Transportation / Transit

The Music City Star, Downtown Nashville


A quality transportation system provides mobility to all users. While we typically think of roads and cars in America, a complete transportation system includes walking and biking options, roadways, rail and water ways, and mass transportation. A complete multi-modal transportation system is vital to a region’s economic and environmental health and functioning. Inefficient, congested systems impact mobility for residents, the ability to deliver goods and services, and the quality of the air we breathe.

Why It Matters

Current research by CRT in 2011 reveals that 62 % of our ten-county region’s workforce live and work in different counties. This data, from 2010 U.S. Census Report, indicates that the Middle Tennessee region is highly interconnected—many people from neighboring counties are traveling back and forth every day. Intense inter-regional travel combined with intra-regional thru traffic on Middle Tennessee’s four major interstates compounds congestion further. This reality of Middle Tennessee’s current transportation situation has caused regional leaders to work together, consider, and embrace the need for a diversified transportation system.

A recent 2011 report by CEO for Cities cited the Nashville Region as having the worst commute in the country based on total hours of peak travels. That same year a Brookings Institution report, Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America, ranked the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical Area No. 93 out of 100 in terms of transit access. This report stated, “An estimated 32.2 % of working-age residents have access to public transportation such as trains, buses and other alternatives.”

Regional leaders in Middle Tennessee have recognized the need to provide a variety of transportation options to address growing traffic congestion, mobility needs, pollution, and health concerns. A multi-modal transportation system that moves people and goods efficiently supports our region’s future economic vitality, livability, and sustainability.

Transportation / Transit


Middle Tennessee has made good steps in providing citizens more options for transportation. Currently the region provides Park and Ride commuter programs across the metropolitan region. The Music City Star, running between Wilson County and downtown Nashville, is the first modern commuter rail line in Tennessee. The region has made great strides in planning for the future needs of the additional one million new residents projected to call Middle Tennessee home by 2035 in our adopted MPO 2035 Regional Transportation Plan, that calls for a mix of mass transit systems and improvement of existing roads and infrastructure.

Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization

The Nashville Area MPO leads in the development of the region’s long-term range transportation plan and short-range transportation improvement program through a partnership among HUD, DOT, Tennessee DOT, local elected leadership, local planning and public works directors, the business community, and citizens across Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson, Wilson and parts of Maury and Robertson counties. The MPO is funded by local partners and through grants from the United States DOT.

Middle Tennessee Mayors Caucus

The Middle Tennessee Mayors Caucus was formed in July of 2009 to provide leadership on important issues facing a rapidly changing regional landscape. Transportation, and particularly the pursuit of a modern mass transit system, served as the early catalyst, but in its brief history the Caucus has served as an effective forum for building personal relationships among Mayors and has helped local governments support each other on issues ranging from flood recovery to proposed state legislation.

Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee

The Transit Alliance brings together leaders from all ten counties of Middle Tennessee to address fulfilling the need of an efficient mass transit system in the region. The Sustaining Contributors represent businesses, educational institutions and individuals who are committed to the mission of the Alliance, and through the Alliance, to the future of our region.

The Transit Alliance Advisors work closely with the Middle Tennessee Mayors Caucus to provide a forum for the elected leaders of the cities and counties of Middle Tennessee to discuss regional issues, including transportation.

Regional Transportation Authority (RTA)

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) operates multiple regional bus routes between downtown Nashville and surrounding counties. The RTA’s regional rideshare program also organizes vanpools and carpools throughout Middle Tennessee. The RTA currently operates the Music City Star commuter rail system.

Other Partners

Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT)
Clarksville Urbanized Area Metropolitan Planning Organization

Transportation / Transit


Transit needs and opportunities for our growing Middle Tennessee Region

On September 3rd, News Channel 5 ran a story entitled “New Commuter Train Possible Between Nashville, Clarksville”, which discussed the possibility of transportation improvements in the Northwest area of Middle Tennessee. CRT was glad to be a part of this coverage along with Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan. Check out the story in the clip below:

The key points of the story were:

  • Our ten county region’s economic growth is desired and continuing
  • An increase from 1.8 to 3 Million people living in the region is predicted by 2035
  • Our current and future population and mobility patterns increase congestion
  • Future commuter rail transit services from Nashville through Ashland City to Clarksville can provide transportation options for workers and residents and reduce congestion in that portion of our region

As reported, our ten county region’s population will reach 3 Million by 2035 as projected in the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s 2035 Nashville Area Regional Transportation Plan. CRT was glad to share information on our ten counties’ commuter statistics and congestion for this story. Check out the Regional Issue of Transportation/Transit on our website for more specifics and details. CRT research taken from 2010 Census data shows that 62% of our region’s workforce lives in one county and works in another. The table below is a breakdown on each county’s commute numbers from 2010 data.


