Nashville Buses Get $9 Million, Despite Apparent Lack of Use

Federal taxpayers will hand over more than $9 million so Nashville officials can replace the city’s fleet of buses for its public transportation system.

This, despite a recent WSMV investigation showing Nashvillians don’t use existing buses as often as one might assume.

According to a recent U.S. Department of Transportation press release, the $9 million will replace some of the city’s aging buses with new hybrid electric models. The rest of the money will pay to maintain existing buses, the press release said.

This $9 million was part of $366.2 million in grants the feds gave out to cities nationwide.

According to a WSMV investigation last week, however, too few people evidently ride the buses to justify the high costs to taxpayers.

Sometimes, according to the station, only five people rode a bus.

The station quoted one passenger, Rae Keohane, who said she often is the only person on board.

Another bus, which runs along West End Avenue, was empty for more than 30 minutes. Also, the bus on the Grassmere-Edmondson route was empty for 19 minutes, according to the station.

The Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority has seven low-performing routes. The most expensive, the University Connector, costs taxpayers $1.4 million per year, the station said.

Metro officials told the station they were working to make things more efficient. They also said there are people who rely on the buses, regardless.

“This is like any public service.  You invest a little for the people in greatest need,” Metro Councilman Freddie O’Connell told the station.

“What if that person who’s using this for job access right now going to do if we take away this option? What if they can’t afford a car?”

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in her press release the Federal Transit Administration’s Buses and Bus Facilities Infrastructure Investment Program will fund 107 projects in 50 states.

“The funding supports projects to replace, rehabilitate, and purchase buses and related equipment, as well as projects to purchase, rehabilitate, and construct bus-related facilities,” the press release said.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]

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