Thursday, April 4, 2019

Views From A Broad


I have spent the better part of the last week trying to stay rational and calm as I get down to the wire with my implant surgery coming up and the final six months to my exodus from this place I call the "vile.  Sorry there is nothing good about "it" as they call this city, Pennywise was it too and that was not a good thing. I cannot think of anything I love here. There are some charming things and they fill a small gap but this is a wide gap and I do mind it.

This morning I awoke to full Police presence at the corner of my street as a shooting had just taken place. Another just a few blocks away and this was neither the first nor last but this one was serious enough to block the entire street from vehicles entering or exiting the area.  Funny how relieved I was to see the park field lights left on all night as yesterday my neighbor as he was moving out a woman with a dog just waltzed past him and his friends and walked right into his unit.  As we all stood incredulous with this brazen act another of his friends inside saw her and told her to get the fuck out and she just did the Nashville smirk (of which I am very familiar) and a waltzed out and up the street. Good times here in the "It" city. 

And yet the week is not yet over and once again the hysteria over the Director of Schools reached new heights with a Council Member proposing a resolution to stop the Board from doing any firing or such until the State has finalized its recommendations on his license given he failed to follow protocol regarding notifying the State about all the Teacher abuse, sexual allegations and other shit that dominated the last year of the Directors contract.  The motion was tabled as oddly the same council member failed to show up so okay then.  But every day another scandal on top of another and all of it by faces of color to faces of color so again tell me about Race. 

But the City is too up in arms over the Cherry Tree scandal that dominated the headlines.  A row of trees that align a street that the NFL is using to set up for the draft permitted to have them cut down which the parks department agreed to do and mulch them.  This was months ago and then the day of someone realized this was too much and histrionics ensued and the trees not being actually cut down but removed to be replanted.  I am sure a decade old tree can withstand that or not and again this is the It city so it has to go, out with the old in with the new.  Some new trees will be planted there after the draft but hey what matters here is money bitches and the draft brings all kinds of that to all the right people and places.

I have repeatedly wondered why companies would relocate here and mostly that centers around Alliance Bernstein and its white collar business then I looked up said business on Indeed and Glassdoor.  This stood out:

Nashville Move Destroying Company
SVP (Current Employee) –  New York, NYFebruary 11, 2019
The company is in the middle of moving their headquarter's from Manhattan to Nashville (for cost savings). To say the move has been poorly handled and extremely poorly planned would be an understatement. Morale is absolutely horrendous. Leadership has no idea what they're doing and no business being in this business. I would stay as far as away from this train wreck as you can. Meanwhile a small handful of executives (who never bother to even show their face to the average employee) make ill-informed decisions that financially benefit themselves at the expense of absolutely destroying (for not good reason) good, long-tenured employees. This should be a case study in how NOT to manage a business. I cannot say that strongly enough. Absolutely disgraceful.
 
Suddenly all was clear like glass that they underpay their workers, have an intense culture and will likely not be transferring any workers as they primarily do what all companies do today - contract out workers.  So the dreams of six figure salaries are just that dreams as the reality is that they will still make six figures, pay no income tax on it and set up a mansion in one of the better areas and live the necessary six months or so to qualify as residents and the rest of the time be in the city of York to the north.  It is good to be rich and in the South follow the money.

Yesterday I had a chat with the most engaging Lyft driver ever and we talked about the dynamics of Southern Culture and we agreed it is about money. Then it is about your "people" and a type of tribalism that dominates the culture, followed by Religion and then Race which is not as large a component as believed.  I do think there is a strange co-dependency between Black and White Southerners that is aligned through the Church and again the "people" thing that defines the true almost co-conspirator style dynamics that enable the same few families or dynasties to run their respective communities.   Here in Nashville it is the Frist's, the Ingram's, the Freeman's,  and the Beaman's who rule the roost.  He said in Memphis it is five families and they have been at the helm of it all keeping Memphis largely poor and segregated not because of race but because of money.  I had no reason to disbelieve him as I see that here in spades.  Oh whoops is that a racist phrase?

The next matter of import as is always a matter of import is the never ending debate over the cost of housing, the failing, fading infrastructure and how it puts lives at risk. Someone was killed crossing or walking along a railroad track trying to cross a street and catch a bus.  Know it, been there and done that as it is by a school in the elite Belle Meade area and I no longer go there unless I have a car as it is not safe.  But then again right at my corner I have tracks and trains and guns and Cops so go figure is anywhere safe in this town?

