NTIP Light Rail & Tunnel Transit:
Top 100 the Plan is Wrong for Nashville
Top 100 Reasons to Vote AGAINST, NO
Top 100 Reasons We Need a Better Plan
Three (3) Primary Reasons:
- The massive cost; $9 billion for a plan that will not reduce traffic and 97% of commuters will NEVER use. Nashville will have the highest sales tax in the nation, 10.25%; every Nashvillian will pay $16,000 in the next 14 years for NTIP
- The plan’s light rail – 90% of the cost – will not relieve traffic congestion. The cities that have it do not relieve their traffic congestion. Light rail is 15 mph, slow, stops a lot, and will take up two (2) or three (3) vital lanes on primary roadways which are only four or five lanes. Reference: VU’s Dr. Malcolm Getz’s 18-page study of the NTIP Plan.
- Other cities with rail have regional systems built for the region. No other light rail system in a city like Nashville has met projections or relieved traffic; all light rail systems are a major burden to the taxpayers for generations, both for build out AND the massive ongoing losses to keep them going. (Charlotte NC has one city line of 10 miles; see below.)
Top 100 Reasons the Plan is Wrong for Nashville
Top 100 Reasons to Vote AGAINST, NO April 11-26 and May 1
1. The plan is not regional.
2. Light rail is an obsolete transit model. It is 70% of the costs, $6B of $9B.
3. Light rail ridership is 1% or less of commuters. Bus systems are more effective at increasing transit ridership.
4. In the cities that have it, light rail has failed in increasing transit ridership or reducing traffic, even after decades & 35+ years of use, in cities with populations & pop. densities Nash will not reach for 75 years.
5. At best, in 50 years, with light rail, Nash’s public transit ridership might go from 2% to 2.5%, but likely will decrease.
6. A long term plan? In 50 years, light rail will be completely obsolete. It’s obsolete now.
7. The high cost: $568,000 per current Nash transit rider. $8.9B / 15,650 = $568,000 per rider.
8. The $9 billion cost, taxes & bonds could bankrupt Nashville, which already has financial problems.
9. The four new taxes & bonds paid on until 2060 threaten our city, economy, programs, schools, services & more for generations. Highest sales tax in nation.
10. Light rail & BRT on nine (9) roadways will eliminate two & three lanes on already high traffic streets.
11. The plan includes nothing related to tech which is changing how we commute, travel & live & disrupting transportation.
12. The plan includes nothing related to the sharing & gig economy which changing how cities & transit function & is disrupting transit.
13. Light rail/tunnel is 70% of the costs. Light rail is a central reason why the plan will not work.
14. Corporate Nash & the rich have given $2.5 million to the pro side PAC, as they will get richer through the plan. See ten (10) ways below.
15. The build out will take 14 years. Experts believe that transit as we know it will not exist in 15 years, due to many factors: tech, the internet, the sharing economy, delivery services, telecommuting & more. See the ways below.
16. Nash’s 504 sq. miles is 5th in the nation. The large land area renders fixed light rail useless. We need bus. Nash’s low population density of 1,300 people per sq. miles renders light rail useless.
17. 94% or more of Nashvillians will not live close enough to the light rail to use it. The LRT covers only 6% of the land area, 31 miles of 504 miles.
18. Only 6.5% of Nash jobs are downtown, where light rail is focused.
19. MTA has 96 bus routes. The nine (9) LRT & BRT lines are on 9% of the routes and have no impact on 91% of the routes. A foolish, dangerous waste of $9 billion.
20. The plan was created by Megan Barry, MTA’s five people & small-town mayors who live outside of Davidson
21. Public transit ridership is declining at 3.5% annually locally & nationally, due to many disruptive factors.
22. Therefore, transit systems are struggling. MTA will lose $2.25 billion during the 15-year build out. Answer? Tech, better management, a regional plan.
23. Light rail is so expensive it cannibalizes a city’s bus system. All $$ goes to light rail, as bus & other depts. suffer.
24. The Metro machine – Metro, their clients, Chamber, CVB & more – wants light rail, as it leads to dense development, which means higher tax revenues & lower infrastructure costs. Taller bldgs. = more square feet, more tax revenue, less costs for utilities, roads, water, sewer, electric lines etc. They all get rich and benefit, we don’t.
25. Developers want density: taller buildings mean more profits, lower costs; “transit” means less codes requirements for such things as parking garages.
26. A $9 billion, 14-year govt. project means Metro politicians & employees get job security for life.
27. Metro’s last traffic idea? Eliminate two lanes of 8th Ave in Melrose, a primary roadway. The neighborhood revolted, with 6,500 people signing the petition to stop Metro’s ridiculous idea.
28. Yet, many community groups & people won’t speak out against the plan, as they may experience backlash from the Metro machine & employer.
