreport

re Navid, fixing red america, etc., for what it's worth, and I find this thread very interesting, at least from a land use planning standpoint, Nashville has one of the better planning frameworks and agencies in the US, e.g., when a colleague asked me for recommendations when MoCo was looking for a director recently, I suggesting the director of the Nashville-Davidson County planning dept.

So it's a bit facile to think of red and blue America and transit. E.g., Salt Lake City/Utah has some great transit planning and some great environmental and sustainability work and they are pretty damn Republican generally (although city politics specifically are more progressive). But I will concede that mostly you're right, just that it isn't categorical. But this issue of the state legislature is no different than the NoVA - RoVA split and how legislatures tilt in favor of rural interests and use that to f* cities.

Also from an urban management standpoint, Nashville-Davidson County being merged is very interesting.

Also, I was a bit chagrined the year that I did the bike plan in Balt. County that the Nashville-Davidson County bike plan won a national award. (They had a lot more money than I did, and many of the pathbreaking things they had were also in my draft, but taken out by higher ups...)

Now I don't know about the state of their transpo planning, but I do find this thread interesting, both in terms of Dan's take as well as Rebecca Katz' response.

The thing I advocate from the standpoint of new transit modes-systems and infrastructure is that it's better to start where you're already doing well, rather than not, because it is so likely that opposition will develop it's best to move from a position of strength. A good example is DC deciding to do streetcars first in Anacostia for equity reasons, without having support down cold. It's why we will launch streetcars almost 8 years after Seattle, even though our planning processes started at the same time.

So it is a reason why making transit/BRT work on that corridor as a highly visible project could be the way to go. OTOH, I don't know the area at all (Do want to visit, not just because of the "Nashville" tv show) so I do hesitate to weigh in the way I might normally.

But if the proposed route doesn't go to the right activity centers, needs to be extended, etc., then that does need to be addressed, not unlike how MoCo has proposed a BRT network rather than a line or two.

by Richard Layman on Apr 12, 2014 4:14 pm • linkreport

re: RK's point about transit equity, this is actually a lot more troubling point than you think. A lot of opposition in DC to streetcars is couched as transit equity issue. The same is true of the Bus Riders Union in LA's opposition to fixed rail transit. And I have been tracking more similar arguments elsewhere.

Other progressives like me argue that better transit, either or both BRT and fixed rail, is a positive move for equity for two reasons, (1) it is of higher quality, more reliable, more comfortable etc. (e.g., the Quick Buses in Baltimore get people, mostly low income, to places faster than the local service lines on the same route) and (2) by increasingly the likelihood of it being used by people with mobility choices (i.e., higher income people) it widens the support for continued funding of transit by creating more advocates for it.

The latter point is very important is that other than in a handful of cities in the US (DC, Boston, NYC, SF, etc.) transit is mostly seen as a social service for poor people not to be used by anyone who can afford to buy a car, rather than as an important tool for not just mobility but also improving communities in a variety of ways.

So I do become quite skeptical of the opposition, because it doesn't make sense to me either as an advocate for improving lives of lower income households or for transit. It's not like it's an either-or choice or that different kinds of better transit for poor people are going to be offered instead.

And the thing about capital vs. operating comes up too here. Again, the monies aren't fungible as others have said, but also the projects aren't related. E.g., doing streetcars in DC has nothing to do with available funds for light rail in Maryland or heavy rail in Fairfax County VA, but sometimes these DC progressives say that those projects are where the money should be going, even though no local DC money would ever go to those projects.

by Richard Layman on Apr 12, 2014 4:27 pm • linkreport

Re: "A project needs to stand on its own merits", hmm, that is a tough one. What everyone touts as amazing, Portland's sustainable mobility paradigm, started with one event, the decision to not rebuild a waterfront hwy, but to tear it down. Where they are today is the result of hundreds of incremental decisions and projects some super BHAG (big hairy assed goals), probably 90% or more weren't anticipated when they decided to tear down the freeway, and then followed up with a downtown plan that prioritized transit and de-emphasized automobility. When they did the downtown plan light rail, streetcars, and biking and walking weren't really on the horizon at all.

As a planner, you can get frozen when someone says "why can't we be like Portland?" because the person who says it, thinking of Portland today mostly has no idea of the past 40 years of decision making there.

It's not that you need 40 years to get there (I'd argue the benefit of Portland's efforts are that other communities have the ability to accelerate improvement and change based on those examples), but you do need to start.

by Richard Layman on Apr 12, 2014 4:35 pm • linkreport

"- Small government advocates getting in the way of local governance.
- and fiscal conservatives disregarding and blocking fiscal responsibility. "

I have found that this is normal. If you elect a "small government advocate", they will support intrusive federal government interference; if you elect a "fiscal conservative", they will blow a giant hold in the budget. Look no further than Ronald Reagan for examples.

I finally decided that anyone who campaigned on either of those lines was almost certainly a liar. I would actually support both "small government" and "fiscal conservatism", but all the people running for office who claim to support those things have been outright frauds, for over 40 years. And I don't vote for fraudsters.

by Nathanael on Apr 13, 2014 12:41 am • linkreport

Here's what I find interesting about this and other transit threads: There's a radical transit/urban planning community with unshakeable ideas on what's good for cities (higher-density development and any form of mass transit, regardless of the impact) and what's bad (opposition to mass transit and high-density development).

