By MATT BLOIS
A group of transit organizations is planning to investigate options for mass transit south of Nashville.
The goal of the study is to give commuters more options and reduce traffic. Those options could include more buses, van pools, park and rides or trains.
Stephen Bland, the CEO of the Metro Transit Authority and the Regional Transit Authority, gave a presentation on Wednesday morning about the future of transportation in Maury County at the Northfield building in Spring Hill.
He started off the presentation with a PowerPoint slide showing how congestion would increase over the next 20 years. The map showed red lines extending in all directions from Nashville. He said the new study will try find ways to alleviate those problems.
“A system well executed will help address congestion in those key congested corridors where we’re frankly trying squeeze 20 gallons of water into a 10 gallon bucket,” he said.
The study would likely start in about a month — after Davidson County votes on a plan to increase public transportation there — and will take about a year to complete. The study will examine how the area could expand its transportation options.
The Regional Transportation Authority of Middle Tennessee and the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization are sponsoring the study.
In 2014, the Regional Transportation Authority of Middle Tennessee commissioned a similar study to examine the need for public transportation between Nashville and Clarksville. It suggested adding more buses, allowing buses to drive on the shoulder of highways and improving commuter trains. The new study for the area south of Nashville will consider all of those options.
Williamson and Maury counties already have some mass transportation options. The Regional Transit Authority operates the Spring Hill Express, a bus that takes passengers from the Kroger on Port Royal Road to Nashville. It has about 1,600 riders each month.
A non profit transportation group in Franklin operates a service called VanStar, which allows commuters going to the same area to create their own van pool.
Transit Alliance CEO Jo Ann Graves, who also presented at the meeting, said that the new study will identify what kind of transit options people would like to see in the area, but they would still have to come up with a way to pay for it.
“Everybody is going to have to put skin in the game,” she said. “There will be some federal funds, but federal funds are diminishing. The local level is going to have to say we’re willing raise this kind of revenue in order to fund our priorities.”
Her organization focuses on improving transportation in Middle Tennessee.
Nashville will vote on a plan to improve its transit system on May 1. That plan would expand bus routes, add light rail lines and neighborhood transportation hubs. It would cost more than $5 billion to build and almost $100 million to operate once constructed.
Bland said that the vote in Nashville will affect people in Williamson and Maury counties too because many people living south of Nashville work there. The new study will identify some options to make it easier to get to Nashville, but then it will be up to the city to get those commuters to their final destination.
According to Bland, adding more transportation options to a place like Maury County could help reduce traffic, but it won’t be a panacea.
“Mass transit will be a part of that solution, not the entire solution,” he said. “I get a little bit nervous when someone says this is the answer.”
He said solving traffic issues is like managing an investment portfolio. You have to invest in lots of different areas to get the best return. Buses, cars, and van pools can all get people to work on time, but Bland said the most efficient form of transportation is a pair of shoes.
A video of the meeting is available through the Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page.