Firm to assess Portland, Seattle for transit study of Broadway-West End corridor

Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 10:05pm

The Nashville office of planning and engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff will look to, among other cities, Charlotte and Seattle as it crafts a transportation study of the Broadway-West End corridor.

Last week, the Metro Transit Authority announced it had selected the firm, which is based in New York City and got its start in 1885 developing the Big Apple’s subway system, to conduct what could be a 12-month “alternative analysis” to identify preferred transportation options for the corridor.

It is the first step in positioning Nashville to receive federal dollars for a potential urban streetcar, light rail line or bus rapid transit, officials said. The Broadway-West End corridor, which runs east to west from the Central Business District to Midtown, is one of the city’s busiest and most prestigious stretches. 

“We will conduct a peer review that will draw on the experiences of other cities when implementing transit,” said Michelle Kendall, who works in the PB Nashville office and will serve as principal in charge on the project. Charlotte-base Lynn Purnell is the project manger for PB.

“Representatives from peer cities that have successfully implemented similar transit systems will visit Nashville and provide their insights into potential opportunities and challenges based on their experience,” Kendall added.

MTA secured a $1.18 million federal grant and matched it with $437,800, some monies of which will fund the study. Full-scale work should begin this month.

Of note, the Parsons Brinckerhoff office is located within the 1900 block of Church Street in Midtown.

“The PB team has a strong familiarity with the corridor from having worked and lived in the area for many years,” Kendall said. “We have done preliminary field reconnaissance, but the official study is just beginning.”

Parsons Brinckerhoff has done similar work — often involving street cars — internationally and in various U.S. cities, including Cincinnati, Denver, Little Rock, New York City, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Portland, Seattle and Salt Lake City.

Kendall said it is important to create a more direct connection between downtown and what many generally refer to as the city’s “West End.”

“Both are important employment, cultural, educational and residential areas in their own right, but their close proximity provides the potential for synergy should they be tied together through enhanced transportation connections,” she said. “Not only is the transit connection important, but in keeping with the ‘complete streets’ philosophy, the land use/urban design between downtown and the West End can also assist in creating a sense of connectedness that is not currently fully realized.”

Kendall said the project is being focused strictly on the densely urbanized downtown and Midtown, noting “civic dialogue is supportive of growing the urban character of the core.” Focus groups will be involved in the effort, she added.

Kendall referenced Forbes magazine’s recent ranking of Nashville as the nation’s “fifth most affordable city.”

“Nashville continues to grow and attract young professionals who value a vibrant city and urban amenities such as transit options,” Kendall said. “The development and change in and near the West End corridor is the embodiment of this dynamic change and growth — and proof that access to the West End and the downtown are strong development draws. Transit in this corridor needs to catch up. That is what this project will set out to accomplish.”

Kendall said the goal is to complete the study by the end of fall of 2011.

45 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 2/4/11 at 7:06

The selection of this firm tells us in advance of any study the
way the Transit Authority and Planning Dept. wants to go with
this proposal. A very expensive West End express of any type
will not prevent the Belle Meade executives from getting into their
automobile and driving into downtown. Nor will it even slow down
those commuters driving many miles from the western portion of
Davidson Co and other counties from taking I440 to West End
exit and getting off there with their automobiles! Why are Seattle
and Portland such attractive areas to study versus more land
locked areas like & much closer to Nashville? Is it air miles?

By: fdanshep on 2/4/11 at 7:25

Sorry Mr. govskeptic, it is your type of inside the box thinking that we must avoid if Nashville is going to thrive. We are quickly becoming a town of gridlock. Having worked in Chicago and availing myself of the rail system, I know the importance of a mass transit system. It is not going to be a luxury here in Nashville, but a necessity! It takes time for people to understand, appreciate and use rapid transit. Only in rare cases does the weather halt the trains. The time on the train on the is a time to visit, reflect and even prepare for the work day. That is why we must expand the available routes from the suburbs. I am rapidly coming to an end of my business career but will still use the transit if it becomes available for ball games, functions downtown, etc. where I don't want to worry about driving a vehicle.

Development of the West End Corridor would be a wonderful thing.