From this research and data, it is easy to see how highly connected our Middle Tennessee Region is with our workforce from neighboring counties traveling back and forth every day. This intense inter-regional travel combined with intra-regional freight and through traffic on Middle Tennessee’s three interstates compounds congestion further.

Mayor McMillan’s remarks on the potential heavy rail service from Nashville to Clarksville illustrated the promise of regional rail transit service to that rapidly growing part of our region. She also highlighted the importance of the upcoming 2040 Regional Transportation Plan from the Nashville MPO to put in place the mechanism for this future regional transit infrastructure investment.

Regional leaders across Middle Tennessee, including CRT, recognize the need to provide a variety of transportation and transit options to address workforce mobility needs and traffic congestion. A complete Multimodal transportation system is vital to a region’s economic and environmental health and functioning. We all want to support our growing economy and enhance our quality of life for all of us that make up our region’s growing workforce and population. Strategic transportation and transit infrastructure investments, along with strategically working to create a regional jobs/housing balance that supports a range of housing options and choices near job centers is critical to Middle Tennessee’s continuing success. When we have a good spatial match between job centers, housing and transportation choice, skills needed, and workforce accessibility, our region can change commuter patterns and options, decrease congestion, and increase Middle Tennessee’s desirability for many years to come.


Help plan the future of Middle Tennessee’s fastest-growing corridor


Davidson, Rutherford, Williamson, and Wilson counties are projected to add over 800,000 new residents and 700,000 new jobs by 2040 and remain one of the region’s and state’s most important economic engines in the coming decades. In response to this growth challenge, the Nashville Area MPO initiated the Southeast Area Transportation & Land Use Study, which draws together state, regional, and local partners to develop a preferred vision for growth and development in the area paralleling I-24 between I-40 and I-65 in Davidson, Rutherford, Williamson, and Wilson counties. By taking steps now to coordinate plans for future development, participating agencies and jurisdictions can put in place the multimodal transportation improvements and land use policies necessary to support long-term prosperity and quality of life throughout the study area.

You can provide your input and help plan the future of the Southeast study area by visiting to learn more about potential growth scenarios and weigh in on how you would like to see the area grow.

Input received will be used to help craft a preferred vision for growth and development. Replies will be accepted through the end of August. To learn more about the study, visit the Nashville Area MPO website.

CRT is glad to serve on the steering committee of this regional effort and connect our readers to this process that will inform the upcoming 2040 Regional Transportation Plan due out next year.

Make plans to attend the 2014 TN APA/TRB Environmental Analysis in Transportation Summer Workshop!


Make plans to attend the Tennessee Chapter of the American Planning Association and the Transportation Research Board’s Committee on Environmental Analysis in Transportation 2014 Joint Conference. The conference will take place August 26th -29th at the Music City Center in downtown Nashville. CRT is happy to work with Conference coordinators to organize and lead a session on Thursday, August 28th.

General conference topic areas include: linking land use and transportation, the role of social media in planning, Brownfield redevelopment, disaster planning, and regional growth initiatives. The keynote speaker for the Conference is Tom Vanderbilt, author of “Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us).”

Registration is currently open but general conference registration rates end on Wednesday, August 13th. For details on how to register and to review the preliminary agenda, please visit the conference website: 2014 TN APA/TRB Environmental Analysis in Transportation (ADC10) Summer Workshop.

On Thursday, August 28th Steering Committee Members of the Tennessee Regions’ Roundtable Network will host a session entitled “Tennessee Regions’ Roundtable Network—Advancing Successful Regional and Local Planning Efforts.” This session is a planning commissioner training session and will focus on how local planning actions are tied to regional implementation.

Mr. Bill Terry will provide an overview of laws and statues governing the creation and operation of planning commissions in the State of Tennessee. He will also discuss the components of a comprehensive plan and the role they play in the future growth of a community. As part of this discussion, Dr. Bridget Jones will present examples of how comprehensive plans are being implemented in local communities in Middle Tennessee in support of this region’s initiatives.

