State of the MTA System

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 10.04.13 AMThe first step of nMotion was to assess the state of the existing MTA transit system. The State of the MTA System Report provides an overview of existing MTA transit services and an evaluation of how well these services match transit demand in Davidson County, both today and 20 years in the future. Based on those findings, this report presents the key issues facing MTA and serves as a starting point for the strategies and recommendations that will inform the final strategic plan.

State of the MTA System (full report)

What do you think?  Please share your thoughts on the State of the MTA System report with us below. 


  1. Anonymous says

    College students with a school ID should also be able to get on the bus for free as well. I have to take 2 different buses just to get downtown and for me to have to start paying for my bus rides its gonna start adding up.

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  3. Drew says

    As someone who works close to downtown, I would love to take the bus. However, my ride requires a transfer. I’m lucky that it’s not a transfer all the way at the central downtown spot. However, there are no longer transfers on the same ticket. If I want round-trip single ride tickets to go to work, I have to buy 4, which is $13.60. I could do a single day pass but that’s still about 10x the cost of gas for my car. The 7 or 31 day pass would require me to ride it 5 days a week or 16 days a month, but that’s not realistic. If you want people to start using the MTA, you need to make it affordable.

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  5. leona schauble says

    The current system is unacceptably sketchy for a city of this size. Moreover, there is the additional problem that once one has been delivered downtown by regional transportation, there is no robust system to take you where you need to go next. It is bizarre that it can take over an hour (with walks of three quarters of a mile to reach the bus stop) to ride a distance that is only 3 miles as the crow flies.

  6. Dave says

    Nashville,needs to follow the example of ” sister cities ” in the south. New Orleans has the Amtrak station,sharing with Grayhound.Megabus and city buses. Birmingham is combining everything into one terminal ( Amtrak-Megabus-Grayhound and the city buses ) Nashville,has everything scattered. MCC downtown. Grayhound miles away. Megabus has moved near the MCC, but it won’t be long,before they kick them out of that area. The MCC. is the worst run terminal ever. Disgusting restrooms. A total lack of security. Guards too busy chatting with young females. Students that behave like wild lunatics. It’s no wonder passengers shun MTA especially at the MCC. Have inspectors on the buses,also patrolling the MCC, and stop all the Panhandling at MCC. Ban smoking within 50 feet of the MCC,and that will take care of most of the Transients,lounging around the entrances. Let Megabus use MCC for safety and to provide a seamless form of mass transit. I’d like to sit down with Megan Barry,and discuss the problems… Sadly I don’t live in Davidson County.

  7. Stephen says

    I’m concerned about the current state of the buses. Most are quite old, many are not clean and most of them – even some of the new ones are dented and scratched. The current inventory of vehicles does not indicate an organization ready to expand and grow – it indicates one that is struggling to even maintain itself. The MCC is also dirty and run-down.
    No doubt there are many financial constraints leading to these problems as the MTA has many outstanding employees – but I think it indicates the level of difficulty for breaking out to new and better things.

    • Drew Gilmore says

      Agreed. The state of maintenance of the buses has taken a dramatic and noticeable turn for the worse this past year. I can usually tell when they run out of working buses – first I’d get a green bus usually reserved for the Circuit, replacing my usual 100 Oaks ride. Mostly this year I’d see AccessRide vans instead of an actual bus.

      My ride this morning takes the cake. When the bus broke down somewhere before my stop, I got instead an MTA supervisor car. With passenger space for three friendly people.

      While I appreciate that the substitute was made at all, the driver seemed surprised that there were more than two people waiting for the bus at the next stop, Vine Hill Towers. The two first in line squeezed in, and the rest were assured another vehicle would come for them in 20 minutes. We sped on, taking detours to get to our destinations directly. I’m sure the person who picks up their daily bus in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood would have liked to have known what happened. Alas.

      This year alone we’ve had the back-end of an MTA bus catch fire, and another one apparently lose its parking brakes and back into the window of a coffee shop. They’re rattly and smoky and loud… and the way the driver keeps them idling even at the transit center, I suspect they’re afraid that if they turn off the engine, they might not get them started again.

      I don’t know whether the problem is staff, money, availability of spare parts… but if the trend continues, I really wonder if there will be enough buses to keep the full schedule going by this time next year.

