Transit Academy Trains Citizen-Advocates

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - With big plans in the works and billions of dollars on the line, the future of transit is expected have a major impact on Middle Tennessee.

Currently, 90 percent of people drive alone to get to work in the morning.

Studies show in order to keep traffic exactly as it is currently over the next 25 years, 40 percent of people will need to either carpool or use some form of transit for their commute.

However, there are many different options, bills and issues to consider regarding transit, and the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee is training a group of people to advocate for transit in the 10-county region. They also learn how they can make a difference in their own communities.

"We had to create an action plan for things to bring back to our community," said participant Holly McCall, who runs a PR company and campaigned for a Williamson County seat in the state House of Representatives last year.

The participants include some local leaders but mostly business owners and people who want to be active in their community. They each live and work in the Middle Tennessee region that will grow by a million more people in the next 25 years.

"Nashville is the 'it city' and it is growing by leaps and bounds," said Transit Alliance CEO Jo Ann Graves, "our current infrastructure cannot handle that kind of growth."

With traffic already doubling many commute times, the group is learning about options like bus rapid transit (busses get their own lane) and the ever-popular light rail.

"The more cars you can take off the road and replace that with alternate methods is going to be helpful," said participant and Maury County Chamber President Wil Evans.

In class they compare best practices from other cities as they cover the details of NMotion, the $6 billion transit plan for Middle Tennessee.

"If you go up to Cleveland and look they have a bus that looks like a train," said Graves, "in fact we call 'em rubber tire trains."

And of course they go over the bills on the books this legislative session that could impact transit in the area, including Governor Haslam's IMPROVE Act and its alternatives.

Because without funding, no transit plan will ever get off the ground.

And despite disagreements on how to move forward, the consensus is clear: it's past time to get the wheels in motion.

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