Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Public in Transport

As I prepare my move to Nashville I am very interested in public transportation. Don't own a car, don't want one and frankly cannot afford it.  I get that Nashville is very car oriented but if I pick where I live and in turn the schools in the area in which to sub I should be able to accommodate this with the odd car rental/share, UBER and dedication.

It is a major issue in many cities as the density has placed traffic and commuting at an all time level 10.  And until the idea of changing work and school times to have alternative and in turn coordinated hours this will only get worse.  Where are those tech people with their disruptions? Oh yes inventing an app to find your keys where you threw them when finally arriving back to your podment.  Which seems sill as the pod is the equivalent to a cell so how hard could it be?

The Boston Globe did a series on income inequity in America and how it affects development and the services in cities across the country.  Nashville and their AMP was one of the profiles.  Of course the Globe interviewed only the former Mayor and none of the residents who had strong opinions other than the genteel racist lady who was cited for opposing the project as it would bring "Riff Raff" to their neighborhood. Gee I love Riff Raff will Frank-n-furter and Magenta come too? (A little Rocky Horror humor there).

But the point was that they had one side and they were sticking with it.  The natural mockery of the South, their idiocy and racism and of course the ability of the Kochs to influence anyone willing to take their checks. And yes they have that influence in all cities north or south.

And then I read the below article from its Business Journal pages and of course the response by the Nashville Scene the alt paper aka "liberal" alt voice that expressed largely the same views - that the project was more complex and divisive than the article explained.  I think the comments below the article are quite informative  and share a larger voice that was not heard in the process, and that is the point.

The Atlantic also did this interesting article about mass transit in cities like Nashville and the problems that truly lead to why many are stalled - money of course but also inertia. People don't want to give up being in their cars as then they have to give up their odd logic regarding convenience.   Few peoples schedules are that independent that having a car at one's disposal is that debilitating and the other is that people are afraid of people on public transit.  But I also want to point out as in all news sources the source of this is a 2009 census report. In a city that has grown since that report I wonder how the new residents (of which I soon will be) feel today?

Be afraid be very afraid and that guarantees me a seat.

People hate public transport.  This is largely due to marketing and of course fear of the great unwashed

How The ​Boston Globe tells the story of the Amp's demise
Nashville Business Journal
 Oct 12, 2015,

Let’s take a walk down memory lane for just a moment.

As part of its "Divided Nation" series, The Boston Globe this weekend highlighted the demise of the contentious Amp bus rapid-transit line along West End Avenue, one of former Mayor Karl Dean’s biggest setbacks during his eight years in office.

The piece reads like a postmortem of the Amp, which launched a rancorous debate that has left Nashville grasping at broader transit strategies to combat its growing congestion woes. The Boston Globe zeroes in on the state legislation in the spring of 2014 aimed at stopping the Amp in its tracks, what the paper considers just one example of the GOP-dominated Tennessee General Assembly injecting itself into the city's policies.

“The tale of the trackless trolley is, on one level, a prosaic account of a fast-growing city struggling to pay for much-needed mass transit. But as the story unfolded, it became clear that there was something much deeper going on: a bare-knuckle city-versus-state fight at a time when the partisan divide between big cities – mostly run by Democrats – and state capitals, where the GOP largely holds sway, has reached a historic extreme,” The Boston Globe writes.
The give-and-take between Metro and the state over future transit funding or projects will be crucial if Nashville can successfully implement a mass transit system – something the region needs if it wants to continue attracting new workers and businesses.

“I’m not used to having the state come in and try to crush us,” Dean, who is originally from Massachusetts, told the Globe of the state legislation designed to block his $175 million transit line.
The title of the article speaks for itself: “A city’s immovable roadblock: Nashville’s ambitious new bus line seemed to have a green light – until the GOP-led Legislature, with help from the Koch brothers, stepped in.”

The piece revisits a narrative that drew national attention in the spring of 2014 – that the Koch Brothers and Americans for Prosperity played a pivotal role in helping the Tennessee General Assembly throw a wrench in Nashville’s transit plan.

There’s a string of truth to this, though the importance of AFP in the Amp’s demise is certainly overstated. Stop Amp did thank AFP for its support in introducing a bill to block the Amp. Republican state Sen. Jim Tracy worked with AFP to craft the legislation in March 2014, weeks after the Amp was initially budgeted to get federal funding. The Boston Globe piece also documents how Rick Williams and Lee Beaman got started with their Stop Amp group. (We named Beaman our Newsmaker of the Year in 2014 for his role in stalling the project.)

Dean told The Boston Globe that local opponents like Beaman were “certainly working with Americans for Prosperity to essentially thwart what a city was trying to accomplish.”

But there are nuances in the Amp debate that the Globe fails to mention. In the process, the piece inflates the importance AFP had on the Amp’s demise. Ultimately, Nashvillians killed the transit project – not outside special interests. ( See my piece on how Beaman and other opponents like Richard Fulton and Dianne Neal flipped Dean’s largely pro-Amp advisory council to begin questioning the merits of the project.)

The Boston Globe piece focuses on AFP’s involvement with Tracy’s legislation in March 2014 and also Beaman’s own connections with the Koch Brothers-backed group. But the story fails to mention that Tracy’s original bill, which would have prevented specific design of the project, didn’t become law.

The legislation that passed did not prevent Nashville from moving forward with the Amp– rather it essentially gave the General Assembly veto power over any transit line along West End Avenue (or any such project on a state road in a metro area). Since Metro was already planning to ask the state for $35 million in funding, the General Assembly already had to give its blessing for the project. The ‘Stop Amp’ bill that finally passed lacked the teeth Tracy’s original legislation had.

But even before Tracy introduced this bill, the Amp was already on iffy-footing with lawmakers. Nashville Republican Beth Harwell, the Tennessee House Speaker, said in the fall of 2014 that the state couldn’t fund the proposed $35 million for the project. Her early opposition, unmentioned in the Boston 
Globe piece, was the most devastating blow to Dean’s transit project. It created looming questions 
about the fate of the project long before Dean’s office found out in February 2014 that federal grant money was slated to come its way and AFP worked with Tracy to craft legislation in March 2014.
Nonetheless, Dean's office had to expend a considerable amount of political capital just to keep the plan alive. In the aftermath of the battle with the Legislature, Dean rolled back the scope of the Amp and offered vocal opponents like Beaman a seat at the table in a newly created advisory committee.
Here’s the full piece from The Boston Globe.

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