29. The plan hurts the 99% who are not rich & especially those who truly need transit, affordable housing & jobs. Light rail causes real estate prices & rents to increase, pushing out those cannot afford the prices, called gentrification.
30. The integrated inner city group PATHE is against the transit plan. They realize it only helps the 1% & not the 99%. pathenashville.org. PATHE is Peoples Alliance for Transit Housing & Employment.
31. Pro side will not engage with or discuss the plan with the against side. Pro side does a “feel good” campaign & wins over the public without even mentioning the practical aspects of the nine (9) light rail & bus rapid transit lines.
32. The plan does not in any way analyze the effect of the transit program on the capacity of the altered streets to move traffic.
33. Gallatin light rail line is $789 million. Yet, Ellington Parkway next to it is a better, faster route from northeast to Nashville. There will be no incentive to take the slower light rail line.
34. The plan is 10 times bigger than any other Metro project in city history & is the biggest city govt project in state history.
35. The plan adds four (4) new taxes to an already overtaxed population: sales tax increase; small business tax; another hotel tax; rental car tax.
36. The 10.25% sales tax will be the highest in the nation.
37. Metro is experiencing financial problems: $243 million in debt under Barry; dwindling reserves; increased debt payment obligations; restricted dept. budgets, lower tax revenues.
38. The $9B plan will crowd out money & funding for departments, programs & people that truly need it.
39. The plan hurts the poor the most, first by higher taxes.
40. The plan eliminates critical affordable housing, as light rail artificially causes all land & rents to increase.
41. Few who pay the extra 1% sales tax get the benefits. The sales tax increase provides 95% of the funding to pay off the massive, dangerous bonds the city will get in 2023 and pay off, hopefully, in 2060, 37 years later.
42. Light rail is a major, catastrophic burden for the city’s taxpayers. LRT on average self-funds only 10-20% of their operating budgets, leaving the taxpayers to pay 80% or more. The average annual operating losses for three cities with light rail systems: $627 million; Denver, Dallas & Houston.
43. The plan is ambiguous about what the funding in the first few years pays for; the assumption is it pays for bus operations.
44. In 2023, the tax rates go to the highest levels. For several years, the added funds pay only interests on the bonds that will be used to build the railroads.
45. By 2031, Nashville taxpayers will be paying $166 million just on debt service.
46. The funding plan assumes Nashville will be getting a $143 million annual federal grant, something that is not a guarantee.
47. Around 2040, the expected flow of tax revenues will shift to a level payment of principle & interest lasting until 2060. The plan calls this “sculpting the debt profile over time to maximize what can be spent to build out the railroads within the one-cent sales tax flow of revenue.” This scheme frightens people who understand municipal finance.
48. A national recession could put our city in a compromised economic position.
49. Chamber claims “47% of sales tax is paid by people not living in David. Co.” The truth? Sales tax is not in any way tracked by zip code. It is impossible to determine the percentage paid by anyone. It is a phony statistic designed to deceive the public.
50. Sales tax is growing slower than other taxes. Why? The economy is moving toward tech/services & away from goods, which have sales tax. Over time, sales tax will not collect enough $$ for the project, further straining Metro’s budget & adding more taxes.
51. Sales tax increases actually lower overall sales tax collections, as consumers buy less & buy goods in other counties.
52. Higher sales tax will hurt businesses, especially those located near county lines, next to counties with lower sales tax rates. https://goo.gl/44x15Y
53. The new taxes on hotels & rental cars hurt the tourism industry, one of the primary driving forces in Nashville’s economy.
54. Higher hotel tax would hurt the Convention Center’s business. Convention planners book hotel room blocks based on overall price including taxes.
55. The business tax increases the tax by 20%. It will hurt small businesses, a driving force in our city & economy.
56. The plan does not address fare levels for riding the trains. Mayor’s office says people will ride for free, further straining Metro’s budget.
57. The Mayor’s office claims the cost is $5.4 billion & wanted that on the ballot. On p. 50 in the plan, the real total cost is $8.95 billion.
58. The Council asked the mayor’s office that the Council be included in the creation of the transit plan. The Council was not included (Source: Shulman).
59. Realizing the dire situation of the MTA, the Metro Council filed an ordinance requiring the MTA to report to the Council & not just to the Mayor. That ordinance was not complied with (Shulman).
60. MTA will not respond to public records requests RE ridership data. Clerk’s office also denied the request.
61. The plan contains vague, ambiguous information about funding details (Charts 6 and 14).
62. The plan has deceptive images showing eight-lane roadways (p. 23), which are currently four lanes.
63. Widening the roads would require major restructuring of the right of ways, current buildings, utilities, water/sewer. Metro’s use of eminent domain to take property from taxpayers would result in lawsuits.
