by Emily Luxen
BELLE MEADE, Tenn. - In the latest of several discussions on a plan for rapid bus service in Nashville, Belle Meade residents weighed in on the idea.
A big crowd filled the Belle Meade United Methodist Church to listen to a presentation from the Stop Amp group.
People in attendance asked questions and the majority appeared to be skeptical of the potential project.
"What exactly was this supposed to solve, and what other plans would help West End?" asked one concerned resident.
"Does West End have any kind of protection because it has been declared a state scenic route?" asked another woman.
Members representing the Stop Amp group presented an overview of the plans for the $175 million, 7 mile bus route would run from West End Avenue to East Nashville. The plan would designate the center lane of the road for the Amp bus, allowing it to avoid traffic.
They also presented an alternative plan they argued would be a better mass transit solution for Nashville. The plan would cover 19.6 miles and be similar to MTA's current bus rapid transit plan on Gallatin Road and Murfreesboro Road. It would allow buses to be in curb lanes with other traffic.
Supporters argued it would not disrupt traffic, service to local businesses and would cost less. They said the Amp plan will not help reduce traffic congestion.
"MTA documents reveal the Amp is this: a great deal of money to move a very few riders along a corridor whose highly developed businesses stand to be negatively impacted," said Dianne Neal, an opponent of the project.
"It is an extreme experiment, not a proven method for improving public transportation," added Malcolm Getz, an associate economics professor at Vanderbilt University, and an opponent of Amp.
State lawmakers continue their debate on this issue, as well. Wednesday, opponents in the State House approved an amendment that would restrict bus rapid transit plans" severely. The amendment would also make the plan illegal without the approval of Metro Council, transportation department and state legislature.
However, Amp supporters did get some good news this week, when the Obama Administration announced $27 million had been awarded to project in its proposed federal budget for the 2015 fiscal year.
No representatives from the group supporting the project were there tonight. The Amp Coalition issued a statement saying the group made a decision last month to no longer participate in public debates, and instead will focus on informational presentations.
A statement said:
"We truly believe that this project is vital to the future of our city because it will be the first leg of a regional transit system, and our task is to educate the community about the project."