Nashville Mayor Megan Barry has created a Transit and Affordability Taskforce to try to win support for her $5.2 billion mass transit plan among residents and business owners worried being displaced.
The taskforce will be co-chaired by former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell and Davidson County Clerk Brenda Wynn. A Democrat, Purcell served five terms in the state House of Representatives before serving as mayor from 1999 to 2007.
“Housing and transportation are inseparable issues, as together they represent the highest cost-burdens for most working families,” Barry, also a Democrat, said in a news release Tuesday. “If Nashville voters adopt Metro’s Transportation Solution in May of next year, we’ll face a tremendous opportunity to create affordable housing and commercial space along our major pikes and corridors so that Nashville’s future is more equitable. I’m grateful to all the taskforce members for their willingness to help identify and shape policies to ensure our community’s growth and prosperity is inclusive of all.”
Barry’s mass transit proposal has prompted criticism across the Nashville area from various groups, including the Nashville Tea Party and the People’s Alliance for Transit, Housing and Employment (PATHE). The latter group is particularly concerned about the issues to be addressed by the taskforce. The PATHE website says that “light rail is meaningless if most of us can no longer afford to live along the routes.”
Barry’s news release said the taskforce “will develop strategies to improve the economic prospects and equity of these areas and provide new opportunities for housing and commerce — all while avoiding displacement of the vital communities of residents and businesses that call these corridors home today.”
The taskforce will be made up of local affordable housing advocates, small business owners along the proposed high-capacity transit corridors, real-estate developers and planning experts. Members include:
Ashley Northington, Agency Director & Chief Brand Officer of Denor Brands & Public Relations
Bill Phillips, Partner with Windrow Phillips Group
Councilmember Bob Mendes, Chair of the Ad Hoc Affordable Housing Committee
Brent Elrod, Director of Planning and Development with Urban Housing Solutions
Hal Cato, CEO of Thistle Farms
Hank Helton, Senior Vice President of Pathway Lending
State Representative Harold M. Love Jr.
Heather Powell, CEO of the Tennessee Kidney Foundation
Dr. James Fraser, Vanderbilt Professor and Independent Housing Consultant
Lilian Yepez, Co-owner of La Hacienda
Mark Deutschmann with Village Real Estate Services and the Urban Land Institute
Marshall Crawford, President and CEO of The Housing Fund
Michael King, Owner of Monell’s Dining and Catering
Nawzad Hawrami, Director of the Salahadeen Center
Patrick Green, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1235 and member of the PATHE Coalition
Paulette Coleman, Chair of the Affordable Housing Task Force of Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH)
Pearl Sims, member of the Edgehill Coalition and the Metro Planning Commission
Pete Wooten, Financial Advisor with Pinnacle Financial Partners
Phil Ryan, Vice President of Cherry & Associates
Other critics of Barry’s mass transit proposal, including the Nashville Tea Party, have said that it is outdated and overlooks how technology and transportation are modernizing. They say the costs will unnecessarily burden taxpayers, both the initial costs and costs associated with upkeep.
The proposal calls for improving and expanding bus service and creating a light rail network, as well as building an underground tunnel downtown. The only commuter train that currently exists is the Music City Star running between Nashville and Lebanon. Barry is asking Metro Council to place a referendum on the ballot in May to ask taxpayers to sign off on tax hikes to pay for the project.
The project would be funded with tax surcharges, as well as federal grants, bonds and fare revenues. A half percent sales tax surcharge would start in July 2018, increasing to 1 percent in 2023. There also would be surcharges on the hotel/motel tax, local rental car tax, and business and excise tax.
The first light rail lines would open in 2026 and the network would be completed in 2032.