Stop Consolidation

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This report in the Transit Strategies Series explores the concept of stop consolidation. Transit stops are the places where people access transit service, and greatly impact many elements of passengers’ transit experiences. Many transit systems, including Nashville MTA, have too many stops. This is usually due to an accumulation of stops over time, as transit agencies receive and grant requests for new stops on the basis that “one more stop” won’t significantly degrade service. However, over time, “one more stop” makes service slower and unattractive for those with other choices. To make MTA service more attractive to more people, it will be essential to achieve a better balance between walk distances to stops and overall travel times.

What do you think? Do you think our service has too many stops? Where should Nashville MTA/RTA consider consolidating stops?


  1. Peter O'Connor says

    It’s not so much as the number of bus stops on the routes as much as the operators making their own timing. Example: #12 running late (As USUAL) going inbound maybe running 20-30 minutes down. Comes off the Wallace loop and gets to the time point at Walmart..loading of riders is complete and driver continues to sit there despite being late already.
    I have seen this.
    Also, again, I push for the alternative route for #12 by the railroad tracks to become part of the regular route. Too many variables to happen when the bus bypasses the turn at city cemetary. To automatically turn at the cemetary avoids the potential getting hung up at the tracks that happens all too often. The sooner the better.

  2. Steve Newton says

    In general, MTA bus service seems to be designed primarily as a last resort form of transportation rather than a first choice. I believe that a service targeted to new ridership as a first choice will have the greatest impact, and that a ridership crossing broad socio-economic strata will best serve those in the lower spectrum, rather than vise-versa.

    Offer free transfer. This would cost next to nothing as the buses are currently not running full (understatement) and the extra cost of transfer is an obstacle to riding. This would help those who have no choice but to ride and create one less hurdle for those who have a choice.

    At the same time, efficient and effective bus service is the key to our mass transit solution, working with existing infrastructure and achievable in incremental steps. Greater frequency of bus service is critical, particularly in the downtown and central areas. Infrequent service is a big obstacle to those with choices.

    Bus riding should appeal to the 20-thirty somethings and build a mass transit culture with these young adults and their future families. Brand through well designed stops with covered waiting at major stops on key routes. Make it hip and cool to ride the bus. Serve hip and cool areas, and market these areas heavily. Use phone app technology to indicate routes and locations of buses on those routes (Like Uber and Lyft). Provide free wi-fi hotspots on bus(and perhaps at major stops) for commuters to connect laptops and mobile devices. Consider a free zone in downtown area to promote ridership and a mass transit culture.

    Consider evening and weekend ridership to downtown and active nightlife and event venues where parking is premium, and connect to park and ride points in less congested areas. Partner with businesses that have substantial parking and are not operating during these weekend/ event times.

    • amber smith says

      I agree with everything Steve has said. Although there is a free zone in downtown. The blue and green circuit run from the farmers market to riverfront and through the gulch. Please drop the transfers or make the all day ride $3 ish instead of $5.25

    • Nome says

      I agree. Well said. Stop consolidation should help speed up the buses a little bit but the overall hub and spoke system limits transportation options and so does the limited hours. Why do several routes stop service or reduce frequency by 515pm? Other cities grant free transfers but we don’t. There is a lot to discourage use here.

  3. Sandra says

    I agree with Frank and Erin. There are many routes with irregularly spaced, poorly placed stops with atrocious first mile last mile connections. Focusing on the number seems like it could be an excuse for providing even poorer functional access while bragging about how fast the bus goes.

    I think optimizing stop locations, including safe street crossings, access to first mile/last mile infrastructure, distance to surrounding destinations, as well as other stops – is the way. There should be a toolkit or process whereby ALL these things are considered, not just one thing.

  4. James H says

    Stop consolidation might help on some lines. And I would not mind losing some on the 3/5 lines. But the bigger problem is lack of regularity. Waiting 20 minutes or more is common during commute times because of traffic congestion. Buses get so far behind schedule that drivers are zooming through yellow lights to catch up.

  5. Joyce Miller says

    From my commuting experience, all stops should be where the most employees or shoppers need them. At the colleges, state government, hospital systems, shopping areas, entertainment venues.

