Scenario 1: Comprehensive Regional System

A Comprehensive Regional Transit System would provide very convenient service in much of Davidson County and strong regional connections. Improvements would include frequent service for long hours and a Frequent Transit Network composed of Light Rail, Streetcar lines, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), and Rapid Bus. It would also include Commuter Rail to Clarksville along the northwest corridor, major improvements to the Music City Star, Freeway BRT, Express Bus-on-Shoulder operations, and local services in outlying counties. Transit ridership would increase significantly, and many would use transit as their first choice.

Regional Potential Transit Improvements: Click to Enlarge
Davidson County Potential Transit Improvements



  1. Michael says

    Why is there not light rail discussion for the Murfreesboro to Nashville corridor? I24 is by far the worst interstate access to Nashville.

    • Will says

      It seems everyone is commenting and suggesting light rail to Franklin and Murfreesboro. The lack of these options in the current plan seems to be a huge oversight. I wish the n-Motion people would consider light rail to there areas and provide discussion.

    • Barbara says

      Any plan that does not include extensive improvements to aleviate congestion on 24 between Murfreesboro and Nashville is a waste of time. This us the worst express in Nashville. We need rapid rail service from about 5am – 12am. Nashville is a growing city whether the locals like it or not. Act now to get a handle on it now!

  2. Rebecca Katz says

    Two out of 3 of these plans from a BRT with dedicated lanes along West End Avenue. I realize these are preliminary and conceptual, but we had a HUGE battle over the Amp a few years ago in part because the city government, chamber of commerce and “committee of insiders” recruited to sell this plan to Nashvillians accentuated the positives and ignored the negatives, which were significant:

    – 3 interstate overpasses that can only be widened for BRT at significant cost (so the end result is that cars loss a lane at already congested intersections to accommodate buses);
    – Need to expand width of roads west of 440 to accommodate would require eminent domain in an expensive residential area (the choice is either expand the roadway to provide dedicated lanes to buses or provide car traffic with only 1 lane in either direction);
    – The traffic delays due to lengthy construction of dedicated BRT lanes would take 30 years of BRT service to break even.

    Another issue is that BRT promoters claim that BRT is “more comfortable” and desirable without pointing out that at least half of the capacity of BRT buses is for standing passengers. One major advantage of riding a bus is that you can read–not possible if you’re standing. If you are asking people to make a major financial commitment to various modes of public transit, you need to be totally honest about the advantages and drawbacks, and most people are going to consider buses that offer standing room only to more than half of their passengers a negative.

      • Rebecca Katz says

        Julian, Lot of old geezers like me don’t want to stand throughout their entire commute. And how can you read the paper if you’re also hanging on to a rail?

        The larger point is that NMotion, the Chamber of Commence, Metro Government and others promoting transit need to foster an HONEST discussion of the pros and cons of all modes of transit. Asserting that BRT’s capacity of 160 to 165 passengers is far superior–and assuming BRT buses will be 90 to 100 percent full when projecting traffic impact– without acknowledging that 100 of those “seats” are actually standing room (a fact that will reduce ridership if buses are indeed filled beyond seating capacity) is dishonest.

  3. says

    Scenario 1 needs a lot of work. Here is a summary:

    Desired: Fast (65-80 mph) light rail from Downtown to Gallatin, Franklin and Murfreesboro with stops every 4-5 miles. Scenario 1 is not it.

    Desired: A reduction in congestion as commuters choose transit because it is faster. Scenario 1 is not effective at reducing congestion though there will be some faster trips.

    Cost: nMotion fails to do a full accounting of the costs. I think they included the cost of stations and rolling stock as well as operating costs but what about the costs of taking two lanes of traffic for BRT and Freeway BRT??? Was nothing learned from the AMP??? Nothing???

    I would even be generous and give credit for equivalents moved by transit. Figures online say a full to capacity lane of interstate traffic would go onto one bus per minute. No one is talking about anything close to a bus every minute on any of the interstates. nMotion has not accounted for the cost of taking that lane of interstate.

    A high speed light rail system might move that many people with five minute frequency, close to frequencies we might be talking about. More importantly, I have more confidence in filling light rail with a thousand or two people per hour per corridor than I do a Freeway BRT bus.

    Who pays the cost of a light rail system on the four arterials? Answer: Davidson County. Who pays the cost of light rail to Gallatin, Franklin and Murfreesboro? Answer: Four counties, of which Davidson is only 50% by population, less by income.

    Clarksville Commuter Rail: Express Bus is an hour. Why do I think commuter rail is more than an hour? Express Bus is $4.25. commuter rail would be at least $5.25 (MCS to Lebanon). Why do I think the MCS passenger gets a greater subsidy than the Clarksville Express Bus passenger? Something is wrong here.

