Metro transit officials provided an update on the East-West Connector project Thursday afternoon, presenting travel time analysis, updated ridership projections and an official name for the proposed bus rapid transit service.
The current timeline for the project shows service beginning in 2016.
In a meeting at downtown’s Music City Central, with Mayor Karl Dean and several Metro Council members in attendance, Jim McAteer, director of planning for the Metro Transit Authority, presented a summary of the project’s second phase, focused on preliminary engineering and design.
McAteer reiterated the rationale behind the decision to use the West End corridor as the route for the project — a decision that has been questioned in recent months by community activists and council members in North Nashville as well as along Charlotte Avenue — emphasizing that the central artery serves as Nashville’s “Main Street.”
The summary also highlighted BRT’s projected impact on traffic and travel times along the corridor. Projections included in the report showed that, in 10 years, an individual using BRT to travel from Saint Thomas Hospital to Bridgestone Arena would arrive about twice as fast as someone travelling by car.
Officials expect a ridership of more than 1.6 million in the first year of operation, based on ridership forecasts, and said that number is projected to grow to 2.5 million by 2022.
Consultants from Nashville-based marketing communications agency GS&F were also on hand to unveil the proposed name for the service: The Amp. The name, according to a MTA release, is “intended to suggest forward movement and appeal to riders and non-riders.”
“The name is good,” Dean told reporters after the presentation. “It suggests energy, it has a Music City tie. I like the name.”
As for where local funds for The Amp will come from, Dean didn’t offer any specifics.
“That’s something we’ll get to when we get to it,” he said. “But I do think this is the type of investment that the city needs to make. We’re looking for somewhere around  percent, or that area, from the federal government. We’re looking for an investment from the state. And I think the city needs to participate and have skin in the game, which we will.”
The project is expected to cost an estimated $174 million, made up of federal, state and local funds. Metro is seeking $75 million from the federal government, or about 43 percent of the cost, but Dean said he couldn’t say when the city would apply for those funds, as the federal government is not yet ready to receive applications.
The city is also seeking 20 percent of the funds from the state, and 3 percent from the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. Metro would have to come up with the remaining 34 percent.
Asked about the frustrations of community members and elected officials in North Nashville and along Charlotte Avenue, who have expressed concern that they’re being left out of the project and its potential benefits, Dean said the West End corridor is the one most likely to draw federal dollars.
“You also need to be in an area where there’s a density there, in terms of people living there that can support it,” he said. “And in terms of the ridership, this is the corridor that the federal government will support. Federal funding to this is essential. As we say, it’s about  percent. So you have to do it along a corridor that the federal government’s going to be supportive of.”
Dean did say, however, that he would “love to see” the city “take a hard look” at bringing a BRT lite service, like those on Gallatin Pike and Murfreesboro Pike, to Charlotte Avenue “sometime in the near future.”