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2023 Mayoral Candidate:

Freddie O'Connell

Transportation Vision


1. What is your vision for multimodal transportation and mobility, including public transit in Nashville?

My vision is a Nashville where people can freely and safely move about the city however they like—children and families can safely walk to the schools, parks, and libraries in their communities; commuters can cut costs with easy transit access linking affordable housing to jobs; and cyclists can safely get to soccer games to avoid the hassle of parking.

We need a Nashville with frequent, reliable transit service—including higher capacity modes like bus rapid transit and a light rail link to the airport—and safer infrastructure. Complete streets that are safe and equitable for all users are proven time and again to be good for business.

2. What is your plan for multimodal transportation and mobility improvements, including public transit, in the first 100 days of your administration?


We don't need any new plans. We already have a comprehensive transportation plan, nMotion accompanied by clear guidance from WeGo on how to build a better bus system, WalknBike, a greenways master plan, and we'll have just completed Connect Downtown.

On day one, we'll begin implementing as many of the recommendations as possible from WeGo's better bus plan, and we'll spend the next three years building our budget around a frequent transit network.
We'll also start to structure our budget for the term around the funding strategies for as many of our sidewalks and bikeways as possible as indicated by WalknBike.

And we'll make sure we've got a plan for all right-of-way necessary to complete the CityCentral greenway system.

3. What is your strategy or approach for funding the multimodal transportation, mobility, and public transit infrastructure in your vision above?


We'll front load as much as we can in the budget I come into office with based on prioritization with department heads. Then, our first budget will prioritize infrastructure as much as possible. As soon as we have our next assessment in hand, we'll begin the structural work of the rest of the term being very transparent about the investment plans necessary to achieve our infrastructure goals.

And we'll begin a serious conversation about resuming the effort to secure dedicated funding for transit, which most other major American cities have already done.

4. How will you work with community organizations, advocates, and neighborhoods to shape and build support for your vision?

The same way I always have. Not long after I started riding the bus regularly, I started participating with an advocacy organization called Partners In Transit that focused on real-world concerns facing riders.

Similarly, as a neighborhood leader, I focused on ensuring that my neighbors had high-quality information about our transit system and how it connected to land use planning.

I will strengthen the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods and ensure that Transit Now Nashville, Walk/Bike Nashville, Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee, Moving Forward, Neighbor 2 Neighbor, TIRRC, Conexión, NAACP, our colleges and universities, and so many other organizations and stakeholders are a part of our conversation.

5. When making transportation decisions, how will you balance the needs of our diverse neighborhoods and people, respecting context, history, and identity? 


We know how important transit and infrastructure decisions are to vulnerable communities, but we want to ensure that those communities are feeling both included and supported in decisions that get made. We want our decisions to be made with our neighborhoods rather than merely for them.

A great model for this work has been Walk/Bike Nashville, which has been working in the Napier neighborhood I represent to elevate the voices of citizens to make streets and sidewalks safer, securing traffic calming, better pedestrian infrastructure, and even lighting improvements through direct engagement with residents.

6. Given Nashville’s history of inequitable transportation investment, how will you keep these investments equitable?


When we created our most recent transportation plan, some initial work was done using an equity lens. We need that process of equity in all policies to continue as we move our plans through the investment and implementation process.

We now have important data on where capital has been invested throughout the city—and where it hasn't. We will use data to ensure that we are investing equitably.

Fortunately, most of our recent planning processes have leveraged equity tools, and we'll get to focus on implementing them equitably.

The next biggest thing will be to focus on the risks of gentrification as investment becomes equitable. We will need additional tools—including affordable housing and constant community engagement—to ensure that investment doesn't result in displacement.

7. Rank the following:

  1. Higher Frequency Bus Routes - bus arrives every 5-10 minutes

  2. Crosstown Routes - support existing crosstown routes and add more where it makes sense to increase one-seat rides

  3. Hours of Bus Service - longer hours up to 24/7 service

  4. Neighborhood Mobility Hubs - decentralize the transit system by adding more transit/mobility hubs around the city (i.e., Hillsboro & North Nashville Transit Centers)

  5. Pedestrian Infrastructure - Sidewalks, crosswalks, HAWK signals, lighting

  6. Protected Bike Lanes - (Mobility Lanes)

  7. Transit Priority Corridors - Bus Only Lanes, Bus Rapid Transit, Light Rail, etc on identified corridors like Murfreesboro Pike

  8. Traffic Signalization - coordination of traffic signals to manage the speed of vehicles and efficiency of through traffic

  9. Traffic Calming - speed humps, bulb-outs, trees, roundabouts, etc.

  10. Greenways

  11. Transit Oriented Development, TIFs, etc.

  12. Regional transit solutions - WeGo Star (commuter rail), other regional commuter/express bus options

  13. Park and Rides - permanent, safe parking for those riding the bus into downtown

  14. Traffic Enforcement - focused on speeding and reckless driving


8. Explain your rankings (optional).


We are furthest behind on our basic transit service, and all four of more frequent service, longer hours, community transit centers, and crosstown routes are integral elements of a better bus plan. Those are four of the top priorities.

After that, more communities are in desperate need of better pedestrian and bike infrastructure, and those are key elements of WalknBike.

We know that being a smarter city is something that will improve both transit service and congestion, so transit priority and traffic signalization go hand in hand.

Similarly, infrastructure tends to be more effective than enforcement at changing motorist behavior, so I have ranked traffic calming above enforcement.

We need to be mindful of regionalism, particularly from the standpoint of planning, but recent state actions have highlighted the importance of investing our resources primarily in ourselves. We want to be careful not to incentivize sprawl.

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