Nashville Mayor Megan Barry unveiled$5.2 billion transportation plan that includes 26 miles of the city’s first-ever light rail system, four rapid bus routes, a dramatic increase in the service and frequency of the bus system, and a strategy of service and infrastructure improvements.
The plan, Let’s Move Nashville: Metro’s Transportation Solution, aligns with the IMPROVE Act passed earlier this year. In early 2018, Metro Council members will be asked to put the plan on the ballot for the May 2018 countywide vote.
The $5.2 billion infrastructure investment will be funded by a range of fees, including business, sales and tourism taxes. The Let's Move Nashville plan originated after many years of study and community engagements through the nMotion strategic plan, which was led by MTA and RTA, as well as coordination at the state and local level.
Details of the plan are:
- Existing bus service improvements with state-of-the-art electric buses and more cross-town routes, 15-minute peak service on busy routes and buses running 20 hours of every day.
- Rapid Bus along Dickerson Road, Hillsboro Road, West End Avenue and the Bordeaux route, which will include signal prioritization, queue jumps, and infrastructure improvements to move transit riders faster to their destination.
- Light Rail on our busiest corridors – Gallatin Road, Nolensville Road, Charlotte Avenue and Murfreesboro Road to the airport. There will also be a light rail line using existing rails that will run along the Northwest Corridor to Buchanan Street near Tennessee State University. The network will begin operations in 2026 and be completed by 2032.
- Underground tunnel downtown serving the region’s job, economic and entertainment center while connecting the light rail network from north to south.
- Neighborhood Transit Centers that offer safe and comfortable access to the entire system.
- Transportation network enhancements such as better sidewalks, traffic synchronization and signal improvements, and fixing dangerous intersections.
Metro’s transportation solution would not be possible without the passage of the IMPROVE Act earlier this year. This legislation, in addition to funding road and bridge projects across the state, authorized local government to collect surcharges on various taxes and fees currently being assessed by the local government, if approved by voters by referendum. Metro will seek federal grants where available, while also utilizing four surcharges to fund the project implementation and long-term maintenance of the system:
- One-half percent sales tax surcharge beginning in July of 2018, and graduating to one percent in 2023. A recent study released by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce shows that nearly half (47%) of sales tax collections in Davidson County are generated by out-of-county residents.
- One-quarter percent surcharge on the hotel/motel tax, graduating to three-eighths of a percent in 2023. The Convention Center Authority, which is funded in part by local hotel taxes and fees, is anticipated to help pay for the transit system by constructing a SoBro station for light rail and rapid bus service. Additionally, the Metro Nashville Airport Authority has agreed in principle to fund a light rail spur from Murfreesboro Road to the Airport with terminal access.
- 20% surcharge on the rental car tax. Metro currently charges a 1 percent tax on the gross proceeds derived from the lease or rental of any passenger motor vehicle, truck or trailer for a period of five days or less. This 20% surcharge would result in a total of 1.2% surcharge on rental cars.
- 20% surcharge on the business and excise tax. Businesses in Davidson County are assessed a business and excise tax based on a variety of classifications established under TCA 67-4-708. If a business currently pays $1,000 in such a tax, this surcharge would result in an additional $200 annually.
“It’s important to me that we are equitable and fair with the taxes used to pay for transit, while understanding the need for a bold, comprehensive transportation system that will address Nashville’s needs now and in the future,” said Mayor Barry. “This is a balanced funding proposal that will ensure that visitors and out-of-county residents who may use our roads or transit system will pay their fair share along with residents who will have access to better jobs and transportation options as a result of this proposal.”
The proposal will eliminate fares for Nashville residents living at or below the federal poverty level. Mayor Barry intends to create an affordability and transit task force in the coming weeks to address the needs of working families, and to continue to shape policies around affordable housing and supporting small-businesses. The task force will also help determine the best ways to use the Transit-oriented development district legislation, which will allow Metro to capture and invest revenues along the transit corridors into affordable housing.
In an effort to engage and inform the community on Metro’s transportation solution, the Mayor’s Office, Metro Public Works, and MTA will be hosting a series of open houses throughout Davidson County, starting with neighborhoods along the light rail corridors.
Once the transit improvement plan is fully reviewed by the community and approved by an independent CPA firm with criteria set forth by the Tennessee State Comptroller’s Office, the Metro Council will be asked to consider an ordinance that will authorize the plan to be placed on the ballot for the May 1, 2018 election.