64. Nashville is in a flood plain/basin. The regular heavy rains would wreak havoc on construction & the electric rail tracks & systems and be dangerous for all commuters & riders.
65. Mayor’s office will not respond to our calls or emails requesting response to this list & the contents of it.
66. Metro’s major projects have already burdened the city: $1B MC Center, football, baseball & $275M soccer stadiums, Bridgestone, Ascend & more. Now $9B for light rail for 1% of commuters.
67. Mayor’s office set the vote to take place on the lowest voter turnout election every four years. In 2011, only 6% of adults voted (32,200), 92% of them Democrats.
68. The plan was made public near Christmas 2017, approved as referendum in February, giving the public only 16 weeks to understand & learn the details of the plan.
69. Roadways w/ planned light rail are only four lanes, thus too narrow for the three lanes needed for LRT.
70. Mayor’s office touts Denver as a “model” for Nash light rail. Yet, Denver’s plan is regional: it is built & paid for by seven (7) counties. This plan is city only.
71. Charlotte, NC, is bigger than Nash. They spent $460M on one light rail line of 10 miles. It serves 820 riders per mile per day, 0.005% of commuters (apta.com).
72. I-840 & its 77 miles allow drivers to avoid city congestion. 840 travels through four counties & provides access to I-40 & connections to I-24 & I-65.
73. The plan will add bus rapid transit on 4 primary roadways, eliminating 2 lanes on 4-lane roadways. The plan does not address the loss of lanes & how this loss will affect traffic.
74. The loss of lanes will, after completion: reduce critical lanes; eliminate turn lanes; block side streets; block entrance/exits to/from small businesses; restrict flow of emergency vehicles; & worse.
75. Construction during the 14-year build out will cause massive traffic congestion on Nashville’s primary roadway arteries.
76. Emergency vehicles: both during & after construction, the light rail & BRT lanes will greatly impede the travel of emergency vehicles, police, fire, ambulance & EMTs.
77. It will be 196 years before Nash reaches population density level meriting an underground tunnel. The mega-cities with underground transit have pop. density 11 times greater than Nashville’s. Nashville is ranked 36th in the nation in population; 14,500 to 1,300 PD.
78. Light rail is 15 mph max – school zone speed; very slow.
79. Most people do not live close enough to the rail lines to justify using it.
80. “Real life” factors: we need transport during the day.
81. Rail riders must get transport to & from the rail; wait for the train; stop at every stop.
82. Light rail commute times are often longer than car commutes.
83. Light rail is inflexible & does not adapt to commuter or transit needs.
84. Light rail is incredibly expensive to install, operate, maintain, manage, power (electricity; coal from the TVA) and more. Light rail costs $150 million per mile to install. Rapid bus lanes cost $8.5 million per mile.
85. The plan will not reduce traffic congestion but will make it worse.
86. 98% of commuters will never use the light rail or bus rapid transit.
87. Transit expert Dr. Malcolm Getz, VU professor, reveals in his 18-page critique of the plan that it will not reduce traffic congestion or increase transit ridership. https://goo.gl/eRNR8Z
88. All rail systems are a major burden to cities & to taxpayers.
89. People are renting homes closer to their workplaces, eliminating the need for expensive transit like light rail.
Why public transit is declining & dying:
90. Tech: all the transit & tech developments: More people are renting homes closer to their workplaces & do not need public transit.
91. Sharing economy: Uber, Lyft, Relay Rides, Getaround, Sidecar, Airbnb, Task Rabbit, Zarly, Snapgoods, Dogvacay, Fon, Lending Club.
The gig economy, collaborative consumption, peer-to-peer services.
92. Affordability of cars.
93. Telecommuting: internet & tech allowing people to work from home.
94. Location: more office & commercial hubs are outside of downtown.
95. Delivery services & apps: delivery tech is changing how we commute, drive, get, consume & live. Apps, Amazon, drones & more.
96. Driverless cars will transport people without accidents, parking or traffic surges.
97. We need a transportation board that is elected not appointed.
98. A majority of the Metro Council approves whatever the Mayor presents. They in turn get favor from the Mayor when they need it. It’s how politics works.
99. Megan Barry created the plan along with MTA & small-town mayors. She has pushed for it & was the face of it. Barry resigned from office & pleaded guilty to felony theft in a plea deal. Her Metro budget was $243 in debt after two yrs. as mayor. She also spent $2.4 million in taxpayer money on frills, extra staff, bodyguards & her love affair with bodyguard Sgt. Rob Forrest.
