NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Murfreesboro Pike traffic can be downright miserable for residents in Rutherford County, Antioch and South Nashville.
"Try to avoid it at all costs," warned bus rider WC Jenkins with a laugh. He rides the bus on that road every day, "it's a tremendous, tremendous volume of cars...almost endless."
It's the major alternate route when I-24 gets busy, which happens often.
Jenkins says tries to avoid the peak rush hour times, when data from the city show some bottleneck areas slow down to just 14 miles per hour or even less.
But new technology is about to go online that could provide at least some relief.
"We now have an interconnected series of 42 intersections and upgraded technology at each intersection," said WeGo Director of Engineering Trey Walker.
Along Murfreesboro Pike, from Wharf Ave near downtown all the way to Bell Road in Antioch, fiber will soon connect each light into a network, and each WeGo bus will automatically ping its location to a central control which can change the lights if buses aren't making their schedules on time.
"Some days you can go through the coordior in a certain period of time and the next day it doubles," Walker said, explaining the problem WeGo is trying to fix for its customers.
Because of traffic, buses run on time around just 60 percent of the time on Murfreesboro Pike. It's WeGo's second highest ridership corridor after Gallatin Pike, and performs much worse than other busy areas.
That's why in addition to the better coordinated lights, four different intersections, including Donelson Pike, Una Antioch Pike, Ransom Pl, and Bell Rd, will give buses special privileges. WeGo tested that on Tuesday.
It's a way buses can jump the line of traffic before other drivers even get the green light.
There's a bus-only pull off and a special light with symbols to tell buses when to go, slow and stop. It turns to "go" a few seconds before the light turns green, giving buses a head start.
Bell Road will also include a bus-only lane to ease the flow of traffic from the Hickory Hollow area onto Murfreesboro Pike, for all those times people leave the interstate in search of another way to town.
WeGo says coordinating the lights alone should help with the flow of traffic, for both buses and other drivers.
Frequent rider Jenkins says he's glad they're doing something. But he plans to wait to see if it will be enough to change his ride.
"It's going to be difficult unless you can find some way to get all these cars off the road," he said.
After years in the making, the Transit Signal Priority project is a way the city and WeGo are trying to drive one of the busiest coordiors forward, hoping both customers and drivers will notice.
Engineers say the full system including the queue jumps should be up and running by the end of June.