    We love taking MTA to Nashville from Mt Juliet, but are limited to
    Friday. Even then, a later departure time would allow us to take the train for evening concerts and TPAC & Bridgestone events.

  6. Jay says

    Consolidation of stops is necessary. Buses run along main roads for the most part with slight variations in some areas. If I live in Madison and need to go to hermitage I have to go downtown and connect which makes me leave 2 hours ahead of time. Having more perpendicular transit will help the travel time. I am ok with walking a little bit to the atop rather than having to stop more and increasing my travel time.

  7. katherine says

    Well I read several good ideas in the comments above.
    Again the issue is on Nashville DECIDING it is a priority. That once it is good, people will use it. Until then, most try to do something else.
    Certainly, it is not a mystery how other cities have made good systems. Seems like an expert could take it on — much like they have done with bad police precincts improving dramatically. Let’s get this system humming.

  8. Mike says

    I agree there are way too many stops. Basically, anywhere you wait along Shelby Ave, the bus will pick you up. Between 8th and 9th street on Shelby Ave (East Nashville), there are 2 bus stops on the same block. One is in front of a commercial senior living facility – the one MTA should keep if absolutely necessary. The other is in front of my home. People waiting for the bus help themselves to sitting on my front steps or even on my porch while waiting for the bus. This creates unnecessary confrontation for us not to mention we are constantly picking up the trash left behind.

  9. Charles H. says

    For regular service routes, there should be a stop every quarter mile. BRT stops should be located at retail outlets and at main cross streets.

  10. 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.

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  11. Erin L says

    I agree with Frank L. In my experience (mainly on routes 7 and 3/5 during commuting hours), having many stops is not an issue because there are not nearly enough riders to force the bus to make every stop. Also, many stops are at traffic lights when the bus is stopped anyway. Removing stops before pedestrian conditions are improved only exacerbates the first mile/last mile problem. Improving access is priority; then, when ridership increases and stops are more accessible, we can start to think about these consolidation ideas.

  12. 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.

  13. Bill H says

    The guidelines say the minimum distance between stops on a route such as Gallatin Pk (56 & 26) is half-mile.
    That’s not true at all. I see stops every block, there are blocks which have more than one stop.
    MTA does not follow it’s own guidelines at all.

    I also agree that the stops themselves are tricky if not dangerous. At one time I had to use a stop on Gallatin Pk (across from El Rodeo/Tradewinds) where there was a narrow shoulder and it was necessary to stand on the other side of a ditch in a field. Getting to that stop also required walking on streets with NO sidewalks.

  14. Gbea says

    Maybe I don’t understand the question, but does EVERY bus HAVE to feel obligated to stop at EVERY stop? Can’t you designate some buses as “Express” at certain, high traffic times and make it VERY CLEAR that they will make fewer stops and/or only stop at certain bus stops?

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  15. Frank L says

    The issue is not too many stops. The issue is not enough accessible stops. The route I normally ride has a number of stops that are impossible to access if you are a pedestrian without putting yourself in serious danger. And, along the same route, there are stretches where there is not a single stop within a mile of the previous stop. So, again, the issue is not too many stops; it’s where are the stops, are they intelligently spaced, and are they all equally accessible to pedestrians? In my opinion, there are actually too few safely-accessible stops along the 21st Street/Hillsboro corridor, and the people above who are complaining that there are too many stops along that route clearly aren’t pedestrians who have to get to these stops by foot. You can’t tell me that the stops at Crestmoor Road and Graybar Lane (the ones closest to the Green Hills public library branch) are safe to access for pedestrians. They just aren’t.

  16. Andy Borchers says

    One thought – consolidating RTA bus stops and times might allow for employers to operate last mile connections.

  17. Christine Watt says

    Yes! The Nolensville route has 35 stops between OHB and downtown. This makes it completely unusable for my work commute. Infrastructure that supports walking to stops would be more beneficial than adding in additional stops. This could make the service faster and more efficient and increase it’s appeal to more commuters.

      • Christy says

        I agree, fewer stops along 21st would definately help and move the bus along faster. Same thing for the airport bus to downtown. A more direct route would be better.