By: Kosh III on 2/4/11 at 7:36

BRT buses are the way to go.
Rail is NOT the answer. Rail is expensive, takes many years to implement and will not relieve traffic to any substantial degree.
Look at San Diego which opened it's first rail line in 1981. Now 30 years later there are only 4 routes and traffic is worse.

Of course the Belle Meade set would never ride the bus along with riff raff like their illegal alien maids and landscapers.

By: HokeyPokey on 2/4/11 at 7:39

I've ridden the light rail in Portland, and I like it a great deal. The problem with trolleys on rail, as any driver will tell you, is the cars and their drivers. Over and over again during my trips, the driver of the trolley had to slam on the brakes to avoid colliding with some dâmn fool who seemed to think the trolly could turn to get out of his way.

Now, if it weren't for Kentucky drivers, Nashville drivers would be the worst in the world. Add that to the country folk who are in the big city for a good time, tourists (bless their wallets), the vanderpuppies who are carrying more octane in their stomachs than they have in their SUVs, plus the endless parade of lost Veterans trying to find the Veterans Hospital, and it's a recipe for disaster.


By: jonescry on 2/4/11 at 7:39

"Mass" transit? From Lower Broad to West End? That's less than 2 miles. "Mass" transit - really? I'm 100% behind mass transit but REAL mass transit not some wonky streetcar that only serves the tourist. I'm all for bringing back streetcars as well but make it REAL. Take that street car where it was 100 years ago - down West End, down Main Street, down Gallatin Pike, Down Charlotte, etc. Then do something even bigger and expand the Star service because people who live in the mentioned areas already use Mass Transit (because they don't want to pay for parking downtown or in the VU area). Many use the bike lanes who are too afraid to take the bus. The grid is caused by everyone who comes in from the suburbs - this "mass" transit isn't doing crap for that. Very disappointed in this writer.

By: Captain Nemo on 2/4/11 at 7:53

We have one major problem with any mass traffic study in Nashville. The road system was never designed to move the traffic smoothly or efficiently. There is no grid to work with like in other cities. New York for example has north to south and east to west grid. Nashville grid was good to start with, but for some reason once you leave the central area, it becomes a mix mash of confusion.

By: Captain Nemo on 2/4/11 at 8:01

I can’t see how a trolley system would help West End. You would have to have people monitoring the intersection at all time to keep the people from blocking the intersections. So at first glance I would have to see what they had in mind, before I can make any rational judgment.

By: Captain Nemo on 2/4/11 at 8:01


I have driven in Chicago during rush hour and have taken the train from O’Hara during rush hour. I will take the train anytime from now on.

By: caluttc on 2/4/11 at 8:18

The anti-automobile thinkers have had Portland on there rolidx for several years and now have them on their contact list.. Planners, transit promoters and developers have saturated the media with stories about the great success of Partland {blowing their own horn} However while not a representative sampling I have been to Portland many times and heard the John and Jane Citizen complain about their commute and airport shuttle drivers and taxi drivers complain about congestion. Congestion is a part of urban lifestyle. Morning and afternoon traffic reports sound just like all other urban areas-----"traffic on the interstate xyz is beginning to back up----an incident at the xyz interchange has traffic backed up for miles". Our Mayor and his admin. are on this drive to have Nashville become known as "cosmopolitian".

By: Captain Nemo on 2/4/11 at 8:26

Anti-automobile thinkers, what is this?

Anyone that thinks it is time for mass-transit in Nashville is against the car. This is laughable and it tells me that this person is of little imagination and understanding.

By: RJP on 2/4/11 at 8:56

rjp Just returned from portland oregon, there system is very nice.

By: gdiafante on 2/4/11 at 8:58

"Congestion is a part of urban lifestyle."'s a part of life, no need to address it...that's why cities never expand lanes, add bypasses, etc.

What a ridiculous statement.

By: fishfry on 2/4/11 at 9:11

Lots of money - higher taxes - not used like it should be. In a bad economy doesn't seem like a great idea...but since it is West End - money is probably no object. The "Beamers" and "Benz" will not stay in the garages though. You can count on that! Americans love automobiles and the freedom and independence they bring.

By: Captain Nemo on 2/4/11 at 9:12


I am still in shock over anti-automobile thinkers. I just can’t believe that this is a reasonable thinking human. lol

By: Captain Nemo on 2/4/11 at 9:18

West End is travel by people other than the Belle Mead residence. Why don’t you just say you are against the project, instead of taking out your jealous feeling toward the rich?

