By Blake Stewart
Some Trevecca students and administrators are supporting a $5.4 billion plan to bring mass transit to Nashville.
University President Dan Boone in September called public transit an issue for the university’s faculty and students in a letter to the editor to The Tennessean.
“The university’s commuter population has continued to grow along with our enrollment numbers. That means more and more of our students are driving to campus every day, navigating crowded streets and interstates to class, with somewhat limited mass transit options,” he wrote. “Trevecca Nazarene University boasts its largest total enrollment in our 116-year history and is negatively impacted by transit issues.”
In the past five years, the number of commuting students at Trevecca has increased from 335 to 523
Earlier this month, the Futuro TNU Chapter, invited Nashville Mayor Meagan Barry to come to campus to discuss her transit proposal that includes 26 miles of light-rail and an underground tunnel that would be built under 5th Ave., allowing buses and trains to run from all sectors of the Nashville area.
Futuro is a professional development club focused on engaging Latino college students throughout Middle Tennessee in leadership training and networking.
Sofia Guerrero, senior education major and Futuro president, led the event for Trevecca’s Futuro chapter.
“I think it’s important that this group of students, particularly Latino students, get to see our leaders of the city in person and the opportunity to ask questions and express their concerns,” said Guerrero. “Knowing that Futuro has come a long way to be able to bring in the mayor as a guest speaker is a great achievement.”
Trevecca university president Dan Boone attended the meeting to voice his support for the mayor’s proposed transit-plan.
“I think transit is a moral issue,” said Boone. “For me the thriving of a city means that all of its residents have the opportunity to have access to jobs in the city, but in poorer areas a lot of people are limited to jobs they have access to or the jobs available in their neighborhood are not plentiful.”
A transit system doesn’t just improve job opportunities, but impacts other quality of life issues, he said.
“Public transit allows that person to get a job that is critical to their life. It evens the playing field for those who are poorest,” he said. “Having adequate transit allows a single parent the ability to take their kids out to a baseball game or the zoo.”
Metro city council on Feb.6 voted in favor to allow residents to vote on if the plan goes forward on May 1.
If the vote goes through, the transit plan would immediately begin making bus improvements. The MTA will expand services on 10 of its busiest routes by increasing the frequency buses run to every 15 minutes at peak travel times.
Expanded MTA Service Hours:
Monday-Saturday: 5:15-1:15 a.m.
Sunday: 6:15 a.m. – 10:15 p.m.
Funding for the plan would come from a tax increase in four areas for Davidson County residents. The tax increase would be in the city’s sales tax, leaving tax payers on average a $5 per month increase, according to mayor Barry.
The funding is also looking at hotel/motel fees and car rental fees. The focus on hotels and car rentals is to use Nashville’s booming tourism to foot the bill for a large portion of the tax increase.
According to the mayor, 47 percent of funding for the transit bill would be paid for by people outside of Davidson County.
Transit is not just an issue for Trevecca and the city of Nashville. President Trump has stated infrastructure as one of his top priorities saying, “our roads are in bad shape and we’re going to get the roads in great shape. And, very important, we’re going to make our infrastructure modernized. And we’re really way behind schedule. We’re way behind other countries.”
Last week, Gov. Bill Haslam attended a White House meeting on President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan that calls for state and local governments to pay a portion of the cost on infrastructure projects if the state qualifies for federal funding.
After the meeting, Gov. Bill Haslam said that Tennessee’s decision last year to boost spending on roads has left the state well positioned to access federal funds through the president’s new infrastructure plan.
“Nashville’s proposal for a new public transit system is the kind of project that could potentially qualify as a transformative project under the administration’s proposal,” said Haslam.
The new transit bill is something that will affect Trevecca students and its surrounding community in the years to come.
The projected time frame for the project to be finished is in 2040. By that time, it is estimated that 1million more people in cars will be in the Nashville region.
Neighborhood transit centers will be placed throughout Davidson County, including a Murfreesboro Rd. line to downtown, giving commuters the option to park and ride.
The Murfreesboro Road corridor, a major hub for Trevecca students to the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods, would be one of the main corridors in the mayor’s transit plan, placing the rail system in the downtown area and running all the way to Nashville International Airport.
The plan would offer free and reduced rates for students. Trevecca currently provides its students with the easy ride pass, which allows students access to the city’s buses free of charge.
According to Boone, the current cost to create one parking space is an estimated $10,000.
“Creating additional parking spaces is very expensive,” said David Caldwell, executive vice president for finance and administration. “If mass transit were added back to Murfreesboro Road, I would hope that it along with ride sharing will drastically change the way our employees and students commute to and from the campus.”
If more students were able to commute to campus by taking the bus or light rail, this would allow the university to not rely on creating more parking spaces on its campus.
“Anytime we can save money we will seek to either limit tuition increases or invest back into the campus in other areas of need,” said Caldwell. “Personally I’m very interested to see the changes ahead of us.”
If you are a Davidson County resident interested in voting on this plan and need to register to vote clink on the link below
To find out more on the mayors proposed transit bill clink on the link below: http://letsmovenashville.com/site/web/assets/2017/12/Nashville-Transit-Improvement-Program-20171213.pdf