One thing is beyond doubt—Nashville's traffic grows worse by the day, as new arrivals swell the city's population exponentially faster than the existing infrastructure can even be maintained.
Until now, Nashville's leadership has lacked a clear, workable plan for expanding transportation to make progress against the rising tide of traffic. The current plan Nashville voters are being asked to weigh in on is the result of years of study, including community listening forums, and take into account demographic data that positions the city to not only attempt to catch up with, but get ahead of, the changing shape of the city's population.
The details of the plan are well-explicated (for more information see Julie Chase's summary of Mayor Briley and transit leaders' presentation at PLAY, as well as the Tennessean's breakdown of the plan). And our own columnist, Julie Chase, has offered a measured argument in behalf of transit.
The battle lines are being drawn: on the one side a broad-based coalition of Nashville civic and political leaders, on the other a set of Koch brothers- and Beaman-funded campaigns that are singleminded in their opposition to the plan.
The Beaman/Koch-allied opponents of transit have shown their true stripes in recent weeks, with arguments like "transit will mean more attacks like the Waffle House shooting" and outrageous claims that the plan will cost the average Nashville family six-figures over their lifetimes—which is to say consistent misinformation on a grand scale.
By covering most of the cost with a sales tax increase, the plan actually spreads the burden fairly lightly over most Davidson county residents, while placing much of the cost of the infrastructure on those from the outside—suburbanites, who tax our transportation infrastructure but seem to expect to bear none of the costs, and the tourists with which locals have developed such a love-hate relationship.
The facts are simple: Nashville has a plan for combating traffic, that combines a robust increase in bus service, with a light rail plan the offers wide ranging coverage and opportunities for regional expansion. The alternative is bought and paid for by Beaman- and Koch-backed groups. We can’t imagine what interest conservative-leaning car moguls might have in making sure that the roads remain as overly full of car traffic as possible, and that the poor remain tied to the status quo of used-car lease indentureship. Draw your own conclusions about that.
A vote for transit is a vote for a viable, long-studied, well-planned step forward. A vote against transit is a vote for the transportation policy entropy that is slowly turning our streets to parking lots, and Nashville into one big Beaman used car lot.
NOTE: The Editorial Board of Out & About Nashville unanimously approved support of the transit plan, but this article represents that opinion solely as expressed by the managing print editor, James Grady.