Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s $9 billion transit plan is “absurdly expensive,” says David Fox, one of the most recent Nashvillians to speak out on the topic.
Fox’s concerns were briefly outlined by The Tennessee Star on Wednesday. Expanding on them, the former mayoral candidate said his concerns include the return on investment, the tax burden and the impact on the middle class and lower-income citizens.
Fox was defeated by Barry in a September 2015 runoff election to become Mayor of Nashville by a 55 percent to 45 percent margin. He has stayed silent since then and not returned any reporters’ phone calls until now, but said he responded to a request for help from NoTax4Tracks, a PAC that has organized against the transit plan.
“I felt the last couple of months there was not a two-sided public conversation on the transit plan,” he said, adding the plan’s backers conducted an organized campaign to sell it to residents. “As someone who has spent many months studying it, I concluded it was a terrible idea.”
Fox said he also wanted to see if Metro Council would vet the plan, but it sailed through to a referendum, which will be on May 1.
“I was delighted some people came together to organize an effort to vote against it.”
Fox said he was “inundated” with people who were happy they had a place to connect with to show their opposition. Like them, Fox said he realizes the need for a transit plan — but one that is “sane.”
“This particular plan is the wrong way to do it,” he said. “It’s an extraordinarily expensive outlay, eight times larger than what we spent on Music City Center, and that’s just the initial capital outlay. There is broad support by Nashville taxpayers for a fresh approach to transit.”
Other cities have spent vast sums of money on light rail for disappointing results, Fox said. Such efforts spike a city’s debt but do little to resolve traffic issues. To pay for the light rail, Nashville would raise it sales tax to 10.25 percent, the highest in America.
“I think that’s a very punitive approach for the middle class and lower-income.”
Nor is the light rail plan progressive in using technology, he said. A better approach would be to create a first-class bus service to last until new technologies come along. Uber plans to deploy a fleet of driverless cars by 2021, and every major car manufacturer plans to deliver. Meanwhile, Barry’s light rail would not be ready until at least 2026, and such plans do not come in on time or on schedule.
Fox said he feels good about the efforts by NoTax4Tracks and he would be “happy to live with the judgment of the citizens of Nashville. I want to make sure that the citizens can make an informed vote.”
In other news, The Beacon Center of Tennessee, the state’s free market think tank, is hosting a discussion on the transit plan. The forum on Saturday, Jan. 27 will feature local and national transit experts and will be held at Belmont University’s Gordon E. Inman Center, Frist Lecture Hall, 4th Floor, 1515 Wedgewood Ave.