Home Page Media continues its candidate forum series.
Until the August primary, the Home Page will ask the candidates running for the legislature a question per week, ranging across the board for issues facing Williamson County.
This week’s topic is transportation. All candidates were asked the question via email, with their responses in alphabetical order by district.
Is it time for Tennessee to invest in mass transit systems? If so, what should be the funding mechanism be?
It depends on what kind of mass transit system and whether it can be done in a cost effective way for taxpayers. Too many of the mass transit systems in large urban areas with heavy traffic lose money. So unless the cost per rider can be better in Tennessee than in other locations, it will likely create a massive hit to taxpayers wallets without having much impact on our road traffic.
Absolutely. It is clear that mass transit is critically important to preventing our growth and success from stagnating due to gridlock. A lot of people want to be here, and we have to become proactive in the way we handle traffic and build our infrastructure for the future.
I sponsored the P3 bill this year, which passed into law and now facilitates the private sector’s involvement in planning and executing transit solutions. The private sector is always more efficient, innovative and effective in implementing capital projects, so I’m optimistic this is a significant step towards short and long-term transit solutions.
Traffic congestion in Williamson County is part of a regional (Metro-Nashville) problem and will therefore require regional solutions.
Remedies that may come out of the upcoming I-65 Multimodal Corridor Study may help in the short or midterm, but I feel that long term solutions will require a view to the future, a view that should include light rail.
Of course, this would be an expensive undertaking that will hinge upon unwavering public support, as well as financial commitments from a variety of sources including a local populace with an eye to the future.
Other thoughts I have on this important question can be found on our tasmith4tn.com website under “Transportation Woes: Windshield time would be better spent with your family.”
Mass transit is an endeavor that typically is not sustainable without some percentage of taxpayer dollars helping fund the program. Thus, revenue from the general fund would likely have to be used to make mass transit operational in the state. If we did decide to create a mass transit system, we as Tennesseans must realize it is a constant drain on the budget, requiring an increase in revenue to fund its operation.
I do support the study of the feasibility of mass transit in Tennessee which could help answers questions such as what percent of the population would utilize mass transit and what the exact cost to the taxpayer would be. I believe these type concerns must be thoroughly addressed before we decide to undertake such a herculean task.
While I do think a study is warranted, there are currently too many unanswered questions regarding the operation of a mass transit system in Tennessee for me to currently support such an idea at this time.
By 2040 Williamson County will be the size of Nashville, and Nashville will be unrecognizable. Whether it’s time to invest in mass transit has already been answered. It’s going to take all sources of revenue – state fuel revenue, local funding, rider fares and private investment. But first, we need leaders who aren’t afraid to tackle traffic and transit. For too long politicians have been content to kick that can down the road. This is our region’s greatest challenge and we have to rise before it.
It’s too early to ignore traditional modes of transportation — roads still need to be our first priority now — but as more companies invest here and people move, we need to begin work on a public transit system now.
As I’ve said before, there is no one silver bullet to funding construction and operation of a public transit system. Capital costs alone for the system being proposed by MTA and the Nashville Area of Chamber of Commerce. We must look at a number of mechanisms, from market-based, such as toll roads and transit-oriented developments, to traditional bond mechanisms, to public-private partnerships, to an increase in the gas tax or a user fee that fairly assesses everyone for the miles they spend on our roadways.
Williamson County’s immediate top public infrastructure needs are widening US 31 south to Spring Hill and/or building a new interchange on I-65 near Spring Hill and Thompson’s Station; improving Highway 100 through Fairview; and completing Mack Hatcher in Franklin. The need for a mass transit system is a regional issue that will require a long term plan and a funding strategy that is sustainable and cost effective.