100. $9 billion reasons: the plan is one of the most expensive per capita city govt. projects in history. Cost per current transit rider: $568,000 per rider, or $28,400 per rider per year. Metro is misusing, misspending & miseverything with our money. Barry’s Metro is $243 million debt after two years. She spent $2.55 million on unneeded frills in two years. RE Transit plan, Metro hired MP&F founder’s daughter at $85K salary & the PAC has paid MP&F & other PR firms $442,000 in 2017 to promote the transit plan; they will likely pay them as much as $1 million total. Metro is doing backroom deals, such as $600,000+ paid to Metro COO Riebeling’s friend Atema for “work” at the Fairgrounds, where an improvement budget for $3m is now $8.5million, unexplained & unapproved. Barry did a backroom deal to sell 20 prime acres of real estate (Fort Negley) to a developer who was one of her primary campaign donors. These are just some of the deals we know about.
- We need a better transit plan, the right plan for Nashville, a regional plan, created by experts, with improved bus service, new technology and more. How do we deal with increasing population? Implement effective, practical, flexible solutions, such as BRT bus rapid transit; express bus lanes; improved bus services; new technology for transit; the dozens of practical, cost-effective solutions to traffic, like rush hour lane reversal, Goog smart stop light tech, and more.
- NTIP was created by the MTA & a group of mayors from small towns outside of Davidson Co. – THEY DO NOT EVEN LIVE HERE. It is a city plan that is forcing Nashville taxpayers to pay $9 billion for light rail that 97% of drivers will never use and that will eliminate two and three vitals lanes from four & five-lane roadways.
- The massive cost and severe taxes will be financially disastrous for our city for 42+ years, for a system that will not reduce traffic congestion and is a dying sector: public transit. This month, no surprise, Metro announced the city is having serious financial problems. https://goo.gl/TxHcFq
- All light rail systems in the U.S. are regional systems, not city rail systems. This issue is one of the most important failures of the NTIP plan. The NTIP plan does not address or deal with the biggest Nashville traffic issue of all – commuters and travelers into and out of Davidson Co. The five (5) planned light rails only go 4-5 miles & stop halfway to the county lines. Nashville needs a regional plan, not a city plan. Also see No. 22.
- According to all current transit models and stats, the NTIP plan will, at best, in 2032 and beyond, increase Nashville’s public transit ridership from 2% to approx.. 3%. A better plan can and will get better results at a fraction of the cost. See Chart 1 below.
- Other cities with light rail ALL have much larger populations and population densities than Nashville. See Chart 2 below.
- Nashville is 5th in the nation in land area, 525 square miles, among cities with 1+ million population. Nashville is spread out, rendering light rail ineffective for the land type here, another reason light rail will be ineffective in reducing traffic. Light rail will not benefit the city or reduce traffic congestion
- 8. Underground tunnel in Nashville? Only a handful of mega-cities in the U.S. have any underground transit – all of them are the most populous regions in the nation, w/ average populations of 10.5 million and average Population Densities of 14,500 people per square mile. Nashville is ranked 36th in the nation in population. A Projection for Nashville’s population growth & levels through 2040 – 780K – are not even close to levels requiring any kind of underground transit. See Chart 2 below.
- NEW: Better Transit for Nashville has requested to the Mayor’s Office, Let’s Move Nashville and the Nashville Transit Alliance to have a friendly, civil public forum between pro and against citizens, who have no conflict of interest. No one from any of the three groups has responded in any way.
- Cities with underground transit have Population Densities (PD) which are, on average, 11 times greater than the PD of Nashville; 14,500 to Nashville’s 1,300. An underground tunnel in Nashville is ridiculous and unneeded. We need experts, not the MTA, creating a transit plan for Nashville.
- NTIP hurts everyone, causing Nashville to have the highest sales tax in the nation, tied only with Chicago. But it especially hurts the poor & the lower class, as sales tax hurts them the most (find out more here: https://goo.gl/gTSFf1-). TN has the highest sales tax in the nation already. Rail also eliminates much-needed affordable housing for the poor.
- Who benefits? The rich and big business; the companies & businesses who will make big money from the $9 billion build out and Metro’s ongoing $2 billion/yr budgets. Goldman Sachs is pushing hard for this plan to pass, as they will make between $50-100 million on the $5.4 BILLION in bonds that will be floated to pay for the light rail. Sales tax only pays a portion of the $9B. A few politicians and rich businessmen are fleecing Nashville’s great citizens. Butch Spyridon, the Head of Tourism for Nashville, endorsed the transit plan; he is rumored to make $700,000+. Now we know where the hotel tax money goes.
- Studies and analysis reveal that light rail, which is 70% of $9 billion cost, $6 billion total, does not relieve traffic congestion. Rail is already outdated today and will be completely obsolete when the light rail is completed in 15 years.
- Nashville’s five (5) main roadway right of ways – the land from sidewalk to sidewalk – are four lanes, not six, and therefore too narrow for light rail’s two lanes. See full explanation below.
