A PAC opposed to a $9 billion transit plan calls Nashville Metro Council’s vote Tuesday a “shameful” effort to pull the wool over the voter’s (sic) eyes.”
NoTax4Tracks made the statement in a press release in response to Metro Council voting 21-14 not to accept an amendment to the light rail transit plan that would have shown the $9 billion cost on the May 1 ballot. The Tennessee Star broke the latest story on Mayor Megan Barry’s plan Wednesday morning.
Once the amendment failed, the council voted on the Barry administration’s favored language for the referendum, citing a price tag of just over $5.3 billion. The council voted 30-6, with three not voting, to create the ballot language. The third and final reading will be Feb. 6.
NoTax4Tracks said, “We know the city and the pro-light rail groups leaned hard on council members today. They did so because their own polling and political advisors told them that if Cooper’s amendment passed, their entire plan was in big trouble. So, they laid the wood to the council. It’s clear, they’ll do just about anything to win.”
Council member John Cooper proposed the ballot language for the city’s Transit Improvement Plan be open and transparent and reflect its true $9 billion cost, NoTax4Tracks said. That figure is “buried on page 50 of the city’s plan.”
Bob Mendes is one council member who voted against releasing the $9 billion cost on the ballot referendum. He was a leader in the failed effort last year to turn Nashville into a sanctuary city.
On his political blog, Mendes justifies the hiding of the transit plan’s true cost. He says it does not matter if Nashville does not receive $3 billion in federal funding, an integral part of the plan’s financing:
“Many people have asked what happens if the anticipated federal funding is not available. The first answer to this is that the proposed transit program assumes federal funding that is consistent with historic levels. If that level of funding is not available, we will have to find alternative funding (unlikely), or parts of the system could be scrapped (probably unlikely), or the system will take longer than the anticipated 15 years to build (most likely).”
The Star recently reported on the federal financing dilemma.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) said its budget: “…includes no funding for new CIG (capital investment grant) projects, and thus project sponsors that do not yet have construction grant agreements acknowledge they are undertaking additional work at their own risk which may not receive CIG funding.” The FTA added it will accept new grant applications with the understanding no funding is guaranteed.
One point to consider even as Barry and the Metro Council ask voters to take on a $9 billion project is whether the plan will make a difference in alleviating the city’s heavy traffic congestion, ostensibly the project’s reason for existence.
The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday on the dismal lack of success in that community’s bus-light rail network.
“Despite a growing population and a booming economy, the number of trips taken on Los Angeles County’s bus and rail network last year fell to the lowest level in more than a decade,” the newspaper wrote. “Passengers on Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses and trains took 397.4 million trips in 2017, a decline of 15% over five years. Metro’s workhorse bus system, which carries about three-quarters of the system’s passengers, has seen a drop of nearly 20%.
“The ridership decline plaguing Metro and other Southern California transit agencies provides a grim assessment of public officials’ efforts to shift commuters from driving to public transit,” the story says.
Competition with private businesses Uber and Lyft is cited as one of several factors for the declined business on the government transit system.
The organizers of NoTax4Tracks say they are holding out hope for the final reading of the ballot measure language on Feb. 6: 14 principle -minded members of the council voted for openness and fairness. That means we need 8 more to see the light between now and third reading. The magic number is 8.”