BRT plans hurt when Metro Council defers Midtown zoning

Tuesday, August 7, 2012 at 10:28pm

The Metro Council’s failure to approve a massive zoning overhaul for Midtown Tuesday hampered the city’s ability to land federal funds over the next year for a new bus rapid transit line along Broadway-West End, Metro planning officials say.

“I think it reduces our chances of getting the federal grant approved,” Doug Sloan, assistant executive director of the Metro Planning Department, told reporters Tuesday, referring to a crucial U.S. Federal Transit Administration grant that could cover up to $75 million of the BRT project’s $174 million price tag.

Metro transit and planning officials are eyeing a Sept. 1 deadline to submit a federal grant application in hopes of landing a chunk of money essential to Mayor Karl Dean’s proposed BRT east-west connector, which would stretch eight miles through the heart of Nashville.

Officials drafting the grant request had hoped to show that Metro had re-zoned more than 455 acres of property between Interstate-40 and I-440 to allow denser future development to accommodate the BRT line. Zoning guidelines would be consistent with the recently adopted Midtown Community Plan, they contend.

Instead, the council Tuesday voted to defer an ordinance that outlines those changes for one month, meaning the Midtown’s rezoning won’t head to a final vote until the grant application’s deadline has already passed.

“I’m not saying that the federal grant won’t get approved now without that, but that would have given us additional points on our application, showing that we were creating a more dense environment around the BRT route,” Sloan said.

The council’s deferral came after a handful of West Nashville residents raised objections to the Midtown rezoning plan during a brief public hearing, with one calling it “tacit support” for Dean’s BRT project. “All we’re asking you is to slow down,” one woman said.

Councilwoman Burkley Allen, lead sponsor of the bill whose district includes much of the proposed BRT line, made the motion to defer the rezoning ordinance for 30 days. “I don’t want to mess up what our city’s trying to do in moving forward, but I do feel like we need to have our citizens comfortable with what we’re doing,” Allen said.

“This is a huge move,” she said.

Councilman Jason Holleman, whose district also touches the planned BRT route, said he’s concerned about the implications of some of the Midtown zone-changes if federal BRT funding were not approved. He also suggested the proposed rezoning does nothing to protect historic structures in an area that has lost several in recent years.

“I understand the need to move forward with the request to the federal government for transit dollars, but I don’t want to do it at the expense of the long-term growth and improvement of one of the hearts of our city,” Holleman said.

Sloan, from the planning department, said Metro officials had sought to “move the timeline up” for Midtown’s rezoning solely to assist with the BRT federal funding application. He said federal transit officials would be reviewing Nashville’s growth projections along the Broadway-West-End corridor as they consider whether to deliver Metro funds.

“The more dense development we allow in the area, the higher the likelihood that we increase the ridership for that line,” Sloan said.

Holleman said he’s a “tremendous” supporter of mass transit investment, but questioned why the rezoning component wasn’t introduced earlier. “I think if this rezoning was an integral part of our BRT application then we should have began the process for working out that rezoning plan sooner,” he said.

Metro transit officials last month conducted a series of community forums to introduce Dean’s BRT proposal to the public. A next round of meetings is set for this month in advance of the Sept. 1 application deadline.

24 Comments on this post:

By: Ask01 on 8/8/12 at 5:00

When we need the Council to provide adult leadership despite Mayor Dean's grandiose schemes, they fail us. Now, with a project which would benefit those using public transportation, they defer action, endangering federal funding.

The excerpt below demonstrates the faulty, obtuse logic employed by members of the council, our alleged leaders.

"Councilwoman Burkley Allen, lead sponsor of the bill whose district includes much of the proposed BRT line, made the motion to defer the rezoning ordinance for 30 days. “I don’t want to mess up what our city’s trying to do in moving forward, but I do feel like we need to have our citizens comfortable with what we’re doing,” Allen said."

This project would benefit many in her district, but she is concerned they are comfortable with Metro's actions. I wonder how many of her constituents were "comfortable" with the tax increase she approved?

I hope voters in her district, as well as the districts of all the other untrustworthy councilmembers remember these betrayals the next election cycle.

On the other hand, perhaps the circus we laughingly refer to as Metro Leadership could take their act on the road with Ringmaster Dean. The plus side is they would be away, and unable to muck up the operation of the city.