- The new economy today and for the future is the cutting-edge, sharing economy, emerging technologies & electric grid systems that are transforming how we commute, travel and live. The NTIP plan does not include ANYTHING related to this sharing & tech economy – NOTHING. Leave it to govt to create disaster. There are dozens of tech strategies working already around the nation. Why hasn’t Metro tried to implement them? Google smart stop lights, smart street lights, ride-sharing, app delivery services of all the goods we need, drone delivery, Uber & Lyft’s technology, self-driving cars, driverless cars, and much more..
- Who created the NTIP plan? The MTA, the failed Metro bus line that lost $286 million in the last five years and is projected to lose $2.3 BILLION during the 14-year buildout – on the CURRENT Bus Service Routes ONLY, not including losses incurred on operating the new buildout. All charts are below. Yes, you heard that right. The NTIP plan was created by the MTA (and some mayors- see the next point). The MTA self-funds only 16% of its operating budget. We the taxpayers pay $50 million a year to prop it up and keep it going. The feds and the state pay another $17 million a year to keep it operating. All Charts are below.
- The other entity that helped create the NTIP Plan is a “ghost” “authority” agency called the RTA, consisting of mayors from towns in eight counties OUTSIDE of Nashville. Nashville taxpayers and citizens are paying $9+ billion for a light rail system created by mayors NOT FROM OR LIVING IN NASHVILLE and by the MTA.
- In ten (10) online lists of the city’s with the worst commutes in the nation, Nashville is not on ANY of them – and not even close. If it takes a while to get somewhere, it is primarily because Nashville is 525 sq. miles, the 5th largest city land area in the nation. Light rail will not reduce commute time; in fact, light rail commutes in Nashville will take longer than car commutes. There is no incentive to ride light rail.
- Nashville taxpayers will pay $1.2 BILLION cash during the next 14 years into the MTA Bus Agency for the CURRENT MTA Service – 96 routes in all. This figure is NOT included in the NTIP total capital outlay of $9 billion. So, the REAL effective cost of public transit during the next 14 years is $10.1 billion or more. See MTA Charts 3 and 4 below.
- Realizing the dire situation of the MTA, the Metro Council took action and filed an ordinance requiring the MTA to report to the Council and not just to the Mayor. Councilman at Large Jim Shulman states: “In 2016, we filed the ordinance. That ordinance was not complied with.”
- Cities similar in size to Nashville have tried light rail, and in every city it is a declining and failing operation, does not lessen traffic congestion, and is a major, even catastrophic burden for the city’s taxpayers. Light rail systems on average self-fund about 15-20% of their operating budget, leaving the taxpayers to pay 80% or more.
- Almost all cities with rail are many times bigger than Nashville. One city, Charlotte, NC, 2.5 million pop. (Nash is 1.8M) began with one (1) line, 10 miles at a cost of $460M. It is foolish for Nashville to present a referendum for $9 billion, five (5) rail lines and an underground tunnel, when in reality light rail does not reduce traffic. Govt irresponsibility and mismanagement at its best.
- Many if not all cities relied on federal funding for some of the cost of light rail. Today, experts say that it is very difficult for cities to get federal funding for light rail. Why do those cities keep it going? If they stop light rail anytime in the 30 years after the grant, they have to pay the grant back. Therefore, they HAVE to keep it going, even though it is major burden and has to be subsidized.
- Denver’s light rail is on lists as one of the nation’s biggest government waste projects. Yet, the Mayor’s office touts Denver as a “model” for Nashville. The facts: Denver’s light rail system is REGIONAL, with ALL SEVEN COUNTIES paying for it. It was created by and for the region and covers all seven (7) counties. In Denver, after 45 years of raising funds and 20+ years of building rail, they have 3% rail ridership of all people commuting in the region. Their current light rail average commute times are the same as current Nashville car commute times. The bottom line: light rail is inefficient and ineffective.
- Who is FOR the plan? Those for it will get a piece of the massive spending for the plan. The donors to the PRO side- called Citizens for Greater Mobility ($1.3 million raised so far) have a conflict of interest and stand to get Metro business in the buildout & elsewhere: builders, contractors, utility companies, banks, PR firms, etc.
- A major omission in the 55-page plan is the lack of analysis of the effect of the transit program on the capacity of the altered streets to move traffic. Proposed Nashville light rail will completely and totally alter nine (9) current major corridors and roadways, reducing critical lanes, eliminating turn lanes, reducing the number of current car lanes, eliminating bike lanes and sidewalks, blocking entrances to businesses and offices, wreaking havoc for years, and many, many similar problems. The 55-page plan does not address this issue in any way, shape or form. Can you imagine the five major roadways today without two major lanes?
