Mayor Rides Circuit Bus To TSU To Promote Transit Vote

Posted at 4:36 PM, Apr 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-26 12:55:32-04

Mayor David Briley took advantage of a free ride on the city's circuit bus in order to promote the city's $5.4 billion transit plan.

Briley hopped on the bus at Music City Central and headed to North Nashville where the line ends at Tennessee State University.

MTA expanded the line, that used to stop near the Farmer's Market, down Jefferson Street all the way to campus last year.

"It's convenient for me to catch a free bus, it's convenient for me," said frequent rider Reuben Brighal.

At 11 a.m. Monday morning the bus was standing room only. Since it's free, it tends to be a popular line. And MTA reports the expansion to TSU has increased ridership by more than 50 percent over the last year from the former blue circuit line.

"What it proves is that when you have more frequency, when you have buses that go where people need to go, people will use them," Mayor Briley said. 

Along the 15-minute ride he met longtime riders like Gloria Gillespie. The 71-year-old says while not every ride is perfect, she likes taking the bus because she thinks it's safer.

"I use MTA to get back and forth to work, I use MTA to go to doctor's appointments and to see my family. I'd rather they not drive because of the congestion," she said.

If the transit plan passes, that route will extend to 20 hours a day with more frequent buses. A light rail on existing track will also get people to the TSU campus via the Northwest Corridor line.

"It'll give our students a chance to explore Nashville, especially our freshmen who more often than not do not have a car, so that they can move around the city of Nashville," said Student Government President JerMilton Woods, "if they want to find work they can find work as well."

Campus officials say more students are living further away from TSU because of the rising cost of rent. They say they need a cheap and reliable way to get to class.

So TSU is joining the long list of Nashville universities and major businesses supporting transit at the May 1st referendum.

However, it's by no means a shoe-in vote. A February Vanderbilt Poll shows a third of voters were still undecided just weeks ago.

Transit plan opponents say the 1 percent sales tax raise is too big a burden, which would tie Nashville with the highest city sales tax in the country at 10.25 percent.

And they wonder if the buses and light rails will even impact Nashville's congestion, without a guarantee that nearby counties will pass their own referendum to pay to connect to Metro lines.

There's also the question of ridership when so many people are attached to their cars. But with the influx of new residents and transit-related development Mayor Briley says participation won't be a problem.

"People who are moving here want more transit, so we're not forcing anybody to do anything. We're addressing a market demand for different ways to move around town."

TSU noted that many of its students are registered to vote.

"I wish I could make it a requirement at graduation," laughed TSU President Glenda Glover.

Time will tell how many turn out to cast a ballot come election day.