Metro officials have planned Nashville’s second installment of bus rapid transit “lite” to go along Murfreesboro Pike, with the faster, more efficient bus service perhaps coming to the southeastern Davidson County corridor by spring 2013.
“We see this as the right thing to do with the growth in our ridership there,” said Paul Ballard, CEO of the Metro Transit Authority.
MTA has proposed a $4.8 million capital plan to install a light version of BRT on Murfreesboro Pike, a transit approach that allows for fewer stops and speedier trips than traditional bus routes. Unlike more sophisticated BRT models, buses don’t occupy exclusive lanes of traffics under this concept, but BRT lite does include other amenities such as superior bus shelters and fuel-efficient hybrid buses.
The Murfreesboro Pike proposal comes three years after Dean kicked off BRT lite in Davidson County on East Nashville’s Gallatin Pike, a 12-mile stretch from downtown’s Music City Central to RiverGate Mall. Since its inception, bus ridership along Gallatin Pike has increased from 80,000 trips per month to 115,000.
“Murfreesboro Road really is a similar candidate for that precise type of service because it’s a long route, and the ridership there has been growing,” Ballad told The City Paper. “It just seems like the ideal candidate to speed up the service and improve the bus stops. It’s just a natural.”
BRT along Murfreesboro Pike would stretch from downtown to the Antioch area near Hickory Hollow Mall. MTA officials hope to begin the new service in April 2013 and begin constructing the new infrastructure that summer, but the plan is contingent on funding in Mayor Karl Dean’s upcoming budget.
The mayor is set to unveil a proposed operating budget and capital-spending plan for the 2012-13 fiscal year at his “State of Metro” address on May 1. Though Dean hasn’t revealed all his capital plans, he had positive things to say about BRT on Murfreesboro Pike at his budget hearing with MTA officials last month.
“The Murfreesboro BRT project, another benefit of that would be that it’s an investment in the Antioch area, the Hickory Hollow area,” Dean said at the hearing, referring to the rapid growth of southeast Davidson County. “That would be a good, positive statement there.”
If funding were allocated, Ballard said MTA officials would begin identifying boarding points along Murfreesboro Pike this summer. Ballard said the monthly ridership on Murfreesboro Pike currently totals 71,000.
“We feel that if we do that right, the same way we did Gallatin, we can bring that up to 100,000 trips a month,” Ballard said.
As Metro considers doubling down on BRT lite, Dean has also said he hopes to move forward on a more ambitious, full-scale BRT system along the so-called east-west connector from West End , down Broadway, across the Cumberland River to East Nashville.
The project is estimated to cost $136 million. Funding hasn’t been set aside.