And to think we don't have enough guns on the streets or in cars for kids to steal and use to kill and rob well don't worry they will be able to get them directly from the Teacher's desk!  

And lastly the Politics of the Red States veer largely with regards to both money and religion and I see it here in full tilt boogie. From School Vouchers to Bathroom Bills the never ending cycle of oppression and repression with the addition of another Voter Bill that further will restrict and suppress voting.  Hate Gays? We got that too.  All under the guise of Jesus.  Welcome to the New South same as the Old South just with cars. And plastic bags to put inside said cars as we won't be having any of those bag bans here, y'all!

And I went back and found this article from The Atlantic about how people view public transportation and their relationship to cars and like everything it is about a cultural perspective so no this won't change and never will.  I am leaving and it cannot come soon enough

Why People Don't Ride Public Transit in Small Cities

Booming regions like Charlotte and Nashville are stuck: Residents love their cars, so support—and justification—for expanding bus and rail systems is hard to find.

Alana Semuels
Oct 28, 2015
The Atlantic

NASHVILLE—This is one of America’s booming cities. An average of 82 people move here every day, amounting to a growth rate of 12.7 percent between 2000 and 2013.

And, as is the case in many booming cities, the traffic is terrible.

Congestion costs the average Nashville auto commuter 45 hours a year, according to an annual Urban Mobility Scorecard prepared by Texas A&M. There’s little public transit in Nashville, and most people get around by car: Drive around one of the city’s hot areas—The Gulch, Germantown, Downtown—on just about any night and you’ll see parking lots chock full of giant cars and people driving around in automobiles, looking for places to put them.

There’s agreement among just about everyone in Nashville, including the new mayor, Megan Barry, that the city needs more public transit, and it needs it now.

“I want to hear from you, Nashville, on how we can improve our transit and transportation infrastructure so that you can get out of your cars if you want to,” Barry said, in her inaugural address in September.

Barry is hiring a transportation czar and told me, on the phone, that she will look for federal and state funding for transit projects. The mayor and civic leaders have traveled to cities such as Charlotte, Denver, and Vancouver, she said, to see how those car-centric regions were able to expand their transit options over the last decade.

But the mayor, and the region, have a big challenge ahead. Putting in new light rail or even bus rapid transit is costly, and can take away space currently used by cars. And it is difficult to find funding in Tennessee, a state where there is no income tax and municipalities have to depend on sales tax for revenues.

“If we had a dedicated revenue stream right now for transit, we would be building it,” JoAnn Graves, the executive director of the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee, told me. “We have not been willing to go into debt to fund any kind of transportation system.”

But, even if the city could find the money for a new light-rail line, would people use it? Like most Americans outside the biggest cities, people in Nashville are accustomed to using their cars. According to Census data from 2009, fewer than 3 percent of workers in the Nashville metro area used public transit to commute to work, making the city less public-transit-friendly than Houston, Richmond, Memphis, Tampa, and Kansas City, to name a few.

Evidence from other cities indicates that even if Nashville somehow finds the money to put into light rail or bus rapid transit, it could be challenging to get people to use those systems. And though transit may reduce congestion temporarily, commuters will return to the roads once they see traffic is down.

In most metro areas of less than 1 million people (Nashville has roughly 659,000), just 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent of residents use transit, according to David Hartgen, a emeritus transportation professor at UNC Charlotte. Many of these places have tried to increase the share of their population that use transit, but few have succeeded.

“It’s an extremely difficult thing to do because we have this minor detail in this country called freedom,” he said. “You can live where you want, you can work where you want, you can commute how you want.”

Even Charlotte, which is seen as a poster-child for public-transit advocates because it invested heavily in transit over the last two decades, has not seen a significant increase in ridership when compared to the region’s astronomical growth, he told me. And, when gas prices go down—as they have in recent months— ridership decreases.

Charlotte came to terms with the idea that it needed to add transit in the 1990s as the city grew, and in 1998 passed a half-cent sales tax to fund transit. A light rail line, the LYNX Blue Line, started running in 2007, and it is currently being expanded. A 1.5-mile streetcar line opened in July of 2015, and the city is planning on expanding it. A regional plan seeks to establish 25 miles of commuter rail, 19 miles of light rail, 16 miles of streetcar, and more buses throughout Charlotte and its suburbs.

