Route Simplification

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Compared to peer cities, Nashville MTA operates a relatively small number of routes for a city its size. As a result, routes become complicated, with many variant routes and indirect service. The more complicated a system becomes, the harder it is to understand it.

For people to use transit, they must be able to understand it, and simple route structures are easier to understand than complex ones. Therefore, it is likely that Nashville MTA can attract new riders by simplifying service.

What can Nashville MTA/RTA do to simplify routes? Do you think local service has too many stops and routes or not enough? Should Nashville MTA consider consolidating routes or expanding? What do you think?


  1. says

    I challenge anyone to come up with a simpler route system than One.

    One RapidBus route making three loops through Davidson County with connections to local service (local is not the same as going downtown) and RTA ExpressBus hubs.

    One. Very simple. Let’s see what you’ve got, nMotion.

    I’m ready to design my own transit system. When does that come?


  2. Amy says

    I saw the article about an upcoming meeting in Gallatin and, while I will not be able to attend that interest meeting, I did want to post some comments. Regarding the existing RTA commuter bus routes, I recently chose to turn down a job in the Metro Center area of Nashville due to lack of public transportation. While I could easily catch a morning RTA at Walmart in Gallatin and arrive at Music City central in time to catch an MTA to Metro Center and be in my office by 8 am, there was no was for me to come back home at the end of the day. Given the standard 8 am to 4:30 pm State work day, there was only one MTA bus after 4:30 pm at Metro Center and it would arrive at Music City Central too late to catch the last RTA back to Gallatin. This seems like a serious oversight in route planning. Any route taking people to work needs to have a corresponding route back home!
    On a completely different issue, the need for a basic bus line in Sumner county is huge. The existing MTA route up Gallatin Rd which ends at the county line would be heavily used if it was extended all the way up Gallatin Rd as far as the Gallatin Civic Center parking lot. This would enable all the residents of Gallatin public housing to have access to jobs in Hendersonville and the Rivergate area. A route detour over to the Streets of Indian Lake would probably be a really good idea as well.

  3. JA Douglas says

    A ‘route tracing’ exercise could be useful here; by studying the average resident’s travel habits within the metro Nashville area – it could offer some insight into whether current routes offer reasonable schedules and transit stops within a radius that allow riders to reach their destinations (i.e. work, post office, grocery store, etc.) in an efficient and time effective manner.

    • David Smith says

      Tracing is exactly right, because the flaw in traffic studies is that they often measure density of travelers, not their travel vectors.

      The city needs to measure a map of two-point correlations between every point A and every point B to see what the most common A->B segments are and then join those into routes.

      Make a phone app. We’ll all download it and let you have our anonymized route info for free.

      • says

        Thanks for the comment as well, David. Developing a phone app is one of many options Nashville MTA/RTA is considering to provide better information to riders. An app for Nashville should begin rolling out toward the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016. In the meantime, I encourage you to read about other methods of communication here:

    • says

      Thanks for the positive comment, JA. You’re right, some sort of ‘route tracing’ exercise could be useful. We are always looking for new ideas to reach the public and ways to implement studies better.

  4. Stephen McClure says

    There are clear lessons to be learned from successful system redesign in other cities. A system that makes better sense and is easier to explain to new users can go a long way towards improvement. I am stunned by how many people tell me they just don’t understand the system. Differing frequencies, odd routes, lack of predictability. These are frustrating and disrespectful to transit users and a recipe for stagnation/non-growth.

  5. Jan says

    The biggest factor for me is ensuring that I can make it to work on time. I have to be at work a little before 7 to ensure that I start on time. That is why I currently don’t use the service. Nobody can get me to work guaranteed in a timely manner.

    I do think it would be best to have straight shots out in the 4 directions with something other than rail handling stops closer to Nashville.

  6. Melissa says

    There are three routes for Nolensville Road (#12). I think all three are needed, and the branching point is set correctly.

    But there is a lot of confusion at the bus station when each of the three routes is scheduled within minutes of each other, and all taking off from the same bay.

    Last week, I was on the Hickory Plaza bus, and we played leapfrog with the Wallace/I24 bus all the way down Nolensville Road.

    A BRT route on Nolensville road would be great, as long as it leaves from a different bay. It could end at Lennox Village, and the 33X wouldnt have to make that jump over from Antioch.

    • Chelsea Lafferty says

      I agree with Melissa! This whole 3 different bus thing for number 12 is crazy and it is VERY confusing for newcomers to the bus system.

      • Christine Watt says

        I agree with Melissa, too! We need a BRT (or the light rail route proposed there in another post) that comes to at least Lenox Village. The current proposal to stop the BRT at Harding is of no use to use that live further south – where the congestion is much worse!

        I’ve taken Route 12 only once – because it would take me over an hour to travel the 12 miles to work. It was very difficult to determine which route I was going to be on when I boarded.