Where are shelters for people waiting for the bus in Nashville?

new WeGo bus
Posted at 9:02 PM, May 11, 2023

A recent surveyranked Nashville's bus and train system among the least used among the biggest cities in the country.

On the heels of that survey, Metro Councilwoman Angie Henderson took notice of many of the WeGo Transit bus stops following a recent storm: some bus stops have shelters to keep people dry, while others don't.

"If Taylor Swift gets a bench at Centennial Park... can we get one for transit riders?" she asked on Twitter.

WeGo says the answer simply comes down to funding.

"There's a lot of issues that go into it," said Eric Melcher with WeGo Public Transit. "A shelter can range from $30,000 to $200,000. That adds up to a lot of money."

Melcher says there are oftentimes other issues like grading or obtaining right-of-way that can increase the cost of a bus shelter.

In the last nine years, WeGo says it has built more shelters — from 109 sheltered stops in 2014 to 280 today.

But that's a small fraction of the total bus stops in Nashville, with what WeGo says is about 1,200 still without shelters.

"We're chronically underfunded when it comes to comparable cities," Melcher said. "Out of 40 metro areas, we're one of only four that doesn't have a dedicated funding source for mass transit."

In fact, cities like Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, which have populations about the same size as Nashville, have much more transit money in their operating budgets than Nashville does, according to WeGo.

One reason WeGo says its transit system is so underused: the lack of sidewalks in many neighborhoods to get people to a bus stop.

"If it's hard to get to a bus stop, because there are no sidewalks, it makes it hard to take the bus," Melcher said.

WeGo says it would love to build more shelters like the new complete street project on 12th Avenue South, it says it just needs the funding commitment first.

"Now's the time as Nashville grows," Melcher said. "Now's the time to get it done."

Jessica Dauphin with the Transit Alliance says the study proves that more funding for WeGo is needed:

The Alliance works to build support for funding transit because a world-class city like Nashville deserves a world-class transit system. Unfortunately, we are the last city of our size without dedicated funding for transit, and it shows. We are behind Memphis, Louisville, and Birmingham in transit spending per capita. So, being ranked 7th worst transit system isn't surprising. But only because our transit agency, WeGo Public Transit, lacks the funding to provide the services that a city of our size demands. WeGo has done an extraordinary job. They've opened a new neighborhood transit center in Green Hills, and broke ground on another one in North Nashville. WeGo is the envy of transit agencies nationwide because their ridership is near the pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels: In 2022, they gave nearly 7 million rides! That means people here need and ride transit. Investing in transit is an investment in the workforce, affordability, equitable access to opportunity, environmental sustainability, the economy, our health, and our future. I hope this study helps tell the story we've shared since 2009: it's time to fund transit.

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