By: JeffF on 2/4/11 at 11:55

A lot of people commenting today that feel like I do. Congestion and traffic is indeed a regional problem and we are asking for money from the entire region. Then we in Nashville go down this path, apparently wasting millions of finite dollars meant for a regional solution on a 2 mile long, folksy, tourist-oriented, limited use hobby that will solve exactly 0% of the regional transit issues.

The people of this region are not going to let us continue wasting our resources as well as theirs. They have their own congressional and state representation and will eventually overcome our own.

Portland and Seattle have traffic issues. Seattle has some of the worst traffic I have ever seen. The problem is the urbanistas here only talk to the urbanistas in those cities. Downtown Portland does indeed have a trolley system that works. It works for just their downtown residents. An underwhelming minority of their MSA's population (just like Nashville). Apparently we are going to import people from Portland to tell us how they were able to cheat the majority of their population out of transit resources.

By: NewYorker1 on 2/4/11 at 12:10

This study sounds like a waste of money to me or somebody's buddy got the contract. This sounds like a deal made between two friends over a game of golf. At any rate, just run MTA buses up and down the Broadway/West End Corridor. There, problem solved. Next issue please.

By: lucy888888 on 2/4/11 at 12:35

As a Portland native who lived through the non-light rail and then light rail phases in the Rose City, I give the light rail system a HUGE thumbs up! Many were skeptical at first but became believers in its efficiency and ease of use after the first routes were installed. I do not believe it would be a waste of money if the right route was chosen. A lot of people use it for work commuting but also use it to go to events downtown, shopping downtown etc. The downtown area in Portland is very robust and bustling. Maybe a light rail system to downtown in Nashville would help the downtown area grow in a positive way. Additionally, the light rail system expanded to the airport area and also into the West HIlls which MANY people scoffed at because of the terrain. It's a success too. Good luck to the committee and let's hope some advances in effective and desirable mass transit makes its way to our beautiful town!

By: JeffF on 2/4/11 at 1:28

Ever notice the amount of money and effort spent in Nashville to make downtown "grow'?

Ever wonder where those resources come from or what ends they are being funneled away from?

Ever notice that all U.S. cities are continually "investing" in downtown's growth but none have ever been able to stop investing or even pull off profit for use by others?

Do you know what investments are called if they never ever reach self sufficiency or never generate an ROI?

The rest of the world calls them "money pits". Urbanistas prefer the term "progressive communities" be applied to their pits.

Train lines from airports to downtowns are the worst example of regional planning. You are connecting an area with zero residents to a neighborhood with the next fewest actual citizen residents. A majority of the citizens of a city are not served yet millions/billions of dollars are spent to move the tourists to/from a few select downtown hotels. No citizen benefits from rail to the airport from downtown.

Mass transit should serve the masses, not the few. It should be effective and efficient. Billions for downtown oriented projects with a tourism/entertainment flavor fails to improve the lives of almost everyone. Redo the bus system to take advantage of the as-built infrastructure. Connect Nashville to itself as a web, not as appendages to an out-of-whack downtown point. Study transportation success stories like Southwest Airlines, not niche Portland. Envy of what other cities have is why the convention center is being built while that industry continues with its decades long erosion.

By: Kosh III on 2/4/11 at 1:37

"At any rate, just run MTA buses up and down the Broadway/West End Corridor."

Exactly. BRT is the way. More buses, more routes, more often.

By: Captain Nemo on 2/4/11 at 2:25

I have ridden the trains in New York, DC and Chicago and was grateful that such a system was in place. The people that complain about “The Money” are the people that have very little foresight as to what is taking place in their own city.

In a very short time the traffic will be so unmanageable that we will spend half the day (12 hours) driving to and from home. Mass transit will eliminate a lot of the time away from home and a bonus to the rail is that you can get your work done going and coming from home.

The alterative is to sit in traffic as your children and life goes on without you.

By: producer2 on 2/4/11 at 2:34

C'mon give it a rest. What are the top three industries in Nashville? I believe they are reported to be Healthcare, Tourism, and Government. We know how you feel about tourism but aren't the largest portions of healthcare with Vandy and HCA, etc. and Government located along this corridor? I don't think it is just a "touristy/ folksy, limited use hobby area"

By: NewYorker1 on 2/4/11 at 2:40

Regardless of which transit system is used in Nashville going forward, the bottom line is, I'm still beautiful.

