Noah van Mierlo is a junior from the Netherlands studying political science. He enjoys watching soccer and commenting on the circus of American politics on his twitter, @NoahvanMierlo
On Saturday, September 9th, political figures and interested citizens gathered at Nashville’s Farmers Market to kick off the Transit for Nashville campaign.
The campaign is a petition-drive for a referendum on May 1st to fund a transit plan for the growing city. Signing the petition is equivalent to saying, “I’m for transit and I’m willing to help pay for it.”
Nashville has dealt with increasing problems with traffic, especially in and around Vanderbilt’s campus. It’s likely that any Vanderbilt student with a car can attest to Nashville’s congestion and gridlock – simply getting through Hillsboro Village in rush hour is a 15-minute escapade.
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, who spoke at the event, says that building a long-term transit plan is her top priority. She will try and succeed in an area where her predecessor, Karl Dean, failed. Many Davidson County residents remember Mayor Dean’s proposal, the Amp, a bus rapid transit proposal that was defeated by the Tennessee state legislature’s intervention back in 2014.
Mayor Barry isn’t alone in this effort, though. There is a growing coalition of organizations and individuals supporting this campaign, including AARP Tennessee, the NAACP, and the Nashville area Chamber of Commerce. It’s worth noting that Vanderbilt University is not a part of this coalition, while other local universities such as Belmont, Tennessee State, and Trevecca Nazarene are on the list.
With traffic already being a major issue in a region that is projected to grow by 1 million people in the next 25 years, a lack of effective mass transit will have severe effects on Nashville’s growth. Online retailer Amazon is looking for a location to build a new headquarters, which would bring up to 50,000 jobs with it. Among Amazon’s core preferences for a location, though, is mass transit. The lack of transit options in Nashville may preclude the city from bringing in both the headquarters or other large companies looking to relocate.
A successful petition, and referendum, though, would lead to less traffic, less gridlock, and, as the campaign’s slogan says, “More time for what matters.” With Nashville’s future at stake, this campaign could end up making or breaking Music City.
Photo courtesy of Nashville MTA.