It's hard to have a discussion with members of the hard-core transit-uber-alles community, because they assume from the outset that if you oppose one transit project or certain types of high-density development--such as gated exclusive high-rise towers designed to wall out the surrounding neighborhood rather than to be a part of it--you oppose all of them.

Transit and development shouldn't be dictated from on high OR by national fads. I like the Jane Jacobs approach--which advocates mass transit, but also favors pedestrian and bike friendly development. Jacobs opposed high-rise development (what we're currently fighting in Nashville, along the Amp route and elsewhere) in favor of friendlier neighborhoods with stoops and benches and pocket parks. She also opposed "highways carved through urban neighborhoods and big commercial projects"--which is essentially what the Amp is. The bisects an established main thoroughfare and shows no respect for the existing businesses, restaurants, offices, apartment, churches and condo complexes and single-family homes.

I support transit, but people in the transit community are going to have to learn how to deal with what's already there. Right now, Nashville has a paucity of sidewalks: http://www.nashvillescene.com/nashville/as-the-city-grapples-with-public-transportation-nashville-neighborhoods-want-more-attention-for-sidewalks/Content?oid=4123293

If the Amp's promoters had focused on creating better pedestrian and bike access FIRST (at the expense of car access) and then proposed a thoughtfully designed BRT,
Jacobs believed that "cities should be untidy, complex and full of surprises. Good cities encourage social interaction at the street level. They are pedestrian friendly. They favor walking, biking and public transit over cars. They get people talking to each other. Residential buildings should be low-rise and should have stoops and porches. Sidewalks and parks should have benches."

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 14, 2014 4:04 pm • linkreport

She also opposed "highways carved through urban neighborhoods and big commercial projects"--which is essentially what the Amp is.

No, it is not. Come on.

by Alex B. on Apr 14, 2014 4:14 pm • linkreport

She also opposed "highways carved through urban neighborhoods and big commercial projects"--which is essentially what the Amp is.

They're turning an existing lane used by cars into a transit lane. Not sure how that can be twisted into a "highway" unless this road is already a highway.

If you more pedestrian-focused environments, you're going to have to encourage more pedestrians. And a good way to do that is to build transit so that people will take transit into an area and then walk from stations to their destination. Keeping this as a 6 to 8 lane road for cars only won't get it done.

If you think our non-acceptance of your arguments is because of some ideological bent rather than the fact that your arguments are mostly without merit then you haven't been reading.

by MLD on Apr 14, 2014 4:23 pm • linkreport

Rebecca Katz

I live near a road that is a potential corridor for LRT or BRT. Its called Gallows Road. Such a transit corridor would connect a major employment center (Tysons Urban district, with I guess more jobs than Nashville has) a metro station, some other key development sites, a major hospital, and a neighborhood with a diverse mix of people including many transit dependent working clas hispanics. To accomplish it will require taking away some people's front lawns. Are you coming in here and telling me we should never have a dedicated transit lane on Gallows because its wrong to ever take away a bit of front lawn?

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 14, 2014 4:31 pm • linkreport

"Here's what I find interesting about this and other transit threads:"

Im glad you are reading transit threads, because you might learn some things. But again, there are places to learn this stuff that are less DC focused than here - you might try Atlantic Cities, Human Transit, and StreetsBlog.

"There's a radical transit/urban planning community with unshakeable ideas on what's good for cities (higher-density development and any form of mass transit, regardless of the impact) and what's bad (opposition to mass transit and high-density development). "

I do not support any mass transit project. But its so hard for mass transit projects to make it through the many hurdles to get funding, I find most that do are good projects. Similarly with high density development - the bias of the political process, at least around here, is so much against it, that with a few exceptions, high density thats near transit and has an actual chance to be implemented is almost always good.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 14, 2014 4:37 pm • linkreport

Jacobs opposed high-rise development

Not really. She was about community planning that focused on things that worked rather than poorly thought out utopian Ideals. The actual building heights didn't matter so much as how the building fit in context with the community.

And anyway, if it's paramount that people's yards not be disturbed (despite that being completely ok for the govt to take for this purpose) then we can agree that it's better to use the existing ROW as much as possible?

by Drumz on Apr 14, 2014 4:43 pm • linkreport

Walker, I wouldn't deign to dictate transit options for your city/area any more than I think it's appropriate for you to dictate transit options for mine.

If, as you say, the proposed project connects to other transit options and areas, it may be a great option.

One of my issues with Nashville's proposed Amp is that its supporters claimed it will have a number of benefits that aren't supported by their own data anlysis.

In addition, Nashville has very limited pedestrian infrastructure. We've implemented some bike lanes and greenways in recent years, but we need much more of that sort of development to enable people to walk to public transit. I'd like to see us proceed with the promised pedestrian improvements now, while we sort out the Amp's design--so that when we do implement higher-capacity mass transit, people can get there on sidewalks.