By: Captain Nemo on 2/4/11 at 3:09

Always NY1

By: on 2/4/11 at 3:10

Please, do you people think the people that live out West End Blvd. are going to ride the bus? Then who exactly would frequent this boondoggle? Where are they going to? And from where? I travel this corridor several times a day and from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., sometimes it's backed up sometimes it's not. Never, even at 6:00 from between 30th ave to Murphy Rd and between Cherokee to White Bridge Rd. is the wait over 15 min. This is a complete waste of HALF A MILLION DOLLARS! Look folks, if people get tired of being in traffic they will tell the powers that be that they want to pay a property tax increase for the privilege of riding a bus or a trolley or a train, or a magic carpet. But until we hear a cry about how much their 15min wait in traffic is ruining their lives then we don't need to spend the money. And that includes A HALF A MILLION DOLLARS FOR THE STUDY. Grow up Mayor Dean and show some fiscal responsibility for once. If you've got money burning your pocket spend it on something the people need, schools, the poor or something important. Or maybe save it and don't put us in any more debt! Sometimes the immaturity on this board shows thru. And another thing, I've never seed a even remotely full bus on West End Blvd.

By: producer2 on 2/4/11 at 3:25

Sounds like you could benefit AND save money by riding this streetcar...

By: Captain Nemo on 2/4/11 at 3:31


Your experience driving the West End corridor is different from my experience. If it take only 15 min, for you to travel that distance, then you are driving faster than the posted speed limit and running lights. I have sat that long between 31st and Murphy Road.

By: JeffF on 2/4/11 at 3:33

The wonderful nature of the internet, Fact Checking. Who you going to believe Producer or the Facts?
I would love to see a report that shows tourism even being in the top 10 in Davidson. For the moment though we will just have to trust ACTUAL economic statistics rather than the guesses from a self-interested "industry" with the one of the largest number of McJobs in the economy.

from: Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development
2009 Economic Breakdown by County

When government is broken out into its three sectors, local, state, and federal.

Ranked by # of Employees
Employees Wages Per
1 Healthcare 61,825 3,360,952,859 54,362.36
2 Professional 51,441 2,745,171,536 53,365.44
3 Retail 41,113 1,252,550,362 30,466.04
4 State Govt 41,019 1,600,185,901 39,010.85
5 Food&Beverage 29,834 520,273,640 17,438.95
6 Financial 25,133 1,577,155,154 62,752.36
7 Local Govt 23,863 1,060,998,133 44,462.06
8 Wholesale 21,444 1,254,541,831 58,503.16
9 Manufacturing 20,887 1,026,283,573 49,135.04
10 Logistics/Trans 17,097 736,201,784 43,060.29
11 Construction 15,808 803,024,338 50,798.60
12 Education 15,305 766,474,644 50,080.02
13 Other 13,315 407,223,303 30,583.80
14 Inform-Publishing 12,410 789,595,152 63,625.72
15 Federal Govt 10,158 668,901,035 65,849.68
*16 Tourism-Accom 9,171 236,767,070 25,816.93
17 Arts/Recreation 6,039 490,239,150 81,178.86
18 Utilities 257 16,470,925 64,089.20

Ranked by Wages
Employees Wages Per
1 Healthcare 61,825 3,360,952,859 54,362.36
2 Professional 51,441 2,745,171,536 53,365.44
3 State Govt 41,019 1,600,185,901 39,010.85
4 Financial 25,133 1,577,155,154 62,752.36
5 Wholesale 21,444 1,254,541,831 58,503.16
6 Retail 41,113 1,252,550,362 30,466.04
7 Local Govt 23,863 1,060,998,133 44,462.06
8 Manufacturing 20,887 1,026,283,573 49,135.04
9 Construction 15,808 803,024,338 50,798.60
10 Inform-Publishing 12,410 789,595,152 63,625.72
11 Education 15,305 766,474,644 50,080.02
12 Logistics/Trans 17,097 736,201,784 43,060.29
13 Federal Govt 10,158 668,901,035 65,849.68
14 Food&Beverage 29,834 520,273,640 17,438.95
15 Arts/Recreation 6,039 490,239,150 81,178.86
16 Other 13,315 407,223,303 30,583.80
*17 Tourism-Accom 9,171 236,767,070 25,816.93
18 Utilities 257 16,470,925 64,089.20

