Yesterday, I was able to hear Mayor Karl Dean’s “Pitch” to support moving forward with the “East-West BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) Connector” code named “The AMP.”
Bring yourself up to speed on the AMP by going straight to the source – MTA AMP Website
Based on the presentation, questions from the “Peanut Gallery,” and the Mayor’s responses, a collage of my own opinions/thoughts, and discussions I’ve had with other Nashvillians, I offer the following observations and recommendations.
If you live, work, and play anywhere close to this East-West Connector route (Harding – West End – Broadway – Through Town to 5 Points on the East Side), you can’t help but notice MANY red StopAmp.org yard signs . . . and fewer (but increasing number) of Green AMPYES.ORG signs. . . There’s a Spirited Public Debate which the Mayor was fairly quick to dismiss as being relatively insignificant. He commented that with any change, there will be some folks who disagree . . . and that the polls he’s seen reflect that more than 70% of the respondents are PRO AMP. Check out their “platforms” at their respective websites here:
The Proponents – AMPYES.org
Of note is the fact that many of Mayor Dean’s answers about specific questions relating to the AMP were answered by saying that the design is “only @ 30% complete as of now,” so changes can be made along the way.
Sounds a little like: “Approve it now and we’ll all find out what it really is later.”
My first thought is along the lines of: “Why must things like this be so polarized?” Seems to me, this AMP project is just a hair more substantial than a dream today and that BOTH sides (“STOP” & “YES”) probably have points of view worth considering . . . with a bit of flexibility and common sense, the end goal can be accomplished.
So . . . I am in full support of the GOAL of the project which I understood the Mayor to say (I paraphrase) that Nashville will grow SIGNIFICANTLY in the coming years and that traffic capacity is already near or approaching 100%. We’ve GOT to make a commitment to expanding our Mass Transit System in a way that will entice car drivers to leave their cars at home and ride the public transportation. We must create a system that “Stitches the city together” and make it easy for folks to get wherever they want to go in Nashville without having to drive. This serves commuters, Tourists, Elderly/disabled people who are unable to drive, students and operates from a HUB which could in the future serve a larger, Regional system.
Mayor Dean referenced our “Competition” . . . specifically Charlotte, NC and Austin, TX and the importance of keeping up with them – “We’re 10 years BEHIND them WRT Mass Transit!”
I’m not writing this post in opposition to the goal.
I AM opposed to the AMP as being the Sole solution for the problem.
I believe we can achieve the goal without having to invest so much time, energy, and MONEY into this glitzy AMP.
Let’s keep the notion of BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) using the assets we already have.
We can do all the stitching we need to do NOW at a fraction of the cost of the AMP.
Sure, we’ll be losing the glitz-factor of fancy new platforms and buses with sides that open flush with the ground for easier ingress and egress . . . for now . . .
Those can come later if things are going well, and the budget allows.
The cost of the AMP is projected to be $174,000,000 (One Hundred Seventy Four MILLION Dollars) for a 7.1 mile connector with 11 Buses.
The Mayor says it can only happen if we receive the $75,000,000 we have asked the Federal Government to contribute. I have many issues with this.
- Any Federal money we accept for this project comes with strings attached. The Federal Government will impose requirements and limitations and has ALREADY been the primary impetus for the chosen route. The money would only be granted if the route is along a corridor with very high population and commercial density . . . The most congested streets in the City of Nashville. Take that Federal money, and we’ll have no flexibility to use common sense and establish the route along a route of our choosing.
- The Fed is already strapped – What are the odds they’ll cough up $75 Million for us? . . . They are not our ATM
- A question arose about whether the city would use local contractors . . . Seems the federal funding would require opening bidding to out-of-state contractors also
- Mayor Dean said that all these other cities are getting projects like this funded, so Nashville should get some of it too. Whatever happened to choosing to be a LEADER by striking out and doing the right thing and being exemplary models of living within our own means 🙂
What about a less expensive option?
In the event the Feds agree to the $75 Million, this would leave $99,000,000 on the tab for Nashville Taxpayers to pay . . . along with some other very expensive projects the Mayor has recently announced ($35 M rehab of Riverfront – $80 M Baseball Stadium – $200 M to fund the city’s unfunded Pension Plan (Withdrawn recently) and more.
While I support “Economic Growth & Development” I have what I believe to be credible concerns about the spending spree pattern that is emerging.
Why don’t we use current assets and implement a different route TODAY?
We can replace equipment as the life cycle of our current buses dictates
Mayor James Hunt of Belle Meade asked a very valid question: “Why terminate the AMP at St Thomas Hospital – Within yards of one of the busiest intersection in the city?”
- AMP users from the West won’t use it or will not have sufficient parking
- Why not Terminate at or past the 70/100 split . . . or Bellevue?
The Mayor’s response to the question of why not Regional Rail NOW? Essentially, he said that becomes too complicated because it involves several counties and the State of TN.
I can’t imagine our surrounding counties wouldn’t be ecstatic about participating in Regional Rail.
If we (Nashville) were to take the lead on a Regional Rail system, we would be the HUB for the SouthEast and the entire state of Tennessee would benefit as the spokes from the HUB radiate outwards.
Here’s my proposal:
- Scrap the AMP product (Save that $100+ Million bucks)
- Develop the “Stitching” with BRT within the city NOW using current Bus assets and adjusting traffic lanes
- Adopt a universal “Reloadable BRT Card” to be used for all Public Transportation
- Go ahead and do the hard work to get a REGIONAL Rail System where we REALLY need it
- Begin with N/S Corridor – From Vietnam Vets PKWY to the hub
- Next 24East from Murfreesboro to HUB
- Next 65 South Columbia to HUB
- Next 40 West to Dickson
- 40 East already has Music City Star – Upgrade
Fund it all with the bajillions of dollars we’ll be making as our region grows and develops.
So . . . Is this doable?
I’m not a politician, so I’m certain I’m missing some critical components . . . but I think what I’m suggesting could work.
My Dad made a comment I’ll never forget. I think it applies to this AMP discussion.
When developers plan multi-building sites (Like a business park or College Campus), they should complete the buildings and leave ALL of the common areas undeveloped (No sidewalks or defined patios etc).
Let the people show up and get to work.
Over time, They’ll beat their own paths from building to building and create their own gathering spots.
The developer then can come back and pave the paths excatly in the right places 🙂
This sure beats spending a ton of money in path design and construction only to have have the users beat their own paths anyway 🙂
And so it is for Mass Transit in Nashville . . . Let’s build it without spending $174,000,000 on short term glitz.
There . . . I said it!