By: MusicCity615 on 8/8/12 at 8:16

Burkley Allen, Jason Holleman-

You just lost support. I will never vote for either of you. You can play it "safe" all you want, but the reality is Nashville is so far behind on public transportation, and we can't abide by your precious timeline.

Doug Sloan- Please do everything you can to move up Metro's rezoning meeting.

Nashville cannot truly move forward without dedication to mass transit.

By: localboy on 8/8/12 at 9:14

If the BRT plans are that crucial then they should proceed forward with or without the targeted federal funds.

By: MusicCity615 on 8/8/12 at 9:46

Localboy-

It's obviously going to be much harder to fund solely through local government. All the interstates and highways, which some people think are crucial to Tennessee, would not be here if it wasn't for federal funds.

By: TRHJR on 8/8/12 at 10:00

ah observation !!! none of you four pay TAXES .... all on the Gov. doyle ....

ya want to save money , air , green junk ,,, GET A BICYCLE .... WALK , RUN

but get ya hands out of the good peoples pockets ....

By: MusicCity615 on 8/8/12 at 10:09

TRHJR-

Do you complain when billions of dollars are spent each year solely for roads in Tennessee? Where do you think that money comes from? It certainly comes from the "good people's pockets....". When gas prices rise, and Tennesseans only have a car as the best mode of transportation, that hurts the "good people's pockets...."

I'm not saying to increase taxes, I'm saying to divert taxes that fund roads year after year and put that to mass transit.

By: CountryBoyinCity on 8/8/12 at 10:44

We're paying for the federal transportation projects already. Our money is just going to build transit projects in other cities who have their acts together. We have to compete for those grant dollars. We can either bring those transportation dollars home and foster economic development here around smart transportation investments like the East-West connector, or we can make excuses and continue to see our tax dollars go to build light rail in Denver, BRT in Cincinnati, or streetcar in Charlotte. By rezoning the corridor Metro is doing what government should do: set the table for the private sector to reinvest in the corridor and create jobs. Lets hope this deferral is only a minor setback.

By: Kosh III on 8/8/12 at 11:00

Why delay a whole month? Why not two weeks? even three weeks is before the deadline.

I pay taxes, I don't rely on welfare checks like HCA, the Titans, Predators, Dell and others.

By: TRHJR on 8/8/12 at 11:20

yea yea HCA Titans all the rest WHO BRING REVENUE ! JOBS ! JOBS !

The only revenue a damn ole BUS would bring is more TAX ! oh and dirty AIR

then you LEBS can start wineing again ..... all I see out of you types ( for forty

years ) is to raise someone taxes ..... why don`t you last three push your cars

off into the CUMLUBINE RIVER !!! GO HEAD I dare you start walking , set an

example

By: Kosh III on 8/8/12 at 1:03

At least I know how to spell "Cumberland," and "old."

I walk 3-5 miles daily, take the bus and care about the environment which is helped by less cars because people are on the bus not alone in their car.
How much do you walk? Or are you too fat and lazy?

By: TRHJR on 8/8/12 at 1:47

kosh i see you don`t know about the yankees that come into middle tn ....

and yea jackasa i ll race you any time in a 5k want to try Percy Warner Park !!

By: Jason Holleman on 8/8/12 at 3:11

MusicCity615,

My concern about moving this bill forward on such a short timeline is not about "playing it safe." It is about ensuring that our approach to mass transit is thoughtful and does not result in unintended consequences that harm the long term viability of the project and/or the livability of the area proposed for rezoning.

I would be happy to have a detailed discussion with you about my concerns about the rezoning proposal in its current form. My telephone number is: 726-0050.

Jason Holleman
Metro Council
District 24 (West Nashville)

By: Kosh III on 8/8/12 at 5:11

"yankees?"

You mean American citizens entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

By: shinestx on 8/8/12 at 5:47

I understand that the fault lies with Congressman Jim Cooper, who has done nothing to secure federal funds for any mass transit for Nashville. At the very least, he does not seem to care about Nashville's needs, as I understand his children have never even lived in Nashville. Why does Nashville keep sending Cooper to Washington? Guess "we" get what we deserve.