- The Gallatin Rd. light rail is not even needed, because the current treasure of Ellington Parkway is the absolute perfect solution to current and future traffic on Gallatin Rd. There will be no incentive to ride the Gallatin Rd. light rail.
- Light rail’s speed is 15 mph maximum. Yes, 15 mph. They cannot go faster than 15 mph.
- Light rail commutes are slow and inefficient, providing no incentive to the public to use them. Commute times are the same as car commute times. Riders on light rail must complete numerous steps and jump through hoops to use it. They must: get transport to and from the beginning and ending stations; wait for the train; stop with every stop along the way; deal with transfers; then, find transport to their final destination.
- Public transit is declining. Nashville public transit ridership (MTA buses) is down 3% annually for each of the past two years. Nationally, transit ridership is declining at 3.5% annually. Transit ridership is dying, as the sharing economy is changing the way we live, work, play, commute, travel, and transport ourselves and our things. See chart below. See MTA Chart 5 below.
- The new sharing economy will actually reduce the number of cars on the roads, a general trend that is another big reason that public transit- buses, light rail- is becoming obsolete.
- Yet, with all transit problems and all the potential of technology and the new economy, the NTIP plan is TEN TIMES bigger than any other Metro Nashville govt project and is the biggest city government project in state history.
- Okay, then, what is effective public transport? There are many, many effective, proven solutions and technologies, proven effective in other cities, to reduce traffic congestion, almost all of which are NOT at all included and incorporated into the NTIP plan. If Metro/Mayor cannot manage the current budgets for MTA ($90M; $77M in losses annually; more below)/Public works, how will they manage the $9 billion build out & the resulting $350 million operating budgets in 2033 and beyond?
- Few who pay the extra 1% sales tax get the benefits. The sales tax increase provides 95% of the funding to pay off the massive and dangerous bonds the city will get in 2023 and pay off in 2060, 37 years later.
- Those who benefit from the rail are the landowners near the light rail lines and stations, as their property values are artificially increased because of the $billions the government is spending.
- Light rail pushes the poor out of their homes, known as gentrification of neighborhoods. As property values rise near the light rail lines and stations, light rail continues the tragic pushing out of the poor from their current neighborhood, forcing them to leave, as wealthy people who can afford the higher rent and costs of living move in and take over neighborhoods. These factors cause there to be less affordable housing for the poor and power-income earners.
- Study after study, and city rail project after project, reveal that transit does not reduce car traffic congestion. The “iron law of traffic” is that car traffic expands to fill available lanes.
- The massive cost of $9 billion and more. MTA will lose $2.25 BILLION in the next 14 years, with Nashville taxpayers paying 50% or more of it (see charts below); and there are always more cost overruns. The staggering expenses will decrease and crowd out much-needed funding for all other Metro programs and departments, for schools, education, jobs programs, housing, seniors, the disabled, police, fire, and more.
- NEW: Feb 2018: Metro spends more money than they take in and is using the dwindling reserve accounts to survive. Under Megan Barry (two years total), Metro has increased spending more than $243 million, 6% each year. Metro has increased debt obligations and lower tax collections. And Metro wants to spend $9 billion on light rail & a tunnel that will not reduce congestion and will help less than 1% of commuters?
- A study reveals that every person in Nashville will pay approximately $16,000 over the next fourteen (14) years to pay for this transit plan. If a household has four (4) people, the household will pay $64,000 for the transit plan to be implemented. All for a plan that will not work.
- The catastrophic cost. Acc. to financial experts, the $9 billion cost places Nashville in a compromised financial situation. Metro already has financial concerns that should take much higher priority.
- The NTIP plan is scheduled to be completed in 14 years. Modern technology is rapidly changing how live. Our sharing, commuting, driving economy and way of life is changing every year and will be completely different in five and even more so in 10 years. The NTIP does not adjust with the changing times and creates an inflexible, government project Metro will have to tax, subsidize, pay for, and support for decades and generations.
- The Mayor’s office claims the cost is $5.4 billion. The real cost is $8.9 billion. This claim is just one of many ways the Mayor’s office is being irresponsible and deceptive in their presentation of the NTIP plan (see below).
- Councilman at Large Jim Shulman states: “During the development of the NTIP plan, we the Council asked the Mayor’s Office and the MTA/RTA to include us [the Metro Council] in the process. That never happened.”
- Gross inaccuracies in the plan, incl. deceptive images. Most of the images of light rail depict more lanes than could possibly be on the roadway. Example: the image (p. 23) of the Charlotte Ave light rail shows eight (8) total lanes for cars and light rail. Charlotte Ave currently has five (5) lanes and at times four (4) lanes; and the road is tight. Similar presentation of the Dickerson Rd. images. The images are inaccurate and deceptive.