  8. Marshall says

    I think we need to re-evaluate the current fare system. I am a choice rider (I have a car) and choose to ride the bus on occasion. However, one of the down sides for me riding the bus is that it is actually far more expensive to ride the bus than to drive. I drive an electric car that costs around 3 cents/mile to drive. When I take a round trip bus trip it costs me $3.40, but it would have only cost me 18 cents to drive. Talk about a disincentive!

    Let’s think out of the box and consider a yearly flat fee for taxpayers that would allow them to ride unlimited times. The current routes are a sunk cost and additional riders on buses do not lead to any additional expenses, but the cost of an individual ride may be a deterrent. Let’s gravitate toward the model of internet service.

    Paying up front for a service changes one’s mindset. Instead of using a “per use” cost that motivates people to not use the bus system it would create an incentive to use it more. Each additional use of the system would lower the “per use” cost.

  9. Frederick Smith says

    It truly is a great idea that the outgoing mayor (without intentionally overlooking the efforts or others) to provide MNPS students passage on MTA buses.

    This current school season has seen a tremendous surge of students transferring from bus to bus at the Music Center Central terminal. First, you (the MTA decision-makers) need to plan in the capital budget for additional articulated coaches to better accommodate ALL students, along with us non-students, and this should apply not only to buses being scheduled on afternoon inbound routes (e.g. Nº 38X)., but also to outbound routes, such as Nº 2, even though normally Nº 2 is not considered a mainstream route. You make it very difficult for regular paying riders to remain “loyal” to these routes (and to the MTA as whole), when you no longer provide the latitude of seating which should be made available, due to the limited capacity of a 40-ft coach.

    You also need to better manage the boarding of students transferring between buses, as this is handled at the point of departure by MNPS teachers themselves, for students on both school-buses and MTA buses (as I myself had participated as a former middle-school teacher). At MCCentral, the supervisor alone appears incapable of managing and monitoring students who stream from an arriving bus and surge to the loading bay areas, by pushing ahead of other awaiting passengers already in position to board the same outgoing buses as these students. This also is a matter of public safety, which is very lacking at the terminal (if it exists at all). It simply is unfair that students consistently are allowed to “break” in front of other riders, and that these same students are allowed to “hog” the coach seats with their backpacks and musical instrument cases. By the time other “displaced” boarders actually have paid their fares, students have already taken nearly all remaining seats. This is never to be allowed on actual school buses, and MTA and MNPS need to work in concert to address this apparently overlooked issue, before someone gets hurt. The younger students simply have not developed the interactive discipline to form single-file in boarding buses, and the MTA should be responsible for ensuring rules of courtesy at the loading bays, just as if school teachers were present.

    Finally, some better provision needs to be implemented for remission of fares for these student-laden buses, as departure of these outbound routes can be delayed as much as 5 minutes, when many students are fumbling and scrambling to insert cash money and fare cards into the fare box. If Metro is going to promote student ridership, then it needs to invest in the infrastructure to include more monitoring personnel, higher-capacity coaches, and a better fare-metering system in anticipation of better accommodation of this type of ridership.

    • patty ghertner says

      Thank you for posting this comment. I look forward to hearing how these concerns will be addressed. In theory, I thought it sounded like such a good idea to allow MNPS students access to public transportation, but it should not be detrimental to paying riders.

      • Stephen says

        It’s pretty much a nightmare to share the bus with students. They are unruly, have no manners and incredibly noisy!

        • says

          I think there should be a special location for students riding the buses because all the disrespect that you have on the bus with students and then the fights breaking out at the MCC it’s just dangerous for regular everyday people to ride.

  10. Kimberly Sparks says

    Last night I attended the public meeting and met a Vanderbilt employee who used the bus through the EasyRide program. All she had to do was swipe her employee ID and that was it.

    My current main reason for not using the bus system more is the fact paying the fare is difficult. I believe we should have the capability as the Vanderbilt employees/students do, to swipe a card. I believe this card should be something we can refill. The fact that there is already a swiping ability on the buses this should be not terribly difficult to do; even Starbucks has refillable cards.

    Once, when I was in the MCC waiting on a bus. I walked around to see if I could find a fare machine. I could not. I had to e-mail someone to find out where it was. It seems these fare machines would be a bit more accessible.

    If I had the card with swiping ability, I would be a more frequent rider.

    As it is now I don’t even know if the fares really work for me either. The current fares:
    All-Day Pass $ 5.25
    7-Day Pass $ 24.00
    20-Ride Local $ 32.00
    20-Ride Express $ 42.00
    31-Day Pass $ 84.00

    The only one that works for me is the 20 Ride Local – Again to have something that was more flexible would be something I would be looking for.

