Better Downtown Transit Service

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This report in the Transit Strategies Series explores streamlined downtown circulation.  A systematic reconfiguration of downtown transit is one important way to improve transit service—to increase individual transit options, to improve connections, and to focus service in ways that can make service faster and enable the provision of better passenger facilities.

What do you think?  How can Nashville MTA/RTA improve service Downtown? 


  1. Trent Primm says

    I already know the answer, “It is more expensive”. However, the questions I would like answered are the following. Has there been a study on developing an elevated rail system (elevated trains, monorails, etc.) to service downtown? (Make use of the air space above already built road/railroad infrastructure). Maybe this was one of the 18,860 engagements? If not, why not? If so, can you provide a reference? Why not think in three dimensions instead of two? Yes, I know, “expensive”. But everything is expensive and this idea would seem least obstructive to current infrastructure and therefore have some “social benefits” that would mitigate the increased cost. Thanks.

  2. mark says

    Let’s build some damn skybuckets. Opryland was a lot of fun and they do it in NYC from Roosevelt Island to Manhattan.

  3. Matt says

    In order for a comprehensive regional system to work effectively, there absolutely has to be quality local service in the City, that should be priority #1. People coming from surrounding communities/counties are not going to take transit into the City if it means they have no reasonable/quick option of getting to their final destination. Serious investments need to be made in mass transit from downtown to the city’s major employment/destination corridors. In a perfect world, this system would have limited/no interaction with vehicular traffic and would offer low headway times.

  4. Laura says

    A great example of the problem is my personal situation. I live downtown in SoBro. I can catch the bus at the train depot on 1st, must change buses on 4th at the main station, pay another fare to then take an hour bus ride over to 21st and 440, to get to work. I literally live 3 1/2 miles away from work. I can walk to work faster!

  5. Chris says

    I’m quite pleased how Nashville’s transit system has progressed in recent years.

    One thing I think we need are free transfers with the purchase of a single ride. Many other cities work that way. It’s important since your system is mostly built to get people in & out of the middle of the city by a straight line.

  6. T. Palmeri says

    I wish Nashville had a functioning mass transit system. I have visited many cities in the US and Europe that do.

    I work at Vanderbilt, and no one I know who could use mass transit does. Buses come too infrequently and unpredictably.

    For example, a few years back, my wife’s colleague tried to use the buses but learned that if she missed the 5:30 bus on 21st it would be another 45-60 minutes before she could catch the next one.

    Roll-outs of new services are done ineffectively.

    We used to live in East Nashville. For a (very) short while, there was a pilot project using trolleys. We saw them driving through the neighborhood passed our house and no one could figure out what they were doing and why they were there. The pilot was quickly cancelled because no one used the service. Perhaps this was advertised in the Tennessean or the local news – which no one I know actually reads or watches. There was no attempt to contact the neighborhood association. In fact, it was only after a few weeks that finally someone on the neighborhood listserv looked into what the trolleys were doing and learned that this was a pilot project. By that time, the project was cancelled.

    And worse, the trolleys ended up downtown, requiring a lengthy and unpredictable transfer to a bus to get to Vanderbilt or elsewhere on the other side of town. No one is going to add 15-30 minutes onto a mass transit commute if they can drive instead.

    We now live in the Edgehill neighborhood, so we don’t need mass transit to get to Vanderbilt.

    But we would love to use the green line to get downtown, for example for Titans and Predators games.

    We have not “risked” trying to take the green line for Preds games. In a city with a well-functioning mass transit system, it would be very clear where the green line buses were located after the game and there would be multiple buses lined up to take people back. Instead, in Nashville, the buses that would otherwise travel near the arena are rerouted and there’s no visible signage anywhere to indicate where to catch a bus (nor is there any clear information on the mta web site about green line routes during Preds and Titans games). And given my experience with mass transit in Nashville, I am skeptical that there would be multiple buses waiting to transport fans after the game.

    In a city with a functioning mass transit system, folks like us, who are season ticket holders, would get communications via the Predators on how to avoid having to park and describing viable mass transit routes. Maybe those communications have happened. But they’re infrequent and ineffective.

  7. Charles H. says

    I believe that the success of the system depends on moving people quickly to and from the main depot to their place of work. I would greatly expand the ‘free’ bus routes within the 440 inner loop. Once people get into downtown, they need reliable and frequent transportation to a point near their place of employment.

  8. Collin Brown says

    I think the best US city example of transit success is Portland. The bus service is excellent, it’s consistent and gets you everywhere you need to go in the central city.

    • says

      Now, if only all the children of Earth were to suddenly stop and point and say in unison: 'You are not pr&tdreaequop; That would, I think, be appropriate.

  9. says

    Have you guys looked into the Detroit People Mover ( I’m sure the research has been done but with all of the concern about limited space on the road maybe making an elevated system can help that? Just throwing it out there. I lived in Detroit for two years and this was inexpensive to use and very easy.

  10. Collin Brown says

    Nashville needs to focus its bus service on downtown and move out from downtown extending to East Nashville and the 440 corridor West of the Cumberland, including Germantown/Salemtown, Buena Vista, Hope Gardens, Fisk U, Hadley/Washington, TSU, West End, Vandy, Belmont/Hillsboro, Music Row, The Gulch, 12th S, Wedgewood Houston, SoBro.

    Instead of Nashville’s current intermittent bus service, Nashville needs a circulator system with buses making stops at each and every stop in a concentrated area. Bus riders should have to wait no more than 10 minutes at any stop. Start by building a reliable bus service with a great phone app and digital times at bus stations on all major routes. All bus routes should run until at least midnight 7 days a week with service until 3am Thurs-Sat. Once you’ve established good service in Central Nashville, you can expand beyond the 440 Loop.

    This will not be nearly as expensive as other forms of public transportation and could significantly reduce car traffic in town.

  11. Charles Cross says

    On my last drive out West End Avenue I envisioned the outer lane with no on street parking and converted to a bus only lane. Feasible?

  12. Shaun says

    A local and regional light rail service. Not a slow moving train Music City Star. The ability to travel from county to county without driving.

  13. Phil Cobucci says

    Fascinating read. When looking at what other cities have done and thinking about how Nashville “operates” as a city, there are a few things that stand out that could potentially work when it comes to Service Design…

    — Intersecting Trunk Routes combined with one frequent circulator (every 30 min) makes a lot of sense in my mind.

    — When I think of the failure of AMP, as much I believed in it, there were flaws in the program. That said, I still believe that Transit Emphasis Corridors (dedicated would be the best option, although a premium service (Light Rail) would be the “sexier” option.

    — I don’t think that Transit Only Malls can work within the existing infrastructure of this town.

    — I love the idea of signal priority, especially with our two lane roads in the heart of downtown. This might work better than having a dedicated lane, which members of the AMP opposition seemed to have such a hatred for.

    — The Kansas City study makes sense as an immediate next step for Nashville, in my opinion.

    — The current Downtown Nashville transit map, makes my eyes hurt. Fascinating to review the RIPTA reconfigured map. I believe Nashville can eventually get there or similar.