Photo of a rapid transit system.

Nashville, Tennessee has perhaps the most important decision on it’s plate in May since voting on the construction of Nissan Stadium more than two decades ago. The Nashville Metro Government has proposed a $5.4 billion transit plan that will include the construction of more than 28 miles of light rail tracks, a transit tunnel underneath the city, improvements to the city’s bus transit system and the addition of four new rapid-bus routes. The transit plan was first proposed by former Mayor Megan Barry in October 2017. How will Nashville voters react to the referendum?

Nashville area residents have complained extensively about the need for more affordable housing with the city’s skyrocketing rent and property values. The transit plan will be funded via four different tax increases; notably the 1-percent sales tax increase from 9.25% to 10.25%. A 10.25% local sales tax would match Chicago which has the highest local sales tax in the United States. It would be almost hypocritical for the city’s residents to vote themselves a tax raise if they’re already complaining about the cost of living. The tax increases would expire in 2068; the estimated time it would take for the transit plan to be paid off. Residents on the west side of Nashville have been some of the most vocal in their disgust with the proposed transit plan. Here is a map of the proposed transit stops if Nashville area residents were to vote in favor of the transit plan.

However, Nashville area residents have also complained extensively about the city’s traffic congestion, particularly on I-65, I-24, and West End Avenue. To reject the transit referendum would be hypocritical for those critics as well. On a more positive note, the number of people relocating to Nashville has already began to decrease substantially as the nation’s overall economy improves. Cities such as Atlanta, Seattle and Austin all rejected taxpayer funded transit plans in the past only to reconsider a few years down the road. Of course, waiting several years means construction costs for the exact same plan would rise.

What isn’t being discussed is the impact the transit system will have on the city’s real estate values and future construction. Although it would cause a major shakeup, you can bet that a transit system would increase property values because of the construction of commercial real estate that would soon follow. Are there any alternatives to the Nashville Metro Government’s proposed transit plan? A local group recently proposed a “plan B” alternative. Plan B proposes the utilization of commuter vans which would use ride-share technology to pick groups of people up at their homes and drop them off at work. Many Nashville residents are skeptical about the idea of commuter vans. While the idea would have some success, it’s just not as sexy as a light rail system and could even coexist with light rail. Here is a Youtube video that describes the proposed “plan B” in greater detail.

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