NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Go to any bus stop downtown, and you’ll see people constantly hopping on and off. Many people living in the Metro and surrounding counties rely on our transit system to get to and from work. 

But it can also be a challenge, especially for low income workers. A new study by Urban Institute found public transportation is particularly hard for low wage workers who oftentimes don’t live in the city because they can’t afford it. 

"It’s very hard. There have been decades of research showing that the distance where people live and the opportunities that exist create longer spells of unemployment and makes you more likely to be unemployed. Particularly for low wage workers,” Tina Stacey, Principal Research for the Urban Institute said. 

Tina Stacy and her team at The Urban Institute analyzed data last January, looking at transit systems in Nashville, Lansing, Michigan, Baltimore, Maryland and Seattle, Washington. 

“I would say Nashville has some specific barriers that are very challenging with the sprawl of the city. We specifically chose Nashville (to study) because it is sprawling. And we know that it’s very hard to invest in a robust transit network with a city that’s so sprawling,” Stacy said. 

The Urban Institute also compared transit during the day versus the night. 

“In Nashville, this is showing daytime and nighttime access to jobs via public transit. And the shocking thing about Nashville is that both day and night are quite low access. If we compare this to say Seattle, where the central city, the darker the blue. The higher the access there is to jobs through public transit, at day and night.” And then, if you compare that to Nashville, during both times, there’s very low access to jobs through public transit,” Stacy said. 

Nashville is working to improve their transit system. Metro Council recently gave the green light on a new transportation plan that is expected to cost $1.6 billion over the next 10 to 12 years. 

It will include improvements to the WeGo Public Transportation System by expanding hours of service and improving service outside downtown and upgrading bus stops. 

Analysts say this is a great start and that transportation equity should be a priority for any growing city. 

“A Lot of people think, well, we just have to get the economy going first and then we’ll worry about inclusion and equity. And it cannot work like that. Equity needs to be at the forefront and center of every decision that’s made during a time like this,” Stacy said. 

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