GALLATIN, Tennessee — Steve Bland, CEO of the Regional Transportation Authority of Middle Tennessee, was the featured speaker who updated Sumner County elected officials and citizens on the nMotion Strategic Plan Thursday at Volunteer State Community College. The nMotion 2016 Transit Plan was approved by the Metropolitan Transit Authority in September 2016, but has not yet been adopted, executed or funded by any of the individual middle Tennessee counties.
With approximately 100 people in attendance, including several County Commissioners, Gallatin City Councilmen, City Mayors, County Executive Anthony Holt opened the meeting by thanking the speakers and hosts of the event as well as the state legislature and governor for passing the IMPROVE Act. He questioned whether it had hurt anyone at all, saying gas prices aren’t any different, but it is “giving us resources.”
Holt also said that Sumner County and the middle Tennessee region is facing a lot of challenges, predominantly related to tremendous growth of an additional one million people by the year 2040 that “we can’t build our way out of” or “build a wall to prevent people from coming.”
Holt said “we can’t all travel in a car,” and that an alternative is needed in order to get vehicles off the road. “Out-of-the-box thinking” will be needed to develop a single, seamless transit system that will include the identification of transit stations and involve property density to make transit work, according to Holt.
Bland showed a slide presentation that reviewed scheduled Tennessee Department of transportation projects, including the new interchange from I-65 to SR109, improvements to SR109 south of River Bridge to US70, and the widening of SR386 from 4 to 6 lines.
After showing the 2040 projected traffic congestion, the majority of the presentation focused on the various options for transit including expanded bus service, bus rapid transit (BRT), reverse commuting, light rail, “hot” lanes, tolls, enforced carpooling.
Jo Ann Graves, President and CEO of Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee and former Gallatin City Mayor, called the IMPROVE Act “enabling legislation” so that a local government could “choose to hold a referendum to address transportation and transit issues,” that would leave it up to the people to decide the transit options to pursue as well as how the transit system would be funded.
Graves also extended an invitation to the Citizens Leadership Academy, which will “teach about all things transit,” with the next class staring on September 20 and running through the end of October.
Returning to the podium, Bland took questions from the audience, which extended beyond the planned 6:30 p.m. end time, and touched on subjects related to cost, safety and security of Sumner County neighborhoods as well as the transit buses or rail cars, “user fee” coverage of operating costs, existing transit systems middle Tennessee could model and development of a plan that could connect to Davidson County at a later date.