I remember when country music meant Hee Haw. I remember when moral victories were all you got at Dudley Field – think Alabama 66 - Vanderbilt 3 - September 29, 1979. I remember when traffic was not a problem - think no rush hour west of 12th and Broad. Those days are gone – mostly for the better.
This week, Mayor Dean came to the realization that the proposed bus rapid transit (AMP) he’d promoted for the last few years was not going to happen as initially envisioned. The Mayor deserves credit for taking a step back to hear more from the public on a project that I know means a lot to him. He also deserves credit for tackling one of Middle Tennessee's most pressing issues - our overburdened roadways.
As the City starts the process of “revamping” the AMP, I’d suggest we consider the following:
1) Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Revamping the AMP requires us to focus on the evidence of what increases bus ridership – the time interval between buses, extended hours of service, weekend service, and limited-stop service. What would it cost and how much would the City benefit from making improvements to the existing bus routes on West End, immediately? It’s also been mentioned that another corridor might be more politically viable for the AMP. While the West End corridor is ideal because of Nashville’s growth and the number of commuters from the surrounding counties, if the AMP cannot get worked out on West End, there are other areas we should consider - Clarksville Pike, Murfreesboro Pike, Gallatin Pike, Charlotte Pike. We don't want a reputation as a transit hostile city just because one project didn't work out.
2) Don’t think that we can improve our transit situation without some sacrifice. One weakness in the AMP proposal is its failure to emphasize the changes that some neighborhoods would see as a result of the AMP - especially, between I-440 and St. Thomas Hospital. It is a mistake to ignore the fact that a dedicated lane will inevitably make it more difficult for people using the West End corridor to navigate by car. Of course, some would have adapted and used the AMP and those already using the bus would have benefited. For those who could not or would not adapt, change would have meant sacrifice. Well, that’s the truth of it. Progress requires sacrifice.
3) Don't think this is Nashville's problem. This Tuesday, the day that the Mayor started revamping the AMP, I spent 30 minutes traveling from 31st and West End to Kenner and Harding. That’s about 2.25 miles. There was no accident – only traffic. As I sat in traffic, I took an informal survey of license tags. The majority was Davidson County but I’d say at least one-third were either out of state or out of county. I hope that the discussion at the State Legislature will move away from heated anti-Nashville rhetoric and focus on the need for the region to work on this problem together. If Rutherford County grows as much as predicted and we don't improve our mass transit, I-24 will be a parking lot much of the day. No one wants to be Atlanta - or worse.
4) Don't let a car dealer decide the direction of mass transit. Need I say more?
Glad Hee Haw's been replaced by Keith Urban. Glad Vandy's winning. We still have work to do on transportation.