    There is some argument that light rail will stimulate development and millennials, immigrants and seniors will fill up the high density apartments and condos. Guess what? Millennials and immigrants will have families. If Light Rail can fix the schools then you’ve got a case. Otherwise you will still need to think about a transit system for commuters, aka: moms and dads, the ones with income.

    Scenario 1 needs a lot of work.

    Roy Wellington

  4. Jordan Chassan says

    Streetcar service is a great idea and should be extended to include East Nashville and environs. Generally speaking the city has ignored the idea of mass transit for far too long, while simultaneously embracing the concept of population growth. We are way behind the curve, and as things stand now auto traffic will get far worse before it gets better. I would suggest a campaign to educate the population about the real need for mass transit. My feeling is that streetcars are both practical and appealing as an alternative to driving.

    • Matthew says

      Streetcar service would add whimsy and charm to Nashville. In fact, old routes are still buried in East Nashville. Imagine coming from West End going down the hill to downtown and the incredible view!!

  5. says

    These comments are not specific to Scenario 1 but apply to all scenarios.

    Branding: somewhere on the web it says your brand is your promise to the people. I am left to wonder what nMotion thinks about the MTA/RTA brand. Where nMotion has a choice they always choose SLOW with lots of STOPS. That is not what I have in mind.

    I think almost everyone is thinking Light Rail. The strategy document says light rail can go 65mph!! Whee!! nMotion puts Light Rail on Gallatin Pike and Nolensville Pike and stops every half-mile. Twenty stops to downtown? Welcome to my lunch.

    The slowest imaginable version of RapidBus also gets proposed: six stops per mile! RapidBus is supposed to be six stops per TEN miles. What brand is nMotion striving for if it is not SLOW and STOPS.

    Six stops per mile is LOCAL service. People can walk one block so a local bus would need only six stops per mile, one every three blocks. This is why I said to keep Hillsboro as a local bus at six stops per mile, not a RapidBus at six stops per mile.

    I know why nMotion is doing this. It repeats the mistakes of the Nolensville RapidBus route to solve the issue of local service. I also gave you a much better way to handle the overlapping requirements in the document linked to my name above. Please read it again.

    Elsewhere I describe Light Rail traveling down the interstate median at interstate speed making stops every 4-5 miles and serving Gallatin, Franklin and Murfreesboro. Where the interstate is gridlocked then Light Rail would blast past cars like they are standing still, then tuck in neatly beside the expensive parking garage like we own the place. What would your brand be then?

    Transit is not just STOPping to pick up and drop off people. It is also moving them quickly from A to B. I would like to see the assumptions behind your optimization that concluded that SLOW and STOPS were the best for Nashville. It just seems wrong.

    Roy Wellington

  6. historytrip says

    Do those who are commenting aware of how much rail tracks have been taken up … removed in the last 30 years, especially in the north and east parts of town? And the cost of liability for rail, regardless of light or intermittent placement can be compared to that of Boston and NY city. And the upkeep? Where is that expense coming from considering how the current rail tracks within inner city Davidson County is truly not kept up (maintained) for folks to walk over or cars to drive thru. Sorry, this “once lived in Connecticut” commentator who commuted to NY city for work remembers light rail demands that property owners must agree to give up land or there are battles with the more affluent areas demanding detours, increasing commute time. And, government property is not a simple thing, i.e., getting near the airport is about federal security issues. Light rail near airports – homeland security has oversight over that, i.e., Murfreesboro and Elm Hill Pike areas. This is a cute fix proposal that I hope is not considered a safe or financially realistic objective to spend money (or time) on developing.

    • David says

      They propose a $5 billion dollar system to service about 5% at best of the population with the remaining subsidizing the bill. The mass transit will NOT solve the transportation problem, it has not solved it in DC or anywhere else. This is the result of placing too many people per acre, per square mile or however else you wish to measure the density. The greater the density the more crowded it becomes. That is a law you can not alter with buses, trains or planes. Why not stagger work shifts? Manufacturing or other non-customer oriented businesses start at 5:30 AM and dismiss 8.5 hrs later, office workers start at 7:00 AM and dismiss 8.5 hrs later, retail start at 9:00 AM etc. You want to spend billions to correct traffic situations that last 2.5 hrs a day twice a day? Makes no sense or cents. Shoot for something with a greater benefit reach. But stay out of my pocket trying to solve the hole in yours. I do real estate and your mass transit will benefit me not at all. I watch too often the transit buses running half empty or more. Why? Because they can not get me to my destination timely- if at all. The Star is a flop. Ridership gets excitement stirred when it hit 10% capacity. How long has it been in service? At at what cost to tax payers? And again to benefit the few?

    • says

      The confidence you’ve shown in the surgery and in the healing process amazes me. There seems to have been little doubt through this whole process, only the normal pain and frustration. Cootlaturaginns for this. Don’t know that I could have reacted so positively. Your adorable Tommy! It’s a good thing I can’t be around him. I would want to totally smother him with love. He’d have no freedom whatsoever.

