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VOL. 41 | NO. 3 | Friday, January 20, 2017

Moving Forward issues first transit scorecard

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NASHVILLE – In its first scorecard, Moving Forward finds that the Middle Tennessee region has made progress in a number of key areas, most notably in developing a regional transit plan. The challenge ahead is securing funding from local and state sources.

Since its inception in August 2015, the Moving Forward initiative has been focused on five objectives that will create a path to offer transit choices to Middle Tennesseans.

Thes inaugural scorecard explains the progress that has been made – and the challenges ahead – in achieving multimodal transportation options for our region.

“We have a bold regional transit plan – Nashville MTA/RTA’s nMotion – that was developed with broad public support,” says Gary Garfield, former president and CEO of Bridgestone Americas and chair of the Moving Forward coordinating committee.

“Our next, most pressing step is supporting the identification of enabling legislation for counties to seek local funding for transportation during this current legislative session. It’s crucial for the vitality of the region that we secure a local funding option so that elected officials and Nashville MTA/RTA can begin to develop a series of projects and eventually break ground on the region’s first rapid-transit project by 2020.”

The five objectives that the Moving Forward initiative is tracking include the following:

1. Support the completion of an RTA and MTA Strategic Plan update by the end of 2016 (Complete). In September 2016, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) adopted the nMotion plan.

2. Support the identification and passage of state and federal government revenue enhancements for transit by the end of 2017 (Complete – federal revenue. Still to be achieved – state revenue). In December 2015, President Barack Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) into law, providing federal funding for transportation and transit, but only through 2020. At the state level, Moving Forward plans to engage in the conversation on raising state revenues for transportation infrastructure.

3. Ensure at least 30,000 engagements with Middle Tennesseans in the transit conversation by the end of 2017 (Underway). MTA/RTA had achieved 19,964 public engagements around the nMotion plan by the time of its adoption.

4. Identify and secure a local dedicated funding source for transit in the region by the end of 2018 (Still to be achieved). In November 2016, Moving Forward’s Revenue and Finance Task Force released the Victoria Transport Policy Institute (VTPI) study on regional transit funding, which found seven sources worthy of further consideration. A second study will provide elected officials with an estimate of how much revenue can be generated per county for these funding sources.

5. Support breaking ground on the first rapid-transit project in the region by the end of 2020 (Still to be achieved). This objective is ambitious but critical, since most major transit projects take at least seven years from inception to completion.

While elected officials throughout the region and MTA/RTA continue to work on the five objectives listed, Moving Forward volunteers will be actively engaged in the following areas:

– State transportation infrastructure conversation. The state’s gas tax has not been increased since 1989 and is not meeting the state’s needs, resulting in a $6 billion backlog of road and bridge projects, which does not include transit needs. The state gas tax and transportation infrastructure solution must also support Middle Tennessee’s transit needs.

– Enabling legislation for counties to seek local funding for transportation. The Middle Tennessee Mayors’ Caucus and Moving Forward support state legislation that would allow voters in individual counties to raise local revenues from a variety of sources for transportation and transit needs through a referendum.

– Downtown mobility study. The nMotion plan proposes that transit move through downtown on “transit emphasis corridors,” but does not identify the corridors. The Nashville/Davidson County Mayor’s Office has charged Metro Public Works to undertake a Downtown Mobility Study to identify transit emphasis corridors.

– High-capacity transit corridor studies. The adopted nMotion plan called for further study on four corridors recommended for light rail service within Davidson County – Charlotte, Gallatin, Murfreesboro and Nolensville – to demonstrate how higher-order transit would function.

– Public engagement. In the coming year, the Public Engagement Task Force will reach out to various civic, professional and recreational groups to brief them on the region’s transit conversation and what it means for these groups and their members.

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