This May, Nashvillians will vote on a transportation plan that includes among many things a three-station downtown transit tunnel shared by rapid buses and light rail trains. Unlike Seattle’s tunnel, it will have all off-board payment.

36 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Let’s Move Nashville”

    1. Poncho, thanks very much for this footage. One thing, though. Especially late at night, I thought a boring run was most dangerous kind of all. For professional drivers world-wide, falling asleep while moving has much higher body count than guns.

      I doubt any transit driver will miss the last fare-box. Starting 1930’s, way to save on conductors’ wages. Giving the driver one more schedule-killer to deal with. As well as everything a driver now has to do besides what his title says.

      Word to ATU: even with off-board only fare collection, to keep Rides Rapid, BRT and LINK needs them back. “Conductor” title and uniform important. More stabilizing authority than Customer Assistant (no offense meant). Kids will love them. Both the auditors and the Police Guild will also thank you.

      Worst problem over fare collection is from a driver’s normal, healthy working-class (which I wish Democrats would admit we’ve still got) reaction to being cheated. Company policy is even healthier, though. Fare dispute can get you fired. Efficient and dignified: “I don’t have any money”? “Have a seat.”
      Active enforcement: Get paid a half hour’s wages for a five minute incident report end of shift.

      Driver’s most effective security measure? Handle your coach like you own it (No, not Stole It.) Confident and above all, smooth. Second-most reason reserved lanes and signal pre-empt are mandatory. Sets right mood. And tells trouble to bother somebody less self-assured. Meaning driver training (as opposed to book-knowledge) is top of Security budget. Fund it accordingly.

      Now: Maybe STB can help me Crowd Source a video based on an actual event, Virality Guaranteed!

      Rainier Avenue, 9PM weekend night. November. Freezing rain. Leaving Rainier and Henderson northbound. A dozen young men in a very lively mood have just boarded. One has a chair leg missing the rest of the chair.

      Control calls me immediately. “You’ve got some kids we’ve been having trouble with all night. Don’t worry. We’ve got plain-clothes following you. Keep us briefed.” Stop past McClellan, three very small dark men wave me down. Looking like they’ve just lost the same fight their dog did.

      “Senor, we have no money. May we have a ride?” Couldn’t think of anybody in the service area that’d give me less trouble. Right to the back of the bus and attack the kids with the missing chair. Odds three to ten. Smoothly pull over next stop and update control. Open the back door, and tell the five other passengers aboard they can come sit by me ’til police arrive. Nobody moves, or cares.

      Look up from the radio and find standing in the aisle beside me a man in his forties, cousin of Officer Munch, black corduroy jacket, jeans, and a revolver that could have shelled Paris in WWI. Though neither a German artillery sergeant nor SPD would have allowed a grip wrapped in black electric tape. He starts yelling up the aisle.

      “Are you a police officer?” He keeps yelling. “You tell me right now, yes or now, ARE YOU A POLICE OFFICER!?” “Uh, well no, but I’ve got a permit to carry this and I know what’s going on!” Radio reception with Control bad all night. Answer to “Gun Present?” has just stopped being “No.”

      Also that in fifteen seconds, this lawfully-armed citizen is going to see three armed black men in street clothes come running toward him. Any SPD instructor reading this: Would I have had a snowball’s or hail-stone’s chance in Hell – however many rounds got my defender?

      All this with five un-involved passengers paralyzed with boredom at all the repetition between the muzzle and the violence. Anybody remember those old Popeye the Sailor cartoon fights with the whirly cloud full of grunts and stars and cats and sound effects like POW!? Scene in my mirror as the fight went down the back stairs. Good thing they never noticed the gun, or they would’ve rushed it, and used it on me before they got him

      BUT: A passenger in work clothes woke up from being not only asleep but drunk, took one look, got up and walked straight up the aisle and down the barrel. Literal quote: “You. Pull. That. Thing. On. Me. You- Better-Be- Ready- to- Use- It!” Luckily, before the guy in the director’s chair with the 1920’s megaphone could yell “Cut! Cut! Cut!” police arrived.

