2023 Mayoral Candidate:
1. What is your vision for multimodal transportation and mobility, including public transit in Nashville?
Traffic is the top issue for most Nashvillians after affordable housing. First and foremost, we need to get people back and forth to work. We can collaborate with companies to allow more flexible work hours to ease the 9-to-5 traffic. But the only way we're really going to fix the traffic issue is by investing in public transit. We cannot keep kicking this down the line anymore and I am going to make it a priority.
My vision for public transit is doing the most we can while being realistically achievable. I would support the successful roll-out of Bus Rapid Transit along Murfreesboro Pike because this project will create easy, fast access to and from downtown and our airport. Now, there's a lot of other things we can do that are less glamorous and expensive but still effective. I will focus on improving service and pedestrian safety. Improving pedestrian safety means building crossing islands so we will not have to cross a four-lane highway to get to a bus and we need to upgrade bus stops with benches and shelters. Improving service means adding crosstown lines so you don't have to take a bus all the way downtown to move east to west. It means building out more transit centers so buses are more punctual.
My vision is to be responsive to the needs of the people. I plan to develop working groups with community organizations and stakeholders to gauge the ever-changing needs of Nashville residents and revise accordingly.
2. What is your plan for multimodal transportation and mobility improvements, including public transit, in the first 100 days of your administration?
We have plenty of studies that have been completed by Metro so my first goal is to review the recommendations from prior commissions and see if they have been implemented. If they have been implemented, we need to figure out the outcome and if that specific change was beneficial or not. If they haven't been implemented, we have to figure out why they haven't been and what we need to do to get them done, as long as we decide that it will be best for our city. One of my constituents told me that he recently left his earphones on a bus and when he went to the same bus three days later, the earphones were still where he left them. That means nobody checked the bus for three whole days. Do we have a contract for someone to clean the bus? More importantly, are they actually doing their job? This is what I mean – I want to focus on building mechanisms of accountability and enforcement for the legislation of prior administrations. I am also interested in streamlining bureaucratic processes around transit permits so offices like NDOT, TDOT, and Metro Water can collaborate and we can achieve what we want to achieve quicker and more efficiently.
3. What is your strategy or approach for funding the multimodal transportation, mobility, and public transit infrastructure in your vision above?
I recognize that oftentimes funding is the biggest hurdle for public transit projects. I am on the Metro's Budget Committee so I have firsthand experience with the difficulty of acquiring funding. But, I still think the problem lies in the fact we don't prioritize public transit. Currently, only 5% of the city's budget goes to transportation. When we sit down at the committee meeting, transportation is not typically the first thing we discuss. We need to change our attitude towards transportation because it is a priority.
Fortunately for the BRT project along Murfreesboro Pike, a lot of the funding will come from the federal government. This project is the perfect candidate for federal funding while the rest of the money will have to come from the local government. Now, we have the new Titans stadium being built and as councilwoman, I am supporting legislation that requires a percentage of ticket sales to go back to the city. Earmarking these funds for public transit is an excellent way for the Titans to invest back into the city that is about to invest so much into them.
4. How will you work with community organizations, advocates, and neighborhoods to shape and build support for your vision?
One of my guiding principles has always been to trust the community. I have worked with community leaders to build my policy platform during my time on the council and throughout my run for Mayor. I believe in the power of coalitions and the fact that the people who are impacted by the work on the ground, are the people we should listen to in terms of what needs to be done. I've formed countless coalitions, from the Labor & Business Coalition that guided the Music City Center workforce development program to organizing homeowners, business owners, and developers to revitalize Jefferson Street at JUMP. I am devoted to building a similar coalition of public transit policy researchers, advocates, developers, and local residents to guide my policy platform as Mayor. I will prioritize and schedule regular meetings with this coalition. I want to make sure we have a "bottom-up" approach rather than the usual "top-down".
5. When making transportation decisions, how will you balance the needs of our diverse neighborhoods and people, respecting context, history, and identity?
Public transit can be beneficial for low-income people and businesses, but most of us know the issues around public transit and gentrification and there are a lot of ways we can approach these issues. We can provide subsidies to businesses to have bus stops by their shops, we can plan the construction in ways that don't block entrance to their businesses, and even ensure shelters are at every bus stop. The aforementioned coalition of advocates and community stakeholders can help us make sure that the government isn't making top-down decisions. We need to be working with people who will be affected by the process to negotiate development plans so people get what they want, whatever that may be, as long as it's what is best for the city of Nashville.
6. Given Nashville’s history of inequitable transportation investment, how will you keep these investments equitable?
Unfortunately, a lot of times in Nashville, neighborhoods that get the government investment are the neighborhoods that have always gotten the government investment but need it the least. This is true for everything from transit to healthcare. To address a lot of these issues around funding, I plan to use a hard metric to determine allocation. I will tie public transit funding to an objective federal index like whether or not a neighborhood is in the Federal Transit Administration's Area of Persistent Poverty or Historically Disadvantaged Community. Of course, I don't want the funding process to be cold and disconnected from the people and without context so I plan to use an objective index to determine funding as a piece of an overall holistic process for allocation. I cannot repeat this enough: my policy will be first and foremost informed by community stakeholders and everyday Nashvillians.
7. Rank the following:
Transit Priority Corridors - Bus Only Lanes, Bus Rapid Transit, Light Rail, etc on identified corridors like Murfreesboro Pike
Transit Oriented Development, TIFs, etc.
Crosstown Routes - support existing crosstown routes and add more where it makes sense to increase one-seat rides
Pedestrian Infrastructure - Sidewalks, crosswalks, HAWK signals, lighting
Higher Frequency Bus Routes - bus arrives every 5-10 minutes
Hours of Bus Service - longer hours up to 24/7 service
Regional transit solutions - WeGo Star (commuter rail), other regional commuter/express bus options
Traffic Signalization - coordination of traffic signals to manage the speed of vehicles and efficiency of through traffic
Traffic Calming - speed humps, bulb-outs, trees, roundabouts, etc.
Protected Bike Lanes - (Mobility Lanes)
Traffic Enforcement - focused on speeding and reckless driving
Neighborhood Mobility Hubs - decentralize the transit system by adding more transit/mobility hubs around the city (i.e., Hillsboro & North Nashville Transit Centers)
Park and Rides - permanent, safe parking for those riding the bus into downtown
8. Explain your rankings (optional).
These rankings were complicated but overall I feel like we truly need to invest in the top 5 that I selected. Also, while I believe it's important to have greenways and ensure that new developments have greenways, I believe it is key for us to focus on transportation first and foremost.