Despite massive growth in Nashville, the pikes surrounding the downtown area still remain largely difficult to navigate. When Mayor Megan Barry announced at the State of Metro Address her plan to introduce light rail in Nashville, it only made sense to start with an area of town like Gallatin Pike, where people need a way to make it to work without sitting in their car for an hour or more.
According to a survey of the Gallatin Pike corridor, it’s considered an “important transportation corridor in the East Nashville and Madison communities and future land use plans call for concentrating development in nodal community centers with a pedestrian-oriented character.” Because the areas around Gallatin Pike — Hendersonville and Gallatin — are growing rapidly, the area stands to balloon even more in coming years.
In 2016, INRIX, which releases a traffic scorecard, ranked Nashville 23rd out of 240 in its list of the worst United States cities for sitting in traffic.
“We cannot wait another year to start the process of building our first light rail,” Barry said at the annual address. “I’m very happy to announce that today the work begins to create light rail service on the Gallatin Pike corridor. I’m excited to have the city start the process of making light rail available to our citizens. I’d drive across the river and put a shovel in the ground this afternoon if I could — and I might just do it anyway.”
Barry has called the Gallatin Pike corridor an obvious choice to start with because many people already using transit come from that area, and because, notably, neighborhoods and community members in that area are largely supportive of mass transit. When former Mayor Karl Dean attempted mass transit with AMP, he faced significant backlash from the communities he sought to start in — mostly affluent community members who may not have utilized mass transit as often or as a necessity.
The exact process for light rail transit is not yet set in stone: Barry will plan the system along with Metro Council and various community partners as well as bringing in constituents to ensure the process is well vetted before it begins. She eventually hopes to create high-capacity transit along the Gallatin, Nolensville, Murfreesboro and Charlotte Pikes, in addition to a system going from the Northwest Corridor and from North Nashville to Clarksville. She said in the State of Metro Address she’d take the plan to a voter referendum.
“Nashville cannot wait any longer to embrace our future,” Barry said. “We will be a 21st-century, transit-oriented city, and we are not going to look back 10 years from now and say we failed when we had to succeed.”
In addition to the broad transit plan, Barry allocated a $7 million increase to the Metro Transit Authority subsidy to fund the elimination of transfer fees and extend the Music City Circuit to Tennessee State University along the Jefferson Street corridor. Her budget also gave more than $35 million to MTA to replace its diesel fleet with 31 new hybrid buses.
Cover photo by Jay Sowers.