This Nashville area is best-poised to get new mass transit first

Nashville Business Journal
Eleanor Kennedy

If, as the business community hopes, an aggressive, $5 billion-plus mass-transit plan is adopted, residents of Gallatin may be the first to land another option for their commute to Nashville.

Thanks to pre-existing right of way along Vietnam Veterans Boulevard, the northeast corridor from Gallatin to Nashville “may be ideally positioned to be Middle Tennessee’s first new regional transit project since the Music City Star.”

So says a report produced by Moving Forward, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s transit initiative. The group’s most notable recommendation is itsendorsement of the boldest mass transit scenario proposed by Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority and Regional Transportation Authority. The business community group is hoping to inject urgency across the transit conversation, and has set a goal of some sort of mass-transit groundbreaking by 2020.

Now cool down for a second, Gallatin residents: This doesn’t mean you’re going to have light rail four years from now. The northeastern stretch along Vietnam Vets and I-65 is well-positioned to launch bus-rapid transit, the report says, a system in which busses travel in dedicated lanes. Light rail is a goal, but it is a “longer term” vision, the report says.

And, of course, these are just the business community’s recommendations, not an official plan, and certainly not one with a specified funding source.

Still, Moving Forward is advocating every project be undertaken in a way that could be upgraded to light rail in the future.

“For example, where appropriate, acquisition of additional right-of-way beyond the immediate project need is advised, as is engineering [bus-rapid transit] so that it can be converted to light rail at a later date,” the report says.

Here’s a look at the highlights for some of the other major corridors and areas within and around Nashville, as described in the report:

Downtown. For now, the chamber group is leaving the specifics of transit in the core up to the mayor’s office, though it is calling for “a plan for downtown transit access by the end of 2016 which includes all modes of mobility.” Without such a plan, the report says, no transit lines in to the heart of the city “can be fully realized,” as it’s unclear what would happen to commuters (and tourists, and other travelers) upon arrival. “All modes of mobility,” as further described, could include “dedicated lanes, corridors closed to vehicular traffic, and the feasibility of creating a transit corridor underground.”

Davidson County corridors. Moving Forward added Jefferson Street (between Tennessee State University and Germantown) to MTA’s existing list of seven Davidson County corridors that could receive bus-rapid transit or light rail. Additionally, the group’s report calls for selecting which corridors should be studied and completion of said studies by the end of 2017. The full list, with Moving Forward’s addition, includes the following roadway corridors: Charlotte, Gallatin, Murfreesboro, Nolensville, Dickerson, West End, 21st Avenue/Hillsboro and Jefferson.

Southeast/Murfreesboro. Similar to its Gallatin recommendation, the group sees a long-term possibility for rail service between Nashville and its southeastern environs, which, the report notes, are “projected to continue experiencing significant population growth.” For now, bus-rapid transit along I-24 is “more feasible … on an interstate corridor where ridership is mostly limited to morning and afternoon commutes.”

Northwest/Clarksville. A study has already begun on the feasibility of light rail connecting Nashville and Clarksville, according to the report, and while current ridership projections are “below what would generally qualify a commuter rail project for federal funding,” Moving Forward wants that commuter rail line to stay in the final MTA and RTA plan.

South/Franklin. It seems light rail is the furthest from reality on this busy stretch, although the report does say bus-rapid transit “should be adopted as proposed” for the area. The lack of access to existing rail lines combined with the need for changes in land use and density in order to ensure sufficient ridership decrease the feasibility of commuter rail “at this time,” per the report.

E ast/Lebanon. Nashville’s eastern neighbors are ahead of the game when it comes to mass transit, as the Music City Star already carries folks downtown daily. Moving Forward supports MTA and RTA’s call for expanded service farther east, along with additional stations, extended hours and more frequent service.

The full report is available for download here. Look for more coverage on its contents throughout the day at


  1. Telisha Cobb says

    Are there plans for a Transit Village in Gallatin with affordable & commercial space built into them? How will we ensure people in Gallatin are not driven out by increased property values due to access to transit?