Nashville residents weigh true cost of multi-billion dollar transit plan

 

Before you cast your vote on May 1, here are 8 things you'll want to know about the 55-page "Let's Move" transit plan.

1. What does it include?

New buses for expanded services and new cross-town routes, improved access points, a downtown tunnel, and light rail service in five high-capacity corridors in Davidson County.

2. Why's the plan only in Nashville, and not connecting to other counties where commuters actually live?

It's the law. Governor Haslam's Improve Act only allows referendums by county or city--and only for those with more than 112,000 people, or 165,000 residents.

3. What do surrounding counties think about the plan? Will they connect to it, if it passes?

Mayors across the region have endorsed the plan, but Nashville must go first. They want a better way to get their people to work in other counties-but not if they have to endure a grid-locked downtown. Nashville, the hub, needs its act in gear first.

4. How much will it really cost?

Almost $9 billion dollars: $5.4 billion in capital investment and $3.5 billion more to cover operations and maintenance, improvements, and financing and interest over 15 years.

5. How are we paying for it?

Raising four taxes: sales, hotel, business, and rental car taxes. That means as much as 47% of the dollars are expected to come from people who live outside the county, according to the plan.

6. Why more taxes?

Once again, it's the law. The Improve Act states eligible cities and counties can only propose raising one or a combination of 6 taxes. Property tax is not allowed to increase, by the way.

7. When can we start reaping any benefits of this massive investment?

Some of it, right away. The 10 most popular bus routes will increase in frequency fall of this year. In 2019, we can expect new bus route extensions, including expanded crosstown routes. The light rail will be ready starting in 2026, and fully finished in 2032. The Music City Star will not be ready till 2031.

8. Who came up with this plan anyway? How can we trust it's sound and what Nashvillians actually want?

It all began in June 2015 when metro developed the long-range plan for Nashville's future called "Nashville Next"..considered "a roadmap to growth" for the next 25 years. Transit was such a big piece of this discussion, metro got together with MTA and RTA to create the "NMotion Plan" in September 2016. Through that process, MTA/RTA asked Middle Tennesseans what they wanted and needed, including some 9000 responses to an on-line survey.

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Tracy Kornet is an award-winning anchor, host and writer. She joined News4 in September 2014.

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