Alternate Transit Plan Leans Heavily On Autonomous Transportation

Posted at 9:11 PM, Apr 10, 2018

With just about three weeks to the May 1 transit referendum vote, a metro council member proposed an alternate plan that relies heavily on developing technology.

The "Intelligent Transit" plan is an all electric extended bus system intended to reach outside of Davidson County and into surrounding areas. According to council member Robert Swope, the plan could be implemented in just one to five years time.

The Transit For Nashville referendum could take decades to complete, which is why Swope says this is a better and more efficient way to handle Nashville's transportation future.

"The construction of light rail to service a relatively small portion of Davidson County, does not take one commuter from Rutherford, Williamson, Sumner or any other county off the streets of our great city," said Swope. "Rather, it takes valuable land and roadway space what is estimated to be less than 1 percent of our total community."

Swope cited multiple other cities as examples of areas with light rail and low ridership. He said this plan, which was developed by The Digit Group (TDG) would cost less and have a greater opportunity for regional participation.

"A total of 16 autonomous vehicle transit centers within this plan will allow the ability for a commuter ride from Murfreesboro to downtown Nashville in 30 minutes even during traffic peak hours," said Paul Doherty, President and CEO of TDG.

Extended electric buses that moved and look very much like trains would ride along elevated designated roadways, not accessible to everyday traffic. This would allow the trains to bypass traffic at peak times and drop people off near their destination. Then, autonomous personal vehicles would help passengers get to specific destinations. 

The cost of the raised roadways would be much lower than the cost to build light rail. According to Swope, the plan would cost $1.65 billion as compared to the Transit For Nashville's $5.4 billion or more price tag. 

"I felt it was imperative for the constituents of this county to know there are alternatives out there," said Swope. "This is not a one size fits all, all or nothing situation."

A Transit for Nashville spokesperson sent this statement regarding the plan:

"This isn't a plan, it's a sham. The fact that this self-contradictory proposal comes out one day before early voting begins speaks volumes. This is a last-gasp diversion and voters will see right through it. Swope calls for billions of dollars to double-deck our highways on one hand, while calling for driverless vehicles that would eliminate the need for those new roads on the other. Only one plan is on the ballot May 1. It's been years in the making and addresses Nashville's traffic problems, it doesn't mock them." – Kelly Brockman, Transit for Nashville