By: Shadow63 on 8/9/12 at 1:57

Sure, what's another 100 million dollars of debt? ( Rhetorical question)
Is there a sane person in our government? (Not a rhetorical question)

By: MusicCity615 on 8/9/12 at 8:31

Jason Holleman-

You knew this bill was coming, it was announced several months ago. You can be thoughtful in your approach, but there is thoughtful and too thoughtful. Have you ever thought about what will happen to Nashville if we do NOTHING about mass transit?

Employers want cities that have mass transit. Citizens want a break from the pump when gas keeps getting higher and higher.

I sincerely ask you to please have the rezoning meeting before September 1st so we can apply for federal funds.

By: MusicCity615 on 8/9/12 at 8:35

Shadow-

Let's divert some of the billions of dollars that go to building roads only and put it towards mass transit WITHOUT adding on debt. We cannot leave citizens with only 1 option, which is to break their wallets with high gas prices

By: JeffF on 8/9/12 at 11:20

If we are going to divert millions from the gas tax revenues to transit I would want it spent on something that serves more people. Choosing the most expensive option for small focused programs is foolish. Is sending $100-200 million on a single line not going by almost 100% of the city or regions's homes, schools, grocery stores, and employers the wisest decision. Yes it will look good on the CVB sponsored post cards and neourbanistas will finally get something to crow about when meeting up with the like-minded in Cleveland or Portland or where the current hip transit city is at the moment.

This much money would go a long way to fixing the documented problems that keep people from taking advantage of the poor bus system in town. It would buy buses that could be routed around town instead of straight to the pointy buildings downtown. It could create a web of routes that serve all of Nashville.

Now is it more important to take this money and serve Nashville or use it instead on a route the downtown tourists and just the users of service on West End? I will support anything that supports Nashville's interests over the interests of downtown businesses and the tourists they love. BRT is great, it could work in a lot of places. But the form of BRT being pushed here might as well be a train or trolley or streetcar, it is just as wasteful and inflexible as those items.

By: MusicCity615 on 8/9/12 at 12:17

JeffF-

Let's stay on topic here. Bring that issue up when a proposal is made, and there's a reason why it hasn't.

By: Kosh III on 8/9/12 at 1:08

shine
I believe that is an "earmark" and Cooper has supposedly pledged not to get them.

By: Kosh III on 8/9/12 at 1:13

Music
What is the reason that there is no proposal as you assert?

How many BRT Lite lines could be established on major routes with this same amount of money? Each of the newer hybrid buses such as on #56 cost 800,000 each. It takes 8(I think) to run on #56.
That's 6.4 million per route. The article says local funding will be 99 million so we could do 15 new routes.

By: MusicCity615 on 8/9/12 at 1:30

The dedicated lanes will provide quicker routes and quicker routes will lead to more passengers.

My hope is that we eventually have a spider-web of BRT lite routes around the city and those ended up connected to a wider web of BRT heavy routes in more dense areas.

Regardless, we need people like Jason Holleman to have his questions / concerns answered before September 1st. There is no reason why these concerns should take more than 2 weeks to answer

By: Ask01 on 8/9/12 at 6:07

I have to agree that we need a better mass transit system in Nashville.

I believe the city would be better served with a subway or elevated rail system so as to avoid the tangled snarl Nashville traffic will become once MCC is up and running with simultaneous events are scheduled at MCC, the arena, and the stadium. Oh, and Vandy playing at home. That is a little tongue in cheek, I admit, but I'm sure everyone understands my point. Normal downtown traffic can be hideous now; I shudder to contemplate the possibilities, however remote.

A subway, though, with Nashville's rocky ground, would most likely be prohibitively expensive. An elevated rail system would be equally expensive and I suspect have limited access downtown, defeating the purpose. A street car system would be great, such as many European cities employ, the only draw back is again, competing with automotive traffic for limited street space, at least in the city center.

The BRT is a consolation prize in some ways, but potentially a good step forward in improving the city's transit system.

I do admit I use the system daily, and therefore have a dog in the hunt. I am most interested in seeing our system expanded and upgraded for the benefit of the locals who use MTA.

By: MusicCity615 on 8/10/12 at 7:31

Well said, Ask01