In Nashville, it's already clear that--apparently for reasons involving cost and engineering--the Amp will not have dedicated lanes over interstate overpasses (which can't be widened) nor will they be constructed along the 1.7 miles of the route that's exclusively residences and churches. In those areas, the service will operate more like BRT light.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 14, 2014 4:48 pm • linkreport

Walker, I hope you are right about only good projects making it "through the many hurdles to get funding."

The Amp has not yet done that. It has been marketed for more than 2 years as a transit panacea with a video making a ride on the Amp look like a ride on a Disney monorail, and we do not yet have a completed grant application, a completed design (the mayor just asked the project engineer to revisit the use of dedicated lanes on overpasses and along 1.7 miles of the route where the highway--and it IS a state highway--would have to be significantly expanded), or the required NEPA study, and there are ADA compliance issues.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 14, 2014 4:54 pm • linkreport

Drumz, Nashville has a bad history with takings. We certainly needed the interstates, but it is not an accident that I-40 divides the have and have-nots--and that when it was constructed, the community it divided and where houses were condemned and acquired via eminent domain was the city's black community.

There will always be a need to take property to deal with city growth, but it should be done with care and respect instead of letting these property owners find out that the Amp was going to put traffic lanes 8 feet into their front yards via the grapevine.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 14, 2014 4:58 pm • linkreport

"Im glad you are reading transit threads, because you might learn some things."

One thing I've learned is that cults have a blind side regardless of what they're centered around. The transit cult is also incredibly condenscending, rude and superior.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 14, 2014 5:01 pm • linkreport

"Walker, I wouldn't deign to dictate transit options for your city/area any more than I think it's appropriate for you to dictate transit options for mine. "

I am not dictating choices for nashville. I am responding to generalizations you made. If taking a bit of front law always makes a project bad in Tenn, how could it not in Va?

"Walker, I hope you are right about only good projects making it "through the many hurdles to get funding."
The Amp has not yet done that."

I am referring to what you have seen in transit threads around this blog - they are usually about projects HERE, not about the AMP.

"One thing I've learned is that cults have a blind side regardless of what they're centered around. The transit cult is also incredibly condenscending, rude and superior"

There is no cult here, but people who discuss the details of local projects, including their politics. By calling it a cult YOU are being rude. I said you might learn something because from your initial posts, there are clearly things about transit projects, from the impact of frequency, to controversies about street cars, to financing, that you do not know.

I am continuing to argue because you are claiming things about transit in general that are incorrect (and might lead people to oppose projects here) and because you are insulting people here. I note - I am NOT going onto a NASHVILLE blog to discuss AMP. I do NOT know why you are arguing here. I doubt anyone in a decision making role at FTA reads this, and even if they do, they have established criteria for the Small Starts program.

by AWallkerInTheCity on Apr 14, 2014 5:12 pm • linkreport

This blog discussed the Amp, as have other blogs and publications around the country.

It implied that the main opposition to the Amp was of the "don't spend money on public works" variety. There are certainly people in Nashville and Tennessee who oppose the project for that reason, but many oppose it because the Mayor invested a lot more effort in promoting the Amp than in designing it and made absolutely no effort to get public buy-in up front.

Why should someone who is familiar with this project not weigh in?

While local transit advocates have made the same claim you have about ridership projections, we've already made one transit investment--a rail service to an outlying city--that never met ridership projections and is heavily subsidized.

My issue with the Amp is that I believe its stops are so inconveniently located and its route so short that it won't attract enough riders so people will see a positive return on the investment and want to extend it further. I think we are better off to extend BRT light service to a broader area and then, when ridership builds, implement BRT in areas where it works from an engineering standpoint.

by Rebecca Katz on Apr 14, 2014 5:25 pm • linkreport

The summary of my research report on "incremental BRT" for Mineta Transportation Institute at http://transweb.sjsu.edu/project/2704.html is likely pertinent to this interesting comment thread.

As I wrote there, "Quantitative results from the case studies suggest that incremental improvements, applied widely to regional bus networks, may be able to achieve significant benefits at a lower cost than substantial infrastructure investments focused upon just one or a few corridors."

The web page displayed under my name has a follow up report on this approach.

by John Niles on Apr 15, 2014 2:14 pm • linkreport

@AWITC: I would give Rebecca Katz a pass for visiting this blog from Nashville, although I wish she had at least broought some of Nashville's music with her.

But it is noteworthy that she failed to respond to MLD's comment that she had not really demonstrated that bus service frequency at either end of the BRT will be cut from 60 to 30 minutes. Failing to substantiate one of her more persuasive arguments makes one wonder.

by JimT on Apr 16, 2014 3:57 pm • linkreport

Those who think "move the project to Charlotte" meant Charlotte, North Carolina, are wrong.

The original BRT route was Charlotte AVENUE in Nashville, another major East/West corridor that runs about a mile north of the West End corridor.

When the commenter said, "Move it to Charlotte," they meant Charlotte Avenue, as many people thought that was a better location and a corridor more in need of the type of development a BRT would encourage.

by rebecca katz on May 22, 2014 3:25 pm • linkreport

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