Regional Transit Plan

The Vision

In December of 2010, mayors and county executives from across Middle Tennessee adopted the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan which includes a bold, new vision for mass transit as part of a comprehensive multi-modal strategy to improve roadways and help create walkable communities across our region. That vision calls for connecting communities across a 10-county area with a combination of rapid transit, commuter rail, express coach, local fixed-route bus, vanpools, and rural paratransit services over the next couple of decades.

Steps toward Implementation

The adoption of this bold, new vision for mass transit is a momentous step towards the expansion and modernization of public transportation in the greater Nashville area, yet having a vision alone will not guarantee successful implementation. A significant amount of work stands in the way in order to make the vision a reality.

Local Agency Sponsorship

As the convener of local governments, transit agencies, and state and federal partners, the MPO has the authority to establish regional transportation policy and is responsible for adopting the regional transportation plan and short-term work programs that identify specific projects for funding, however, the implementation of transit projects will be carried-out by area transit agencies like the Regional Transportation Authority, Nashville MTA, Clarksville Transit System, Franklin Transit Authority, Murfreesboro Rover, and in some cases by Mid-Cumberland Human Resource Agency or TDOT.

As such projects contained in the regional transportation plan must be integrated into the local agency plans and have the political and financial support of their governing boards and the communities they serve.

Paying for Transit

With a few exceptions, most of the larger proposals in the vision will require increased investment in transit agencies across the region. Paying for transportation infrastructure and services is a complex endeavor anywhere across the United States but is even more challenging here in Middle Tennessee where we lack dedicated revenue for transit.

It is not uncommon for people to think that transit service in America, or most of the world for that matter, is paid in-full by the fares it charges per ride. The reality is that transit is part of our public infrastructure and is supported by taxpayers in the same way that roads are provided.

Transportation investments in America are largely paid for by fuel taxes levied at the federal, state, or local levels. In general, about 40 percent of the cost to operate transit comes from fare-box returns and advertising sales, leaving about 60% to be covered by some other local, state, or federal revenue sources. By comparison, about 50% of the cost to build and operate our roadways system is covered by fuel taxes. The remainder of costs are covered some other tax or toll.

A new reportpublished by Transportation for America presents a look at some of the more creative approaches to financing transit projects.

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