Ranked by per-employee wages
Employees Wages Per
1 Arts/Recreation 6,039 490,239,150 81,178.86
2 Federal Govt 10,158 668,901,035 65,849.68
3 Utilities 257 16,470,925 64,089.20
4 Inform-Publishing 12,410 789,595,152 63,625.72
5 Financial 25,133 1,577,155,154 62,752.36
6 Wholesale 21,444 1,254,541,831 58,503.16
7 Healthcare 61,825 3,360,952,859 54,362.36
8 Professional 51,441 2,745,171,536 53,365.44
9 Construction 15,808 803,024,338 50,798.60
10 Education 15,305 766,474,644 50,080.02
11 Manufacturing 20,887 1,026,283,573 49,135.04
12 Local Govt 23,863 1,060,998,133 44,462.06
13 Logistics/Trans 17,097 736,201,784 43,060.29
14 State Govt 41,019 1,600,185,901 39,010.85
15 Other 13,315 407,223,303 30,583.80
16 Retail 41,113 1,252,550,362 30,466.04
*17 Tourism-Accom 9,171 236,767,070 25,816.93
18 Food&Beverage 29,834 520,273,640 17,438.95

So, who wants to implement a tourist-oriented, mass transit system again? I think we should focus on the needs of citizens since the needs of tourists has so little actual importance in our Nashville economy.

By: producer2 on 2/4/11 at 3:53

Your hatred of tourism did not even allow you to absorb my entire post. I took Tourism out of the equation. How many folks in the following industries are located in that corridor?
1 Healthcare 61,825 3,360,952,859 54,362.36
2 Professional 51,441 2,745,171,536 53,365.44
3 Retail 41,113 1,252,550,362 30,466.04
4 State Govt 41,019 1,600,185,901 39,010.85
5 Food&Beverage 29,834 520,273,640 17,438.95
6 Financial 25,133 1,577,155,154 62,752.36
7 Local Govt 23,863 1,060,998,133 44,462.06

By: producer2 on 2/4/11 at 3:56

by the way, your tourism markers are for accommodations only.

By: Captain Nemo on 2/4/11 at 3:57

Tourism brings a lot of money. I don’t think that the Chamber of Commerce is complaining.

By: producer2 on 2/4/11 at 4:06

I agree, just don't think our friend JeffF does....

By: Captain Nemo on 2/4/11 at 4:14

I don’t think he does either, producer2. It is more than likely I will never use the transit system on West End, but that does not mean I want benefit from it.

By: JeffF on 2/4/11 at 4:15

I will give you all of food service. There, that pushes tourism up to 13 on the list of things that matter in Nashville.

Which of those industries on that corrider would not be able to use a bus on that same route? Why must a tourism/postcard friendly solution that costs hundreds of times more be the solution to serving those industries that do matter? Why choose a possibly effective method to a small portion of a problem when an effective AND efficient method can be used that services the entire problem for a portion of the price?

Can't sell postcards depicting Nashville buses?

Someone please tell me again, which mass transit solution has this administration come up with that actually served something not in the urban core. Everything ends near a downtown hotel in the eyes of the Deaniacs.

By: Captain Nemo on 2/4/11 at 4:25

I don’t think any system has been decided on, that is why they are looking.

By: JeffF on 2/4/11 at 4:27

and by the way, the membership of the chamber of commerce is dominated by retail, tourism, and food and beverage businesses. Most of the top 10 are sectors that do not need a chamber membership.

Producer, you used the wrong ranking in your reply. The more accurate rankings were the bottom two. Retail and Food & Beverage are far from being as important as the others on that list. and anyway, most of those jobs are dispersed all over the county (just like the population) with West End being a minute sliver off a minute sliver. Local Govt does not have a presence in that corridor, as does Professional. Healthcare does, but it also has a presence in the rest of the county that would be ignored by this sizable boondoggle. State Govt does not have a sizable presence there. Financial has a presence, but it is no larger than their presence on any of the other radiating pikes. So there, you top rankings do not support the spending of millions of dollars on a single 2 mile long corridor. Only one, healthcare is in that corridor, but even that is suspect since the facilities are scattered on either side of West End and placing a line closer to one side would distance it from the other. Placing it walking distance closer to Baptist/Centennial/General will take Vanderbil/Childrens/Veterans out of the zone.