Roundtable Network Steering Committee Members Amy Brooks, Project Director of PlanET in the Knoxville/East Tennessee Region; John Zeanah, Project Director of the Mid South Regional Greenprint and Sustainability Plan in the Memphis/West Tennessee Region; and Bridget Jones, Executive Director of Cumberland Region Tomorrow in the Nashville/Middle Tennessee Region will present updates on each region’s current regional planning and implementation activities. These presenters will also provide current updates on West, Middle, and East Tennessee regions’ current regional and aligned local planning efforts, feature regional best practices, and provide valuable resources for Planning Commissioners to learn from and use in their own local communities.

Register today for this informative and educational event!

NashvilleNext Community Conversation: How we’ll get around in the next 25 years


How will we get around in Nashville and Middle Tennessee over the next 25 years? That’s the central topic of the upcoming NashvilleNext Community Conversation, one of several being held to stimulate community discussion of major issues affecting growth and progress.

This Conversation, from 4-6 pm on Tuesday, August 5 at the Municipal Auditorium, 417 4th Avenue North, will include comments from Gabe Klein, former ULI Visiting Fellow and transportation chief in Chicago and in Washington, DC. Klein is known for spearheading efforts to make cities less car-centric and more pedestrian-friendly. Klein will help Nashvillians take a big-picture view of transportation and mobility issues and opportunities throughout our 10-county region.

CRT supports the Metro Nashville Planning Department and their efforts to address regional transportation and transit, identified by CRT as one of the Middle Tennessee region’s Six Issues of Regional Importance. Please plan to attend this important community conversation. RSVP for the event here.

Strategic community outreach pays off for Tennessee Department of Transportation


Today’s CRT story is based on a feature post by Smart Growth America (SGA) about the innovative practices the Tennessee Department of Transportation has made in implementing projects, many of which can be found in SGA’s report The Innovative DOT. Many state DOTs select transportation projects without much coordination with their local jurisdictions. Recently officials in Tennessee decided to do better. Now, key officials from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) have reinvented how the department interacts with local communities to create better outcomes for projects across the state while saving taxpayer money at the same time.

In our April profile of TDOT Commissioner John Schroer, we explained how Schroer initiated a “top to bottom” review of the department. Part of Schroer’s vision for TDOT is for state planners to work more proactively with local communities in the early planning and design phases of transportation projects. Schroer then created a new team tasked with changing the way TDOT plans, designs and funds transportation projects across the state.

The figure leading this charge for TDOT is Toks Omishakin, Deputy Commissioner of Environment and Planning. In 2011, Schroer appointed Omishakin as Assistant Commissioner with the aim of better coordinating TDOT’s long-range planning and project management. A planner by trade with a degree in Urban and Regional Planning and previous roles with the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Omishakin is rethinking TDOT’s approach to community relations and transforming how TDOT plans and consults with local governments across the state.

Omishakin’s purview as Assistant Commissioner includes the project planning, long-range planning, multimodal transportation resources and environmental divisions. Having someone with a planning background in this role is a priority for TDOT to help ensure a balance between individual project execution and longer term planning principles like land use impact, environmental concerns and finances.

“We’ve made it part of our core business to listen to communities and not force things that the state wants to get done,” says Omishakin. “It’s at the forefront of what we do on a daily basis. Before we build projects, we are going to make sure communities are OK with them.”
“[Tennessee communities] were making a big push, saying, we want our state department of transportation to listen. So we’ve decided any project we move forward is going to be what the community wants and needs.”

Omishakin explains that the TDOT staff proactively seeks to make presentations and answer questions about upcoming projects at existing community meetings (like Kiwanis and Rotary clubs) rather than scheduling a separate meeting hosted by TDOT, which might be harder to promote.

TDOT also implemented a new tool on their website to make interaction with department planners easier for local communities. The ‘Book-A-Planner’ feature is an online form local officials can fill out to request a TDOT official from the Community Relations division to speak at a community meeting about a particular project or concern.

Another key figure within TDOT leading the coordination of this outreach effort across the state is Tanisha Hall, Director of Long Range Planning for the department. Hall has over 14 years of experience in urban planning, specializing in transportation planning and research. In 2012, with the support of Omishakin and Commissioner Schroer, Hall established the Office of Community Transportation (OCT), which aims to better coordinate land use and transportation decisions by strengthening outreach to local communities.

“We work together with communities to identify their long-term goals, and then provide solid, data-driven resources to ensure we make the best transportation investments,” says Hall. “Basically, if you work with the department on the front-end, we can potentially save your community some heartache on the back end.” As an example, Hall points to TDOT’s new involvement in school siting, in which OCT planners offer advice on transportation cost implications to communities building new schools.

