Nashville light rail plan not a “transit” plan

News and opinion from a retired, pool-playing libertarian conservative

Nashville light rail plan not a “transit” plan

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My journey up and down Gallatin Road in Nashville convinced me that the May 1st TAX referendum is NOT about transit.
It’s about redesigning Gallatin Road, and then Charlotte Avenue, and Nolensville Road, etc.
It’s about trying to use light rail as a catalyst to remove low income people and businesses from Nashville’s low-rent areas, to transform the corridors into high-rent districts.
ONE problem with that plan is that some of America’s brightest future – its (legal) immigrants and working poor – need that low rent to prove they have what it takes to create their own prosperity with their own talents and drive, and inspire others like them to do the same.
You see them all the way up and down Gallatin Pike – restaurants, medical offices, grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, and others along with churches, day care centers, and schools. Yes, there are also “payday loan” businesses, an unfortunate punctuation of most low-rent areas.
I depended on the existence of low-rent areas for part of my career climb and most people do. But if developers offer struggling homeowners along Gallatin Pike even a small premium for their land, while simultaneously strangling them with years of construction disruption, how many will, or can, hold out?
Some of the owners may get enough profit to move elsewhere, or retire, but where will the renters go when they can no longer afford the rent along Gallatin Road. They will have to go elsewhere?  Where?
When they ask that question, city officials promise to pass ordinances that will require developers to build affordable housing, using taxpayer subsidies to keep their rents low.
Maybe some of the businesses will be allowed to stay, maybe not. I’m sure some of the new “in” crowd that takes over Gallatin Road with their high rent mixed use developments will want to impress their out of town friends by taking them to popular hangouts that manage to attract a capacity crowd every day, but will that quaint, star neighborhood attraction find it in his best interest to hold out – or to eventually sell out to the highest bidder?
Whether or not you want this kind of neighborhood transformation, the so-called “Transit Plan” is not about transit at all.
But our city planners didn’t think they could sell a multi-billion dollar tax increase to fund the displacement of low-income people and businesses.
So, they offered a “transit” plan that supposedly provides a solution to congestion.
Between now and May 1st, I will continue to offer evidence that Nashville’s light rail plan is the worst of all possible solutions to congestion. To even call it a “transit plan” is fabrication.