By: JeffF on 2/4/11 at 4:28

They happened to do their "looking" using a company specifically chosen for its streetcar experience?

By: Captain Nemo on 2/4/11 at 4:29

Then why ask?

By: producer2 on 2/4/11 at 4:35


By: LoboSolo on 2/4/11 at 6:21

@JeffF The problem is the urbanistas here only talk to the urbanistas in those cities.

So true! The urbanistas in Seattle won't tell you that the only line that covers it operating and maintenance (O&M) and turns a profit back to the city is the monorail. Nor will they tell you of the growing popularity of monorails worldwide as transit solutions. They won't tell you about the problems and costs associated with the LR. They paint you a pretty picture because it validates their decision if others follow the same folly.

The question is how much are the O&M costs and can they be covered by the fare. Do you want to expand a system that will run at am every increasing loss?

Always question authority. It drives those who think they have it insane.

By: FLeFew on 2/4/11 at 7:18

Eliminate the Bike lanes and there would be space for a Portland like trolly out Hillsboro pike or West End - Harding Road.

Portland also requires bikers to obey traffic laws and will ticket them even faster than motorists.

By: catenarykat on 2/6/11 at 10:56

Another reply for Judyboodo: If you haven't seen a bus even remotely full on West End, then you haven't been looking. I ride the #3 West End frequently, and I find that there are almost always dozens of people on and off that bus along the route. If you see buses at the end of the line, or in off-peak hours, of course there will be fewer riders. But sometimes it's hard to find a seat.
For all of you making cracks about the people who live on West End, I am one of them, and I take the bus!!!!! The buses are busiest around Vanderbilt, for your information. Dispute that, and you don't know what you're talking about.

By: JeffF on 2/7/11 at 1:43

Please, please, please don't substitute an interstellar crazy transit idea like monorail for the single-stage craziness of streetcars. the monorail in place in Seattle is a tourist line that runs from Seattle Center for a mile or two then stops at a downtown mall. It is not mass transit.

Seattle voters did approve a massive expansion of monorail (see the episode of the Simpsons) but within 2 years reversed course and voted to kill it after the monorail hobbyists were no longer to disguise the true cost and scale of that particular type of system. the only place monorail works as mass transit is Disneyworld, and that is only after you ignore the Disney bus lines that work more efficiently, effectively, and carry far more people to more places. Las Vegas' fantastic monorail was DOA.

Fixed rail, whether they be single or double railed, has no place in a modern U.S. society. They are not flexible enough to serve the needs of independence minded citizens. They work in more subservient societies in Europe and Asia and they work in the megatropolis areas in the U.S. once you have taken transportation choice away from several consecutive generations.

Flexible and dynamic mass transit (bus) is what works. It just does not taste well to those people infaturated with train sets or the overspending of other cities with quaint downtowns.

By: house_of_pain on 2/7/11 at 2:05

Good points, JeffF.

By: on 2/7/11 at 4:33

Well capt. nemo if you sit that long between 30th and Murphy then you must be one of the ones that isn't paying attention and always takes to long to get going after the car in front of you moves making everyone behind you wait. Just pay attention to your surrounding and become a real time commuter. Catenarykat, if only dozens are on a main line like West End then it's under ridden to start with and probably should stop at the place where most of the people get off. Maybe around 21st ave. I come in at 7:30-8:00am and go out from 6:00-7:00pm M-F. I've yet to see anyone standing for a seat from 20th to White Bridge. And even if there were people standing thats exactly what it takes for the kind of mass transit you want the rest of us to pay for. Real mass transit has lots of handhold's for the over crowded transit car patrons to hang on to. Call me back when the buses are so crowed that you can't get on the first two and have to wait for the next one and we'll see if it worth the multiple millions that it would take so you don't have to waist time looking for a parking spot at work. And I really haven't heard anyone "making cracks" about people who live on West End. Although if you do you probably have enough money to afford a car.