TENNESSEAN: OPINION – NASHVILLE TRANSIT PLAN WOULD CREATE GRIDLOCK, LIMIT OPTIONS
While there is debate regarding the ultimate cost of the transit proposal presented in the May referendum, there is no doubt that it would be the most expensive project ever proposed in Metro history.
It is also true that major public works projects in Nashville and elsewhere in the USA typically have very significant cost overruns over the original estimates.
While cost is clearly a significant concern, especially since it would result in further tax increases, ultimately the cost effectiveness of any such project must be judged upon results. It is possible for a very expensive project to be desirable if the benefits outweigh the costs.
Unfortunately, the transit proposal would almost certainly create immediate as well as long-term traffic gridlock and would ultimately make it much more difficult to implement creative, sustainable solutions to the very real issues of Nashville’s transit needs.
Light rail was already implemented in major cities worldwide during the 1890s before the advent of the automobile.
Today Nashville and other cities have paved road networks extending to every area of the city in business and residential neighborhoods.
Widening of these roads would be exceedingly difficult in many areas due to pre-existing structures, while narrowing the vehicular capacity of the roads by introduction of light rail in the middle of major arteries would result in dramatically decreased capacity of these roads to service either human driven or autonomous vehicles.
Urban mobility solutions for the future should rely upon the latest creative technology. Mercedes, Tesla, General Motors, Chrysler, Ford, Uber, Alphabet, and other companies are investing tens of billions of dollars developing autonomous vehicles which will be available far sooner than light rail could be built in Nashville.
Unlike rail with its rigidly fixed routes, human and autonomous driven vehicles have great flexibility to use the existing road network.
Rather than limiting business and residential development to inflexible transit routes, human driven and autonomous vehicles permit development throughout the county. The transit proposal presented in the referendum does not cover the full county and does not solve the issue of linking transit for Davidson County with neighboring counties, which are the origin of many of the commuters entering Davidson County.
Proponents of the transit plan argue that we must act now due to the immediate needs, Their plan, however, would take over a decade to implement and would create instant gridlock during construction and not be effective upon completion.
Any effective solution must appeal to our city’s residents by being cost-effective, convenient, safe, and faster than the alternative.
While there is no question that Nashville is experiencing increasing traffic congestion, autonomous and ridesharing vehicles offer the very real opportunity to accommodate Nashville’s present and future transit needs utilizing the existing road network in a sustainable manner to accommodate our city’s transit needs for many years to come.
The transit proposal being presented in the referendum is not worth the cost and it would be detrimental to our city even if it could be implemented free of charge.
Fortunately, there are creative solutions, some of which are currently available, and others will be readily available in the very near future.
by George Gruhn, chairman and CEO of Gruhn Guitars