Transit & Financial Experts Analyze the 55-page NTIP Plan:
- The NTIP mass transit plan is ambiguous about what is new expenditure and what is the already existing, MTA bus baseline expenses.
- It is also ambiguous about how many of the expected rail and bus passengers are already making transit trips today. The appropriate analysis is to compare the added costs to the added riders. The 55-page plan does not do this.
- The plan does not compare the added costs of operating the express bus lanes and the five light rails lines (each of which cost about $800 million or more), which would be the appropriate analysis of year-after-year operating costs/budget and year-after-year added income from ridership.
- Mayor Barry was asked recently, “Do the citizens need to pass the referendum to learn what is in it?” She responded: “It’s a bit of a leap of faith.”
- A recent Mayoral team presentation (at Vandy) stated that “people will be able to ride the bus for free.” The Mayoral team stated that “every Davidson County resident could get free monthly bus passes.” It was not explained how this would affect revenues, which they acknowledge only cover 23% of the MTA budget. The plan states that bus fares will cover 23% of operating costs, while according the MTA’s own audit (link below), in Fiscal 2017 MTA funded 16% of the operating expenses. If people ride the buses for free, then the percentage of costs MTA covers would be even lower than projected.
- In the Mayoral team presentation at Vanderbilt, only students were allowed to ask questions; therefore, the ambiguities in the verbal transit pitch and possible discrepancies between the printed plan and the speeches went unchallenged.
Serious Financial Risks and Issues with the NTIP Plan:
- The building of the light rails and trains would begin in 2023 and continue until 14 years from now, 2032. The plan does not address fare levels for riding the trains. A transit expert asks, “Will there be a separate charge to ride the train?”
- The plan is ambiguous about exactly what the funding in the first few years pays for. But the assumption is the funds go to pay for expanding bus operations.
- In 2023, the rates go to the highest level given in the referendum. For several years, the added funds pay only interests on the bonds that will be used to build the railroads.
- By 2031, Nashville taxpayers will be paying $166 million just on debt service.
- The funding plan assumes Nashville will be getting a $143 million annual federal grant, something that is not a guarantee and is a risk.
- Around 2040, the expected flow of tax revenues at that time will shift to a level payment of principle and interest lasting until 2060. The plan calls this “sculpting the debt profile over time to maximize what can be spent to build out the railroads within the one-cent sales tax flow of revenue.” This scheme frightens people who know more about municipal finance that I do. A severe national recession could put our city in a compromised position.
- The Mayor’s office set this referendum to take place during the County Primary (takes place every four years), which has 92% Democratic voter turnout and 8% Republican voter turnout. Yes, that is correct. In the 2014 County primary, 29,500 Democrats voted in the elections- which are for judges, circuit court clerks, criminal court clerks, political party committemen, aldermens, etc, etc- while 2,700 Republicans voted. The Democratic machine already has 30,000 votes FOR this boondoggle, and we do not know what voter turnout will be. The opposition likely needs at least 45,000 votes or more to defeat it. In the 2015 Mayoral election, 60K people voted for Barry; 50,000 voted for Fox.
Moreover, the plan was made public near Christmas 2017, approved as referendum in February, giving the public only 16 weeks to understand and learn what the NTIP plan actually does.
- Sales tax is growing slower than other taxes, because the economy is moving toward technology and services (no sales tax) and away from goods, which have sales tax. That means that over time, sales tax will not collect enough money for the NTIP project, furthering straining Metro, which will be forced to raise other taxes to meet the budget. Studies show that sales tax increases could and often do actually lower overall sales tax collections, as consumers buy less and buy goods in other counties & online to save money. If sales tax collections do not meet projections, the City will have to raise taxes in other ways to pay for NTIP.
Higher sales tax will hurt businesses, especially those located near county lines, next to counties with lower sales tax rates.
News story: https://goo.gl/44x15Y
- Though 90% of the NTIP funding is from sales tax on Nashville taxpayers, NTIP would also raise taxes for hotels and rental cars, hurting the tourism industry, one of the primary driving forces in Nashville’s economy.
- The Chamber, Barry’s biggest supporter, released their own “study” that 47% of our sales tax is paid by people outside of Davidson Co. pay our sales tax. They released the 1.5 page document six (6) days before Barry’s announcement that a 1% sales tax increase would fund the plan. The more accurate figure is that residents of Davidson Co. pay 80%-90% of the sales tax here. The study is a COI document to support the Mayor’s plan.
- Higher hotel tax would hurt the Music City Center’s convention business. Convention planners book hotel room blocks based on overall price including taxes. If Nashville’s rates are higher than other cities’ rates, Nashville could very well lose convention business, hurting tourism and the struggling Music City Center.