      Munch impersonator- a cab driver-saw things had gone off-script and got off the bus. Uniformed officer searched him. Meantime, out in the parking lot, several other officers were saving the three little Spanish -speaking men from the kids who had been kicking them to death. And then, having to drag them away, struggling to get back into the fight which by fact of not being dead, they were winning.

      As the officers dragged them by the collars past my door, one of them yelled at me: “You See? You See? You Americans Always Stick Together!” I’m tellin’ ya Louie, Box Office Gold! Who loves ya, Baby?

      But I think that the drafters of the Second Amendment, including combat veterans of two recent wars, would’ve agreed that: “The young working fellow was absolutely correct!” But added that in their day, fire power that could’ve killed five innocent people and blown off the back of a bus could not be close-carried.

      OK, take it from “May we please have a ride?”…thirty seconds of action no big deal.

      Mark Dublin

  1. What happens if you do an ORCA card tap at a street-side or DTT reader? Will it show on any buses or only on RR buses?

    1. If you tap at a streetside RapidRide reader it shows up as a RapidRide payment, which serves as a transfer if you take another bus instead. In the downtown tunnel it shows up as a Link “permit to ride” (which charges the highest Link fare), which if you board a bus instead serves as a transfer. If you tap out of Link somewhere within two hours, it refunds the difference between the highest Link fare and your presumed trip (although I don’t know if riding a bus in between makes a difference).

    1. The argument that Quimby makes is a stretch and contains one outright lie.

      The elaborate over-crossing at Center Boulevard would be hard to miss day or night. There is plenty of ambient lighting from the development just to the north, and the truth is that any locomotive engineer who had lived in the Pacific Northwest for more than a couple of years would have driven I-5 along there at least a few times.

      The lie is that “busy freight railroad traffic could accommodate the luxury of a non-revenue passenger train on multiple training runs”. Every one of us reading this blog knows that there is essentially no freight traffic on The Bypass. South of Lakewood there are no spur tracks other than those serving JBLM, and when was the last time you saw a car on the tracks there?

      Yes, during construction there was a brief increase in gravel trains bringing ballast, but that has been over for six months.

      No, much as it pains me to say it, this is the union covering the asses of two of its members.

      1. Richard, because I respect your comments, I’m going to ask you to find someone who’s been at the throttle of a locomotive, or a LINK train. To understand that behind a car steering wheel on I-5 is a different galaxy from the front cab on Train 501.

        Also, however many trains there aren’t on the bypass itself, every train on every part of the railroad affects all the rest. Especially the ones along the Point Defiance route. But you’re headed in the direction of right about one thing. The area of defenseless posterior would upholster enough luggage to equip every culprit’s flight to South America.

        First sentence out of first instructor’s mouth should be, “Orders be damned, you kill them, you bury them!” As part of a railroad culture that brands same sentence on every brain in the company. And any company that’d put somebody at the train controls on an untried line, in same cab with five other people and calls them qualified- replace them management and workforce from…somebody name next worst country on Earth.

        Also suggest that everybody commenting or thinking about this situation, take a walk, and a drive, across those grade crossings. Sight distance, angle, cramped quarters that can jam car traffic- north end of Dupont good example. The whole section is fifty miles an hour over-speed. Somebody with a calculator and a mind clear of pure fury, tell me how far late safe speed will put your passengers into Portland.

        Believe me, this is only the beginning of a shame that’ll haunt or region’s every railroad ’til ST 300. Leading to final question: Anybody else noticing how l few people in this country are getting their own jobs done right? Suspect underlying cause: attorney’s fees are cheaper than wages and training.


      2. Mark, I’ve had cab rides a couple of times because I come from a railroad family. No, it’s not the same as driving. Train control on a long freight is a full-time job. But a short shared-bogie Talgo moves as a unit, so the ONLY things an Amtrak Cascades engineer has to do is observe the speed limits and obey the signals. And make the stops smoothly, of course.

        So I’m not sympathetic to an argument that it’s a complex job. Does it require skill to do it well? Absolutely. But for both operators forgetting that curve says “Inattention!” loud and clear.

        I completely agree that with the grade crossings squeezed between the service road and the freeway, 79 is considerably too fast for the environment.

        I got completely scorned here on the blog for pointing out the inherent danger of running at Class 5 speeds across grade crossings which get backed up in freeway on-ramp jams.

        But that’s not the issue here. The qualification training very well have been superficial and too brief, but really, the existence of that 30 mile curve is pretty hard to miss.

        But two presumably competent operators seem to have forgotten it.

        In the absence of some ameliorating event, the blame sits in the cab.

    2. Key word in the link – OPINION .

      It would be wiser to wait for more precise and accurate information, which seems to be lacking in this article, if one is truly seeking clarification.

      1. Jim, you’re right about level of information being released, but it’s not surprising for a wreck with three people killed and several dozen injured. In the destruction of an entire train. And also about accuracy required to reach an informed conclusion.

        For what some of us have already expressed, we’re already off jury duty. The more we accurately know, the less likely any defense attorney would allow us in the pool. But many of us do have enough experience with similar situations at least to have a productive discussion.

        And most important, use what we do know, and have seen and experienced, to know what questions to ask. And also, be ready to change our opinions as more surmises become facts.

        But Richard, is there any chance the two of us can have coffee with any one you’re related to, or know, about the “feel” of the controls of that train? One of my worst hesitations about using adapting current aircraft and aerospace knowledge to design surface trains.

        Every earthbound creature, including also birds and fish, gains a lot more second to second survival information through “push-back” from everything from rocks to air, than from eyesight . Tying your own shoes, perfect example. Sense of smell, equal or close second.

        Better example: How many bicyclists here would want power steering? Fact, incidentally, is that the Wright Brothers designed first workable aircraft surface controls from their trade of bicycle mechanic. But my point is that from my own machine-driving experience, I’m skeptical that driving any train not marked “Lionel” is easy. Though dangerously able to act that way ’til it’s too late.

        Since this discussion started with speculation about intergovernmental relations and automatic train controls, I’ve been insisting that every passenger’s life is literally in the hands of the driver, who needs to hear it next sentence after “You’re Hired.” And that nobody who doesn’t believe it has any business in either the cab or the CEO’s office of a railroad. Or a union office, though as with execs and share-holders, law says a union has duty to represent.

        However, it certainly is Management’s first duty to make sure that nobody unqualified ever touches a throttle even to wipe it down. Meaning here that the worse the driver’s mistake, the more blame goes up the chain of command accelerating like a rocket. With Instruction left smoking on first ignition.

        Help me out, David. I lucked into universally excellent instructors, whose (unnatural) enthusiasm for trolleybuses was only exceeded by mine. How would you rate average level of KC Metro instruction now? Because I’d assign a lot of blame on bad instruction for average transit operating problem I’m seeing now.

        Economy-wide in America, I’d put hurried, skimpy training in same dirty broom-closet with deferred maintenance, and pervasive understaffing, for same reason. Unlike latest capital project, shareholders, legislators, and voters don’t see it ’til it’s the last thing they ever do see.

        But thank you for helping me keep attention on these points. Including because the more average voters know about railroading, the better equipped they’ll be to tell the politicians we hire what they need to know to keep their jobs.

        Matter of fact….in 2009 or ’10, Martin introduced me to engineer Brian Bundridge. Would be really valuable to have some close permanent knowledgeable journalistic contact with shops, operations, and instruction for our every vehicle division.

        Martin? Oran? Brent? Bruce?…..

      2. My Dad’s been dead for 26 years. He was the railroader, for the Wabash, which got subsumed into the Norfolk and Western which merged with the Southern to become Norfolk Southern. It then bought 60% of Conrail and is one of the “Big 4” rails in the US today, but it comes nowhere near here. It’s closest point is Kansas City.

  2. Nashville has some big physical problems that may doom this:

    1. The whole place is build on limestone. It’s solid. It’s not like Seattle’s glacial rock so boring will be tough and expensive. They have to start blasting anything deeper than a few feet. Even surface rail ballast may be difficult.

    2. The routes are on historically commercial arterials with narrow right-of way and often no sidewalks that radiate from the downtown. That will make construction very hard and controversial . It’s very different from Link’s heavy use of freeway land or some other southeast city rail lines that rely heavily on abandoned rail corridors.

    3. The routes are mostly in areas with free parking and lower-density residential until one gets near their downtown. Meanwhile there are six major freeway spokes with several partial loop freeways that are available for driving. Except for Downtown, it will be hard to get driver’s out of their cars.

    The notion of building rail there is admirable. However I don’t see how the high cost and difficulty of construction and the relatively low ridership will pencil out well for Nashville.

    1. The one advantage that Nashville has is its merged city-county or Metro government. Buses, future light rail and many streets (except state roads, of which there are many) are all under one government that also regulates land use. That contrasts with our very divided approach to planning and operating transit.

      1. But its also a classic prosperous blue metro in a rural red state. Just look at their BRT proposal from a few years ago. The anti-transit forces came out in full force funded by the Koch Bros and some local limo company. There was hysteria because it was going to have transit lanes and they were going to be in the center of the street along with center stations and that was an unfathomable concept to people who think the entire outdoor environment belongs to cars.

      2. Yes that BRT saga was rather amazing.

        The irony of Tennessee is like some other southern states. The parts of these states that grow in population and employment are in generally more blue areas like Nashville and Charlotte and Atlanta. The other parts of these states haven’t generally recovered from the departure of low-skill factories since the 1980’s.

      3. The BRT was dead as soon as the state highway department didn’t agree with it. This time they worked with the DOT from the beginning of planning. And most of those light rail corridors are on state highways.

    2. Al, if Nashville is as much coal country as I think it is, average worker is born with a chisel in one hand and a blasting cap in the other. Like “Tarheels” from North Carolina to Forks, and Harlan County Kentucky that has a spooky song about it on YouTube. Forks easier to Get Out of Alive, but teenage vampires and werewolves are so “hot”, if you’re Alive, your loss.

      Washington DC sits on the deep roots of an ancient range whose mountains have become sand and blown away. Anything below grass roots (lawns, not politics, DC residents can’t vote, Word to the Tea Party!) has to be blasted, from sewers to subways. Too bad explosive energy released by deferred maintenance can’t be used to dig more tunnels. So amount of stone under Nashville is reason blasting will be least of transit’s problems.

      In Europe, streetcars run passageways literally built in the Middle Ages. Info that Waterfront Project pretends it doesn’t know is that for extremely close quarters with everything except automobiles, street rail is ideal transit. No side-to-side “wander” at all. Far and away pedestrian friendliest transit.

      And also, video clearly shows that the transit project is part of an aggressive deliberate plan to grow. Today’s parking lot is tomorrow’s Amazon’s other headquarters. Except fact that there’s nobody’s favorite coffee house to demolish and put an ugly glass building on top of mass-murders a lot of Buzz.

      But seriously, you’ve raised transit’s most important Liberal-Justifiably-Embarrassing-Unmentionable. Always hated the “Red-Blue” cliche. Should rightly be Blue versus Grey, though “Slavers and Secesh (ionist) closer to the truth.

      But over last forty years, nationwide, division of income has worsened from unfair wages to rock-hard permanent Class divide. Seattle most virulent epidemic I’ve ever seen. Upper one’s flagstone floor is lower one’s dungeon ceiling.

      Change that, and you’ll have a monumental pre-dug tunnel system for the subway passed by acclaim by incoming legislature. Keep insisting mass undercompensation is just “the way it is”, and your transit system will stay that way too.


  3. Refreshing, a transportation plan without a map. Daring. Provocative.

    And easy to scale back. No promises = No deliverable.

      1. I didn’t see a link to a video. I searched diligently for the usual project documents which would include the route details.

        I just figured they were omitting it so they wouldn’t get pilloried by the autoistas.

        Where is the video link?

      2. Hmm, that’s odd…there is a YouTube embedded video above the text. Maybe your browser removed or hid it? And the Transit Improvement Program document goes into detail for each rapid bus/LRT corridor with ridership, land use, and cost estimates.

    1. There are maps. The more curious thing is whether the idea gets traction as opposed to a more typical Seattle attitude of “how does this affect me” in terms of station sites and alignments.

      Also, light rail is not the centerpiece but is presented as merely one of several parts. That contrasts to our ST strategies.

      1. Al, a transit system is more like arteries and capillaries than just an assemblage of different parts. Given Seattle’s recent start on subways at all, too early to say that’s all we want.

        But not good if it is. Because veins and arteries without capillaries get amputated along with whatever body part they’re part of.


    1. If they’d run it down the strip directly and connected to McCarran it’d have plenty of ridership. It’s not a failing of the mode but the route due to political factors. Once they extend it to Mandalay Bay and the NFL stadium the existing meh route will probably pick up ridership.

      1. Agreed, if it ran from the airport, down the middle of the Strip to Downtown with frequent stations and foot bridges to the hotels it would be tremendously popular and the way all visitors get around. It’s crazy to have people fly in and rent a car to drive to a hotel less than a mile away and park it there the duration or use it to drive to a neighboring casino.

  4. Since this is typically a time of year for reflection….

    “The agency will seek legislative authority to replace or substantially reduce its reliance on the
    sales and use tax as the primary funding source for regional transit improvements, consistent
    with all contractual commitments. In order to replace the revenue that would be lost by reducing or eliminating the sales and use tax, the agency will seek legislative authority to raise an equal amount of revenue from other sources more directly related to regional transportation such as tolls, user-based fees, vehicle or other transportation related taxes.”

    Sound Transit’s “Sound Transit 2: A Mass Transit Guide”, p. 27

    How quaint.

    1. Sales tax is volatile with the boom-and-bust economy, We shouldn’t be funding basic things that need to function anyway regardless of the economy with it. But because the state is so allergic to income tax and tolls and carbon externalities, and wants to keep property tax low, and has constitutional restrictions against differential property tax or income tax (where the rich pay more), the only thing left is sales tax.

      1. “We shouldn’t be funding basic things that need to function anyway regardless of the economy with it.”

        Agreed. That’s an inherent problem with Washington’s regressive tax structure. I also agree that sadly there appears to be no appetite for instituting a state income tax and rollback of sales and use taxes. We saw that most recently down in Olympia these past three years with dealing with the McCleary decision.

        Fwiw, according to various sources like the Tax Foundation, Washington ranks in the middle of the pack in a nationwide comparison of property taxes based on effective tax rates (though there are some flaws in this methodology).

        My point really was that despite what ST claimed in their 2008 proposal, they keep going back to the same well.

      2. My biggest fear is that the constitutional tax restrictions will eventually have the same effect as other states’ Republican tax-slashing and rich-favoring, and we’ll be unable to fund even the quality of life we have now. In that case it will be necessary to move to another state to have an improving transit network, urban infill, and social services..

  5. Sorry I couldn’t reply further back up the page, Richard. But I truly think that your father’s trade will still get you a favorable introduction into the railroading world. Who’ll share a lot of invaluable information and experience with you that’s unavailable to anybody else.

    Considering upcoming rebuild of a country in same shape as recent contents of a certain viaduct, any welcome you get will turn your every communication and its publisher into some of passenger transportation’s most important tools.


  6. So it’s cool that there was a lot of attention made of New Year’s Eve service but it seemed to only be that it was free. I was under the impression there was added service, it appeared there was not. Just conventional owl service. I boarded an outbound 49 downtown at 2:30am that was packed to the gills. I think increased service would be more beneficial to riders than free fares when the alternate is surge pricing Uber. Saving $3 fare isn’t that big a deal to people out on NYE when cocktails are $15+ and cover is $20+. It appears the 8 ended service at 12:30 despite passing the Space Needle and all the close in nightlife and dense residential neighborhoods.

    That and get some police checkpoints out there when all non-commerical vehicles on the road this early morning were drunk drivers. Maybe that could be the funding source for increased NYE service.

    1. There were additional daytime/evening runs but no extra night owl. That was stated in the announcements but may have been unclear because of the complexity of the message:
      1. There are special New Year’s bus and train runs until 1am.
      2. We have a great Night Owl Network.
      3. The Seattle part of the Night Owl network is larger than it used to be due to city funding.

      The public may not have understood the difference between “special runs” and “larger Night Owl network” (#1 and #3). And Metro’s recent Night Owl promotions focus on #2 and only mention #3 in the fine print. So it could be argued that Metro maybe should articulate the differences between these more clearly, and is exploiting the potential misunderstanding.

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