Residents, activists raise concerns over mass transit plan - WSMV News 4

Residents, community activists raise concerns over Nashville mass transit plan

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Residents and community activists are concerned about the city's mass transit plan. (WSMV) Residents and community activists are concerned about the city's mass transit plan. (WSMV)

Some Nashville residents are concerned the mayor's proposed mass transit plan may leave some neighborhoods behind.

A group of bus riders, neighbors and community activists marched down Gallatin Pike to City Hall on Tuesday to make sure their voices were heard.

"We're just starting. We're going to deal with the council members, you can call, you can get on Facebook, leave a message with the mayor, leave a message with MTA. Call your city council (member)," said Howard Allen, a community activist.

Community activists with the grassroots coalition People's Alliance for Transit, Housing and Employment said they worry construction of a light rail system could spur more development that pushes them out of their neighborhoods.

"If the mayor's going to be putting a $6 billion system with light rail when (how) come she's not building 31,000 homes that she said she was going to build for affordable people?" said resident Angelique Johnson.

Mayor Megan Barry's office said housing is not a part of the proposed transit project. Barry said the city can't make developers build affordable housing without incentives, but the city is planning to address those concerns through other ways.

Johnson is legally blind and depends on public transit to get around. She believes the city should focus first on expanding existing bus routes before taking on bigger projects.

"On weekends it runs like every hour, so it's hard for me to go to the grocery store in an hour and go washing my kids' clothes on the weekends and do normal things I have to do on the weekends to prepare for Monday," said Johnson.

Barry's transit plan is still in development. In mid-October, her office plans to make it public and get community feedback. The mayor said the plan does include more routes that run longer and are more frequent. Those who work on Gallatin Pike told News4 they like the idea of more transit options but not if it's at the expense of lower-income neighborhoods.

"I want the area to grow and evolve, but I want everyone in the community to grow and evolve with it," said Zakar, the owner of Diva's Kloset on Gallatin Pike.

The residents said they want the construction project to hire local, but the mayor's office said state law overrode a local hire amendment from 2015, restricting the city's ability to require local preference on Metro contracts.

"We have worked with the Nashville Career Advancement Center, Organized Labor, and Contractors to create the Nashville Construction Readiness Partnership designed to train and introduce more Davidson County workers into the construction labor market," said the mayor's office.

The mayor wants a tax referendum to fund the plan, and she will need Metro Council to approve it in January or February 2018 to get it on the ballot for a vote in May.

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