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Moving Ahead: Nashville Votes for Large Transit Measure

Nashville's transit referendum, on the May 1 ballot, would make major transportation improvements for residents with light rail, rapid buses and more. (Prayitno/flickr)
Nashville's transit referendum, on the May 1 ballot, would make major transportation improvements for residents with light rail, rapid buses and more. (Prayitno/flickr)
April 23, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There's a lot riding on the May primary in Nashville. That's when residents will vote on a transit referendum that would increase four taxes in order to pay for a $5 billion transportation plan.

The plan proposes five light rail lines and four rapid bus lines and will be complete by 2032. On average, it will cost Nashvillians between $5 and $10 a month, but Kelly Brockman with Transit for Nashville said that's a small price to pay for the benefits.

"It's giving an opportunity to create a long-lasting transportation plan that will not only enhance walkability and safety but improve access to jobs and accommodate our growth,” Brockman said. “Nashville has just grown tremendously over the past few years, with almost 100 people moving here per day."

An increase in the sales, business, hotel-occupancy and rental-car taxes is made possible by a measure in the IMPROVE Act, passed last year. Opponents say the additional taxes create a burden on taxpayers, and some say the current plan doesn't serve the outlying parts of the county.

Nashville's primary is May 1.

If passed, the city would immediately increase its bus fleet by 50 percent and add additional service hours. The plan has the support of mayors of neighboring suburbs.

Brockman said hopes are high for an approval from voters.

"If it doesn't happen, this will not be on a ballot for another five to six years,” she said. “It took us five years to get to where we are, and it would take us backwards as a city if people don't vote for transit on May 1."

Early voting ends on Thursday. According to the Tennessee Public Transportation Association, there are 25 public transit agencies in the state that provided nearly 35 million trips in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN