The Metro Council voted Tuesday night to put the Let’s Move Nashville transit plan on the May 1 ballot.
“This is an important step forward in giving Nashvillians a voice in their transit future, and I thank my fellow members of Council for giving them the opportunity to do so in May,” said Councilman Jeremy Elrod, who was the lead sponsor of the bill. “Our city’s traffic problems aren’t going anywhere, and we need to put a solution in action as soon as possible that alleviates our congestion issues. I look forward to voting for the transit plan on May 1, when I’m confident our city will choose to invest in transit.”
“We thank the Metro Council for voting to put the transit plan on the May 1 ballot. This was a victory to everyone in Nashville who is tired of sitting in traffic and missing time with their families. It’s for everyone who wishes our city gave them cheaper, more reliable options to get around,” said Shelley Courington, the Tennessee associate state director of Advocacy for AARP and Transit For Nashville coalition member. Courington added, “Between now and May 1, we will continue to engage with the community to make sure everyone knows the many benefits of Let’s Move Nashville and that it’s the best opportunity for our city to fix its traffic woes.
The vote did not go off without a hiccup.
Metro Council-members John Cooper and Tanaka Vercher presented an amendment that required the listing of both the transit proposal’s present-day cost of $5.4 billion as well as the $8.95 billion that is estimated to be the amount of long-term revenue needed for the project.
“Voters need to know it’s going to cost $9-billion and give us the highest sales tax in the nation.” said Melissa Smithson a member of No Tax 4 Tracks. “We believe the Council did the right thing by letting voters decide on the full cost of the $9-billion light rail plan. They will now have the opport-unity to understand this plan will result in the highest sales tax in the country and will do nothing to help congestion or traffic on our streets.”
The vote was the culmination of years of community input to create a transit system that according to proponents, “gives people more transport-ation options while allowing for the continued growth of Nashville. The Transit For Nashville coalition has been instrumental over the last few months in building the grassroots support necessary across the city to ensure that the Council voted to place the plan on the May ballot.
The Council’s vote allows Davidson County residents to vote on the Let’s Move Nashville transit plan on the May 1 ballot. Early voting is from April 11 to 26.
The passage of last year’s IMPROVE Act created the enabling legislation for the transit plan by authorizing local governments to collect surcharges on existing taxes for mass transit systems if voters approve them through a ballot referendum.
Proposed transit services to include: expanded bus service countywide; new transit lines; new light rail and/or rapid bus service along Nashville’s major corridors, including the Northwest Corridor and a connection through downtown Nashville; new neighborhood transit centers; improvements to the Music City Star train service; safety improvements, including sidewalks and pedestrian connections; and system modernization.
Improvements and expansion will be funded by tax surcharges that will consist of: 1) a sales tax surcharge of 0.5% for the first five years, increasing to one percent in 2023; 2) a hotel/motel tax surcharge of 0.25% for the first five years, increasing to 0.375% in 2023; 3) a 20% surcharge on the business/excise tax; and 4) a 20% surcharge on the rental car tax.