One way that the OCT is already helping local communities realize their vision while also saving taxpayer money is through the concept of ‘right-sizing’ state projects. Right-sizing means that transportation projects are tailored to maximize return on investment — to have the lowest cost for the biggest benefit. In 2012, TDOT worked with Smart Growth America to define right-sizing opportunities and began to audit the existing list of proposed projects. Through this review, the department is eliminating projects that are no longer needed, and right-sizing projects that can provide good outcomes at a significantly lower cost. TDOT planners found that many transportation projects could get 80-90 percent of the outcome needed with an improvement to the network that cost up to 10 percent of the initial proposal.

In the first five projects examined across the state, TDOT found a cost savings of over $171 million through right-sizing the scope of work. In one project alone in Jackson County, TDOT was able to reduce the overall cost from an estimated $65 million to only $340,000 while still achieving the same safety and efficiency outcomes.

But Hall’s office tries to become involved with communities before the right-sized project is designed and built. “The right-sized projects are sometimes in the backlog of already-planned projects,” said Hall. “We are the “pre-rightsizers — working with the community early on in the planning process to help them realize their vision with the most effective solutions possible.”

Another of TDOT’s major successes has been the creation of the Multimodal Advisory Committee, a Rockefeller Foundation–funded coalition of transportation professionals and community leaders from across Tennessee working to develop multi-modal transportation communication strategies for TDOT’s outreach use. Transportation for America, a program of Smarth Growth America, worked closely with TDOT and SGA coalition partner Cumberland Region Tomorrow on this project effort.

CRT continues work with TDOT and the Tennessee Multimodal Action Committee and will jointly release new outreach and communication materials later this year. Stay tuned for new Tennessee Mutimodal project news and future CRT stories.

English town removes traffic signals and lanes; moves from “dying” to “vital”


This CRT story draws from a best practice example from across the globe.  Watch this 15 minute video to see what the real alternatives to place-making are at the extreme.  One community takes on a major urban arterial and creates a solution that accommodates high traffic, improves pedestrian access, grows economic development and is great place-making.  CRT would like to thank Metro Nashville Planning Department’s Executive Director Rick Bernhardt for sharing this story.  Bernhardt also serves as the Quality Growth Committee Co-Chair for Cumberland Region Tomorrow.

Navigating Fountain Place in Poynton’s city center had become an activity for the blindly courageous.  The small town of 15,000 is located about 11 miles from the city of Manchester, England.  Its position within the Greater Manchester Urban Area has made Poynton an attractive corridor for through traffic, but the growth in the economies of other nearby towns put pressure on Poynton’s local businesses and made its own roadways congested and unsafe.  By 2011, over 26,000 vehicles were passing through Fountain Place each day.

According to local street designer Ben Hamilton-Baillie, the steps taken to deal with the rapid increase in vehicular traffic through Fountain Place had turned the area from “the heart of the village to a traffic signal controlled wasteland.”  Past solutions to revitalize the city center had not actually done anything for Poynton, but only moved traffic faster.

In 2011, the city embarked on an ambitious revitalization plan featuring a complete reconfiguration of the Fountain Place intersection.  Traffic signals were removed, travel lanes were reduced, and sidewalks were leveled to the same grade as the roadbed.  Using a smaller success the city experienced along nearby Park Lane, Poynton officials used the concept of “shared space” at the Fountain Place intersection that requires the use of human skills to negotiate traffic movements.  The installation of a double side-by-side roundabout facilitated traffic flow while enhanced accessibility and safety for pedestrians.

Construction was completed in September 2012 at a cost of £4 million, or a little under $7 million.  Results exceeded most people’s expectations by reducing traffic accidents and increasing local business activity by 88%.

TDOT awards Multimodal Access Grants to two Middle Tennessee communities

Multimodal facilities play an important role in providing transportation choices for people across Tennessee. With half of all trips in the United States three miles or less, good walking, biking and transit facilities are essential to the continued growth and success of Tennessee’s towns and cities.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has established a new grant program to fund multimodal transportation improvement projects along the state highway network. The new grant program was included in TDOT’s 3-year plan and the Tennessee General Assembly approved it in April 2013.

