Before the Metro Council approved $7.5 million in initial funding for Mayor Karl Dean’s proposed bus rapid transit project last week, Councilman Scott Davis spoke up for a constituency that’s been left out of the discussion.
In recent months, much has been made — by council members, community activists and, indeed, the press — about the low-income areas along Charlotte Avenue and north of downtown that won’t see The Amp as it travels a 7.1-mile route down the West End corridor. But Davis sought to remind council members of poor neighborhoods in his East Nashville district that will benefit from transit upgrade.
“Yes, people in parts of North Nashville are being left out of it,” he told The City Paper the following day. “I’m not arguing that. But we have to remember that it’s also helping low-income residents in my neighborhood that are along the [route].”
It would be difficult to argue with his assessment. The Amp will run between St. Thomas Hospital, near some of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods, to the Five Points area in the core of trendy East Nashville. But between the Cumberland River and the route’s eastern endpoint are public housing communities and low-income apartments.
When people hear “Five Points,” Davis said, they think of hip bars and coffee shops in close proximity to increasingly valuable real estate. But a stone’s throw in the other direction lands in communities that rely on public transit, and for whom Davis said The Amp would be a welcomed boon.
“We forget those low-income people along that route have been left out of the conversation,” he said. “They work over there off of West End. And they don’t have some of the glamorous jobs, you know? A lot of them are in the maintenance part, or they’re working in the boiler room at Vanderbilt.”
If they’re driving to work, Davis said, many of those people struggle to pay the cost of parking. For many who use the current bus system — which must work its way through car traffic that The Amp, with its dedicated lanes, will avoid — getting off the job and making it to a day care, for instance, to pick up a child before extra charges start to kick in is a challenge.
“Not everyone low-income and in trouble hates The Amp, it’s just that they can’t make it to a 3 o’clock meeting or a 4 o’clock meeting to let people know,” Davis said.