    Last night the biggest issue I heard was the connectivity/transfers between buses. This would not affect me on what I would consider my normal route, but if I were to use the bus for more than just going to work, this is another issue that would need to be worked out.

    I am not opposed to using public transport, even buses. I use it in cities when I travel because it’s the easiest way to get around. It is not the easiest way to get around in Nashville and with our growing population it is something that needs to be addressed. We also have a large tourist population and would benefit them as well.

    Thank you for your time and commitment into improving MTA.

    • says

      Thanks for your comments Kim and for attending the public meeting last week. We are aware that there some issues and limitations associated with the current fare structure including the payment and collection system. This is an area where we can definitely benefit from the use of emerging technologies. That is why we are looking at both the fare structure and how the fare is collected as part of the nMotion strategic planning process. We will be releasing a report as part of the Transit Strategies Series on “Fare Practices and Policies” in the coming weeks so please continue to check our discussion forum.

  11. kclo3 says

    In the long term, it would be far more beneficial if all relevant bus routes stopped converging and terminating at Music City Center (reserve it for longer-distance routes) and instead use the inherent grid to create a frequent service overlay in downtown. Houston’s recent bus network redesign, a massive expansion of frequent access for very little operating cost increase, is a good example to learn from.

    @Liz McC., the MTA’s limitations are extremely apparent, and your rail aspirations frankly aren’t going to benefit many people in a relatively sprawling Davidson County and surroundings. The foundation of every city’s transit network, big or small, is a frequent bus network that follows a clear population density gradient and can best approximate the freedom of personal vehicle ownership. Fundamentally, the question of rail or bus comes secondary to this axiom.

    Everyone should take the time to read transit consultant Jarrett Walker’s excellent blog about the fundamentals of good transit and watch his lecture, “Abundant Access”.

  12. Nancy says

    I think a bus route that includes Broadmore, which runs between Gallatin and Dickson would be great. Walking to either Gallatin Rd or Dickerson Rd is a long ways and not to safe either. There are a lot of houses and people who live between these two roads so it would be very helpful and a easy fix as well.

    • says

      Thanks for your comments Nancy. We have heard from many people since we started this process about the need to increase walkability and improve the accessibility of current stops. The MTA/RTA is not responsible for walking infrastructure like the sidewalks so planning for improvements will require coordination with other agencies like Public Works. We’ll be producing a report on this topic, what we call “first mile/last mile” connections, in the coming weeks. So please continue to check our discussion forum for new materials.

    • Aimee says

      Thank you, Nancy! I agree. I live in this area and would love to take the bus more often but feel like it’s very difficult to get to a bus stop because I live almost equidistant between Dickerson & Gallatin!

  13. Liz McC. says

    We absolutely don’t need more or “better” bus services. The focus should be on regional and local RAIL.

    I know it will be expensive, but in the long run it will pay for itself! I would never ride a bus because why would I do that when I can get to work on my own faster and with no stops? They fight the same traffic as we do, so it’s not worth it! Rail is better!

    Especially if you could consider a Monorail. That would really match Nashville’s growth and popularity. It would definitely take our “It City” to another level. Again, I KNOW IT COSTS A LOT, but sometimes one has to spend money to get the best quality thing.

    My encouragement and hope is to see an Elevated Train (El-Train like Chicago) or a Monorail as it is also elevated. Go straight down the middle of the interstates… have a park and ride thing much like the Staten Island Ferry in NYC. You could charge a fee for the lot if you keep going there, and then a monthly/weekly/daily rail passes. I think a rail would eventually pay for itself and from what I think and hear from MANY others is that rail is going to be the ONLY THING that motivates people who do not use public transportation to use it.

    Riding to work or to a place in town is a luxury! To just sit back and relax! That’s so nice! It shouldn’t just be for those who are lower class, but should be geared toward reaching the most amount of people to entice them enough so our roads can be alleviated.

    NOT TO MENTION THAT, but the road conditions would improve if less people were on the roads that live in the Middle Tennessee area and Metro and TDOT would save money on road repair and maintenance. Thus, one more example of why the rails that are “more expensive” would eventually pay for themselves!