TDOT’s Multimodal Access Grant Program will improve access to all modes of transportation at key locations along or near state routes by filling gaps in the existing system. Infrastructure projects will improve safety, encourage economic development, and support the transportation needs of all users on state routes including motorists, transit users, cyclists, and pedestrians. Multimodal Access projects are funded at 95% by the state with a 5% local match. Total project cost for a single project must not exceed $1 million. Eligible projects include sidewalks, bus turnouts, park and ride facilities, bus shelters, pedestrian crossing improvements, and bike facilities on state routes. TDOT’s Multimodal Access Grants are not intended to fund infrastructure primarily used for recreation.

In Middle Tennessee two cities were awarded inaugural Multimodal Access Grants.

Clarksville received $803,425 in funding to construct five foot sidewalks with ADA compliant ramps and 41 bus stop shelters with concrete landing pads along Ft. Campbell Boulevard (State Route 12) and Walnut Street.

Dickson was awarded $294,096 to fund the construction of a Park and Ride facility at the intersection of State Route 46 and Pamona Road.

For more information on TDOT’s Multimodal Access Grant Program contact Jessica Wilson at 615-741-5025 or [email protected].

The Transit Citizen Leadership Academy’s 5th graduating class project focuses on Middle Tennessee’s quality of life


The Transit Citizen Leadership Academy is a leadership and educational collaboration between the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee and the Nelson and Sue Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership at Lipscomb University. The Academy is designed to equip private and public sector leaders across the ten counties of Middle Tennessee with the personal and group tools to lead conversations about the value of mass transit across the region and about the emerging mass transit options that can address our mass transit needs. The Transit Citizen Leadership Academy has proven very successful in cultivating a broad base of community leaders across the ten county Middle Tennessee Region focusing on transit issues and opportunities.

The Transit Citizen Leadership Academy has graduated over 120 community leaders since its inaugural class in 2011. Members of the 5th Transit Citizen Leadership Academy class include two of CRT’s leading Board of Directors: Reggie Mudd, Northern Middle Tennessee Regional Director, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and Ann Thompson, Executive Director, Cheatham County Chamber of Commerce.

Each Academy class creates a project as part of their program experience. The Academy’s 5thclass created a video that highlights the connection between Middle Tennessee’s quality of life and future transit options and investments. Take a look at what Reggie, Ann, and their classmates produced to illustrate this important topic.

Smart Growth America showcases work of TDOT Commissioner John Schroer


A new Smart Growth America article highlights the achievements and future goals of Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer. Since taking office in 2011, Schroer has taken a very hands-on approach; the article showcases how Commissioner Schroer is helping local leaders find solutions to their transportation challenges across the state while helping to save taxpayer money at the same time.

In 2012, Schroer partnered with Smart Growth America and other TDOT leaders to find ways to use TDOT’s resources more efficiently, create better outcomes, and save taxpayer money. The resulting guide, Transportation Process Alternatives for Tennessee – Removing Barriers to Smarter Transportation Investments, was the product of months of collaboration between Smart Growth America experts, TDOT management, regional and community representatives, and transportation advocates.

Realizing that the department had a back log of projects that it could not fund, TDOT and the Smart Growth America team began auditing the existing work program, eliminating projects that were no longer needed and “right-sizing” projects that could be improved.

The concept of “right-sizing” means that transportation projects are tailored to maximize return on investment — to have the lowest cost for the biggest benefit.

Through “right-sizing” TDOT has already saved Tennessee taxpayers millions of dollars. In reviewing the first five projects, TDOT saw savings of over $171 million through the right-sizing approach. For a project in Jackson County, TDOT was able to reduce the overall cost from an estimated $65 million to only $340,000 while still achieving the same safety and efficiency outcomes.

Read more about Commissioner Schroer’s successes, achievements, and goals in the Smart Growth article.

CRT works with TDOT and Commissioner Schroer on annual POWER OF TEN Regional Summits. TDOT has been a presenting co-sponsor for all six successful Summit events and we are grateful for TDOT’s partnership and support.  Watch the video of Commissioner Schroer’s presentation at the 2014 POWER OF TEN Regional Summit that was held on April 30th.

Franklin Tomorrow Releases Transportation Survey Results

SR840 Williamson County

In mid-February of 2014, Franklin Tomorrow released the results of a transportation issues study conducted in 2013, revealing that people want reduced congestion and less delay, more transportation choices, and a better street network.

The survey was formulated by a citizen task force working to expand on results of the 2011 Visioning Process, which drew over 1,000 participants, and a 2012 Household Survey conducted with the Williamson County Association of Realtors, which reached a 400-household count and was conducted by a national polling firm.

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