- NTIP raises the business tax in Davidson Co. by 20%, hurting businesses and small businesses, a driving force in our city & the economy.
- What do independent, unbiased transit experts say about the NTIP plan? Vanderbilt Economics professor & transit expert Dr. Malcolm Getz offers a compelling case against NTIP and light rail in his “Critique of the Nashville Transit Improvement Plan,” an 18-page summary which reveals light rail does not reduce traffic congestion and creates serious and dangerous economic issues for Nashville for more than 40 years, 2018 to 2060. The critique is at this link: goo.gl/ejpW4R
- A Nashville leader and businessman describes how he feels about the actual NTIP plan and its funding and financial aspects (the tax plan, the bond, the debt sculpting of the bond, and more). He writes: “I find it all scary.”
- Mayor’s office & Chamber etc have an army of PR firms, policy firms, and more, like the Calvert Street Group, McNeely Pigott Fox and many others, who are PAID and working full time for many months, “acting on behalf of Metro/Mayors office” promoting and advocating for the NTIP public transit plan. They manage the social media, the press releases, the slick graphic design displays, and all the other promotional material, essentially brainwashing Nashville taxpayers into believing the NTIP plan will be good for Nashville. Govt fleecing – that is, swindling through deception – at its best.
- Of the 41 members of the Metro Council, 80% or more fully side with Barry on everything; they support her, so that when they need it, she will return the favor. Many approved the plan to go to referendum without really knowing the details.
- Who is FOR the plan? The primary person backing and promoting the plan is Mayor Megan Barry. Currently, three agencies are investigating Barry for possible criminal conduct and other violations including misuse of public money. On February 1, 2018, in the midst of spending most of her mayoral time promoting the plan, Barry, who is married, made public her two-year affair with her married police security detail Sgt. Rob Forrest, her subordinate. Days later, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation began an investigation of Barry and potential violations of the law. In all, reporters have uncovered more than $225,000 in taxpayer money Barry used to further her affair with Forrest (see chart below). A formal complaint was issued against Barry regarding the potential favoritism she granted the Metro Police during an investigation. ($33,000 for trips; $75,000 for overtime for Forrest; $80,000 for two years of salary for Forrest’s daughter.)
- The list of Metro’s highest salaries is staggering & shocking: eight (8) NES execs making $180+K; MCC CEO $250+K, Judges making $180+K (the list below is from 2014). Pro-transit Butch Sypridon, “Head of Tourism” for Nashville (the CVB, see below) from good sources makes $700,000 a year – he is a yes-man for whatever Mayor is on office. Nashville citizens are too good, too smart to let a few politicians and rich bureaucrats ruin our city. The Convention & Visitors Bureau promotes Nashville’s tourism. Easy job, a quasi-govt agency. Vote NO April 11-26 and May 1.
- In the year 2033-2035, according to all data (chart is below), MTA will lose $350 million per year and self-fund only 4% of its budget. In those three years after build out, MTA will have staggering losses of $1.04 billion, just in operating expenses to operate the 96 bus routes, the five (5) light rail lines, the tunnel, etc. $1.04 billion.
- Metro has built and funded project after project: Music City Center ($1 billion), baseball stadium, Ascend Amphitheater, maintenance and raised taxes for Nissan/Bridgestone Arena, the $275 soccer stadium planned, and now this? Enough is enough. Read here how the Music City Center is struggling, has falling revenues and had its bond downgraded.
- Nashville Land: Limestone Rock, Resulting in Narrow Roadways, Unsuitable for Two Lanes of Light Rail
Nashville’s roadways right of ways – the roads and sidewalks of a main road – are narrow, only four or at most five lanes. Most cities have six (6) lane roadways and wider right of ways. Why is this? When Nashville’s city founders built our main roadways, they made them four (4) lanes, because Nashville’s land is limestone rock – most cities have dirt only and not rock under the soil. At that time, building roadbeds on rock was very, very difficult, time-consuming and costly. They had to painstakingly dynamite blast the rock down to a depth, then lay rocks of different sizes into the ground to create a firm roadbed. All that work is now done. But this rock aspect of our land is why our roads are narrow, only four lanes and not six.
Metro Nashville has delayed adding traffic reduction strategies, including widening roads, something that requires much work and planning, made even more difficult because the right of ways are narrow.
We need a better plan. We need the right plan, created by the right people, groups, businesses, private enterprise, and more, that will be effective, efficient, and right for Nashville.
Please vote NO in the referendum April 11-26 and on May 1.
Light rail is projected to increase Nashville’s public transit ridership from current 2% level to approximately 2.2%, based on case studies of six (6) current light rail systems in cities with average CSA populations of 4.3 million; not including MTA’s and public transit’s current 3% annual decline rate in ridership.