    • says

      that porn is “degrading” to the male performers?You simply took offense at the fact that I said women who rabidly hate all porn as you do are obviously prudes. Well too bad; the fact that you take personal offense at something doesn’t make it untrue.

    • says

      LOL … and such a good post! Although we do have too many grey days, I love the fact that it's dark early enough to lounge around in pajamas doing nothing. (Dark here at about 15.30 or just after…)

    • says

      I was wondering if you ever considered changing the structure of your site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?

  7. Brian Lewis says

    Light rail is exciting and definitely ‘cool’, we’d all love to have it. But it also carries an astronomically high cost. I’ve researched Portland’s light rail system and residents complain about the financial strain that it puts on the city. A better option is BRT at a significantly lower cost and similar performance, possibly better considering the ability to cover far more routes. The lower cost can be passed on to the rider and encourage more people to use it. I agree that it might be a tough sell for some Nashvillians and there would need to be education process and sharp marketing plan to get people on board. I’ve ridden on one of the best BRT systems in the world in Bogota, Colombia and it was amazing and very efficient. Clean buses, fast service, very well used by the huge population of 6 million residents. There’s another BRT success story in Cleveland called the Healthline that is the closest to the ‘gold standard’ BRT that we have in the US. We can use those models as well as the many other BRT systems already in existence as a guide to follow.

  8. John says

    This is the best of the bunch, but Southwest Nashville is underserved in this.

    Why would you not add light rail from downtown out to Cool Springs and light rail from downtown out to Bellevue as well? That has to be a requirement. There are already tracks in place.

    It would make sense to connect Bellevue to Cool Springs and Murfreesboro to Lebanon as well.

    Give us a comprehensive, big, bold, robust plan that would set the plan for smart development for the century ahead

    • Matthew says

      Agreed! Light rail from downtown to Cool Springs is an obvious need. Just look at any mapping service during rush hour and all our interstates are solid red with gridlock.

  9. Gordon Smith says

    This project looks like it might have been designed by the Tennessee Road Builders. CSX corridors can be used for commuter rail on the same right of way or parallel light rail. If you agree to second tracks and are willing to pay for part of the effort, CSX might be interested. Such a move could be a “win-win” for both parties as CSX has congestion problems as well.. If you say such an endeavor is too expensive, all you have to see is the cost of major highway projects to conclude that those major projects get funded with a “drop of the hat” compared to rail projects. As to Hendersonville/Gallatin the Cumberland River could be bridged at the dam and connect (about one mile of new track to the old Dupont Plant) to a friendly short line (The Nashville & Eastern) which would result in PAX being linked with the Music City Star line to Riverfront Station. We need to start thinking big with the involvement of our Governor and the CEO of CSX. Anything less will cause Nashville to, once again, be left in the dust by other cities that we compete with.

    • Steve Bland says

      Gordon, the challenge is that there is insufficient room in the CSX right of way for the additional tracks required to accomplish what you’re suggesting. To gain this right of way would require the acquisition of significant private property, not owned by CSX, in the various corridors. This would entail taking private homes and businesses along the lines.

      • Gordon Smith says

        Understand, but it would be done in heart beat if a highway was to be widened. Have driven the Interstate from Murfreesboro to Nashville during the morning rush hour. A tremendous waste of time for all concerned. What is needed is a high capacity PAX movement system like light rail or commuter rail. If we look at it from a life cycle perspective a rail system can be run for much less operating labor costs when moving large volumes of PAX.
        Please don’t think I am being overly critical here. Mass Transit in Middle Tennessee is going to be a tough nut to crack from many view points and I appreciate your efforts.

        I have worked in many aspects of transportation all my 53 working years. I will be retiring in the coming weeks once my replacement is trained. If I can be of any help in promoting mass transit please let me know. Thank you.
        Best Regards

        • Matthew says

          Why can’t we install light rail in conjunction with our interstate system? Either build it on the shoulder or in the median on a raised track like they do in downtown Chicago and you could drastically cut down commuter traffic.

  10. Bernard says

    I really like this option. As the area is steadily geowing, we need these additional and expanded transportat ion options. I really like having the rail options.

  11. Michelle says

    Definitely need the light rail, Nashville is becoming a place people are moving to and traffic is a huge problem. Also, love the idea of adding service in Goodlettsville. I would take the bus more often if available in Goodlettsville just to help the environment.

  12. D Thompson says

    I don’t think Nashvillians will truly buy in with gusto unless there is radically new and hip component like light rail. Even the Star was a recycled CTA train…nothing Nashville could truly embrace as its own. And this may sound hokey…but the thing must have a good name… The “el” the Bart…the tube… the Metro…those names instantly bring unique cities to mind. It’s time for all in, not a band aid

  13. Heidi Welch says

    The Regional plan needs to include a Local service from Nashville to Cool Springs, not just Murfreesboro to Cool Springs.