    The most obvious places that rail is needed is from Columbia into Downtown, Clarksville into Downtown, Dickson to Downtown, Lebanon… Goodlettsville or further… Murfreesboro. Connect the region!!! Better public transportation also encourages more people to go downtown and spend money there. It’s a win win!

    • says

      Thanks for your comment Liz. We are considering how we might implement light rail and commuter rail as part of the nMotion planning process. We’ll be producing reports on these approaches in the coming weeks so please continue to check our discussion forum for new materials. The final strategic plan we will publish in early 2016 will be a regional plan and will include the RTA as well.

  14. Susanne Smith says

    I would like to see a Park & Ride at the crossroads of Briley Parkway and Ashland City Hwy 12. There is plenty of acreage there. Those of us that live in Cheatham County would benefit greatly and the continuing mounting traffic on Briley Parkway is only going to get worse.

  15. Matthew says

    More bike trails are needed. Tsu connections are infrequent. Need a 28th st to metro center corridor along ed temple blvd

  16. Cheryl says

    I work downtown and commute via the Music City Star from Wilson County. I understand the rate increase is necessary. BUT, it seems unfair that Lebanon and Martha passengers, who get the worst schedules, have no price break on the tickets. The absolute best schedule I can do from Lebanon is just a few minutes shy of a 12-hr day (the last train out in the morning leaves Lebanon at 6:40am and the first train back to Lebanon in the afternoon arrives at 5:55 pm). Until the schedule improves, how about some kind of price break for Lebanon and Martha passengers? As suggested in the meeting, I could purchase 2 Donelson tix each way and it would be cheaper than one fare for Lebanon. That seems very unfair.
    And I agree with the earlier comment about needing transportation to the train station from downtown. Vandy employees cried foul and got the 93 Route changed and that change left other (non-Vandy) passengers out in the cold.

  17. Lisa says

    I would like to see the 61 (green circulator) return it’s route to and from Riverfront Station. Currently there is not a bus that runs up Demonbruen (to and from Cummins Station) to the train due to detours and route changes. 10-11 blocks is a long way to walk in inclement weather.

  18. Michelle says

    There’s a couple of things that need to be said about the future of transit. We need transit that includes our suburbs, Murfreesboro, Mt. Juliet (not MtJoelton as misspelled in your report), Clarksville, Nolensville. These areas have grown or are going so fast and are large contributors of the traffic congestion. My biggest fear is that any improvements will be made in the West End/Gulch area leaving out those folks who need alternative transportation the most. We need updated transit that actually takes the traffic off our interstates. The road construction is 20 years behind and isn’t changing – we need alternative transportation NOW.

  19. Gary Jamison says

    As a rider I see the growth of this city every day.Expand the services so that visitors and residents can use the bus till midnight 7 days a week.Have the last line up for all routes at 12:15am.Especially sat and sunday.Try it for at least a year .Workers will use it.Thank you.

    • says

      Thank you for your comment Gary. We have heard about the need for more frequent service for longer hours from many resident through the nMotion process. We’ll be considering increasing the span of service as part of the nMotion process and we’ll be producing a short report on the topic in the coming weeks so please continue to check the discussion forum for this report.

  20. Want to Ride says

    I am not a rider, but I would like to be if the service was more frequent during the weekdays. Some of the information in the Route Profile is hard to understand. It needs to be explained so that it is inviting for new riders. I have several coworkers who drive roundtrip 5 days per week who love the convenience of riding MTA, but who can understand the schedules??? And when to expect the next bus, should you have to work a little later???

    • says

      We are happy to report that you will be able to get real-time information about MTA bus arrivals and departures on your smart phone, through various transit apps, by the end of 2015. We are looking at ways to simplify schedules and information we produce through the nMotion process but we anticipate the launch of real-time information to greatly help riders and potential riders like yourself.

  21. Drew says

    I haven’t read everything yet, but a couple observations on the route profiles:

    #1: I don’t think the express trip is doing any favors, half the time skipping over the local residents and several notable stops. The idea was to get Vandy Health workers to use a quicker direct route, but are they being directly encouraged to use it? Walkability around mall area is pretty bad, which is a disincentive to taking the bus too.

    #25: In the notes for #1 the idea of naming the express route 1X is brought up. #25 needs renaming for clarification even more. Try #25 and #25R for the counterclockwise trip. The names “Hart St” and “Jo Johnston” are meaningless without context. They’re kinda meaningless *with* context, actually, since both trips traverse both roads – and very briefly at that.