But ridership has remained essentially flat, even though downtown Charlotte has grown by about 50 percent in employment, Hartgen says. Average daily ridership of CATS, the Charlotte Area Transit System, peaked at 95,484 in July of 2008 and has hovered around 90,000 ever since; its most recent 2015 figures were down a little, at 84,889. Average daily ridership of LYNX, the light-rail line, jumped to 16,895 when it first started in 2008 and has stayed around there, reaching 17,868 in September.

The case of Charlotte shows that, even when there is transit available, the vast majority of people won’t leave behind their cars and embrace public transportation, Hartgen argues. In many cities, the average commute time by public transit is about twice what it is when driving your own car. And in many cities, including Charlotte, only about 20 percent of the operating costs of a transit line come from ridership; the rest come from government dollars. What's more, Hartgen says, as population increases, a city's transit costs rise much faster than revenues from transit do, ​as the city tries to expand its service to new neighborhoods​. In Nashville, for instance, the population grew 9 percent between 2007 and 2013, while operating costs grew 66 percent.

Meanwhile, the amount of wasted time spent in traffic in Charlotte has decreased since 2005, even as the region’s population has exploded, according to Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute. That’s because the region has added and improved existing roads, not because more people are taking transit, Hartgen says.

Nashville’s lesson from Charlotte should be that it could make more financial sense to improve existing roads and bus lines, Hartgen says, rather than seeking funding and political support for a new line.

“Don’t go shooting the moon on a quixotic effort to try and get the last $2 billion out of Washington and the state capitol—instead use your local money to improve your own transit service and make it better for the people who need it,” he told me.

This is, of course, not a sentiment that most transit advocates would agree with. People can be converted to mass transit, especially if it's done incrementally, said Jarrett Walker, a Portland-based transit consultant and the author of Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking About Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives.

In the 1970s, Portland was much like Nashville, Walker said, with parking lots and cars everywhere. But after the region introduced new laws preserving existing land, which limited road construction, Portland had to reassess. In the 1980s, the city redesigned its bus system, establishing lines along a grid that made service more frequent and widespread. After bus ridership increased, the region was able to muster the political will to put in light rail.

“The fundamental message here is that the bus system really, really, really matters,” Walker said. “The success of transit is going to ride heavily on the success of a bus system.”

Barry told me that the region still wants to build new infrastructure, especially as people move there from other cities where transit is more commonly used.

“I think it’s a chicken-and-egg-thing,” Barry told me. “You get in your car because you don’t have transit options. If you have transit options, you get out of your car.”

Many Nashville residents do not have those options. In 2014, it seemed as if Nashville was on track to launch a new bus rapid-transit line. Mayor Karl Dean has secured funding from the White House to build the Amp, a “trackless trolley” between the city’s east and west side. By January of this year, the Amp was dead, derailed by either the city’s failure to communicate with residents about the project, or by meddling from the Koch brothers, depending on who you ask.

Barry says she’s planning on getting the local and state leaders together to discuss transit options, and Nashville’s business community is already deeply involved in advocating for transit. Local residents might be the most difficult to convince.

I stopped by a station of the Music City Star, Nashville’s only commuter-rail line, which opened in 2006. The Music City Star runs on existing rail lines, and was one of the most-cost-effective new commuter-rail lines in the nation, costing just $41 million for 32 miles. But daily ridership is low, with, at most, 1,370 people riding the train a day. Many days, ridership is half that.

Cristy Cross has lived near the commuter rail since it opened in 2007, and says she has never taken it, once. It doesn’t run on the weekends, which is when she usually goes downtown. And then, she says, it’s pretty easy to just drive.

And those who do use it don’t have the easiest time. Jason Guthormsen takes the train most days, he told me. He loves the train—avoiding traffic and having some downtime.

But when he gets to downtown Nashville, he walks 1.2 miles to his office rather than wait for a bus there, since the buses don’t go where he needs to go. It’s not a commute most people would relish. And on days when he misses the train, or just gets up late, he joins the rest of Mt. Juliet residents, hopping in his car where he’ll make his way to work, albeit slowly.






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