Tech Tops Transit

Nashville recently held a referendum on whether to spend $5.4 billion on improving traffic and transit systems into and out of downtown.

The final cost was going to amount to closer to $9 billion when management, maintenance, operations and so on were considered in the total equation.

Funding for the proposal was going to come from various tax bases – the city’s sales tax, hotel-motel tax, business and excise tax, as well as an increase in the car rental tax.

This would have pushed Nashville’s sales tax to the highest in the country. Some put the burden on affected households by as much as $47,000 each over the life of the project.

The system would consist of four light rail and five rapid transit bus routes and take till 2032 to complete. I doubt, very sincerely based on that time scale, that the excruciating costs would have been contained at the proposed level.

You can hear it now… “Oh, those costs were based on 15 year-old budgets…” The plan failed.

You’ve seen me write on plenty of occasions that Nashville, like many cities, needs some close attention to its traffic problems – the city’s growing by 100 people a week – what are we expected to do between now and 2032?

I drove through Green Hills, a close suburb, on my way into Nashville for an appointment.

The main road through this busy shopping center extends to about a mile and a half, but one has to deal with several sets of traffics lights. Not one light’s sequence has anything to do with the next, resulting in infuriating gridlock and it took me forty minutes to extricate myself at the other end.

Neil Armstrong walked on the moon nearly fifty years ago and we can’t synch a few traffic signals?

That is all presupposing that your vehicle isn’t lost down one of the potholes – or are they sink holes?

It’s hard to tell the difference!

I’m sure that today’s technology and computer wizardry could be usefully employed to speed us up, safely and more efficiently and shouldn’t cost anywhere near $9 billion or take fifteen years.

That time scale starts to bring in other considerations; there is a mentality in places like New York or Chicago that you’d be a fool to drive into the city when you could sit on the bus or train and do the crossword. Not so down south.

Here we still consider the private confines of our own space in the car to be sacrosanct and take it to the corner store or to work with no expectation of anything else. But that’s changing – my kids would just as easily take a shared ride with Uber or Lyft, rejoicing in the convenience of not having to find a parking space and walk the rest of the way to a destination.

If a trip to a restaurant is going to involve a glass of wine then ride sharing is the preferred way to get there – or at least home.

In 15 years, they’ll be working from home or telecommuting or if they take a vehicle it will likely be autonomous and possibly be synched to easily negotiate upcoming traffic patterns.

I don’t know if that’s my idea of paradise but I believe that Nashville’s plans today will be expensively outmoded in fifteen years and thus not worthy of the plans’ proposals.

Meanwhile, lovingly clutching on to our own space, Tennesseans continue to completely disregard the rules of the HOV lanes. They’d probably treat bus lanes in much the same way!

Last modified on Thursday, 17 May 2018 20:51