Transit 101: Looking To Other Cities

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - When it comes to major transit cities, 31 of 35 lost ridership in 2017. 

Leading up to the transit vote, a big group from Nashville traveled to Seattle to learn from the city considered one of the success stories.

Seattle now boasts that half of its downtown workers use transit to get to work. Only 25 percent still drive alone. It is a much denser city than Nashville, but also has several options including street cars, light rail, rapid buses, and a commuter train. 

So far Seattle voters have passed three major referendums on transit. Officials there have applauded the Nashville plan. 

But transit isn't going so smoothly in other cities. Cities with "legacy" transit systems that haven't been significantly updated or changed are losing riders. That's being attributed to people using ride share or working from home more.

Why can't Nashville just do a ride share based transit system, like vanpooling or Uber and Lyft?

Most transit experts will say that it doesn't get enough cars off the road. In Seattle, they say it's all a part of the mix. It has the largest vanpooling program in the country, but still only 1.3 percent of their population uses it. The program mostly targets suburban workers who don't live close to transit.

And Uber and Lyft generally endorse transit, like they have in Nashville. They say they can get people the first or last mile they need to go without clogging up the roads along the entire route.

And Seattle isn't always a perfect model: it has gone over budget on several projects - one of them is currently stalled as a result.

But people there are quick to point out they've been under budget on some projects too. And they believe they would not have the large companies settling there without the transit options they have.

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