Nashville Mayor Already Working on Next Steps for Improving Transit

Nashville's mayor says he's already working on a new plan for improving transit in the wake of a referendum defeat, Palembang's new light rail line is all ready to take visitors to this year's Asian Games, and Aarhus' light rail line posts a huge loss on paper in its first financial reports since opening.

New Nashville Mayor David Briley wasted no time in kick starting new talks for transit expansion after a referendum defeat. (Credit: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Nashville’s Mayor Not Waiting to Put Together a New Transit Plan

The dust had barely settled from the collapse of former Mayor Meghan Barry’s “Let’s Move Nashville” transit plan at the polls when new Mayor David Briley told Nashvillians he’s getting to work on a followup.

Nashville Public Radio reported May 3 that Briley said he was already getting to work on a new plan for improving transit in Nashville in an interview the day after voters rejected a package of taxes that would have funded a $5.4 billion transit improvement program by a 2-1 margin. He said that he had already met with some of the plan’s opponents and wasn’t waiting for a new plan to make improvements in the city’s bus service.

“I can tell you that we’re not waiting for a referendum to work on transit,” he said. “We’re already starting to think about what the next steps are going to be, with or without a referendum.”

Briley said that better transit matters if the city is to remain competitive in the race to land companies like Amazon, which has the city on the shortlist of 20 finalists for its new second headquarters. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said he knew that the company was watching the referendum results: “They were pretty clear up front that one of the considerations was a city with some sort of public transit system that would meet the needs of 50,000 workers.”

The Republican governor had paved the way for the transit plan by getting a bill through the legislature that allowed cities and counties to increase sales taxes to fund transit. Some transit advocates say it will take several years to put together a comprehensive transit plan along the lines of “Let’s Move Nashville.” Regardless what Amazon finally decides, Briley says good transit will be needed to handle any company that moves to Middle Tennessee.

As Next City reported, housing and transit advocates support a range of measures tied to more equitable transit-oriented development, which, if adopted, might expand the coalition of supporters for transit expansion in Nashville.

Construction Complete on Palembang Light Rail

As workers rush to finish the venues for this year’s Asian Summer Games in Palembang, officials in the Indonesian city say construction has wrapped up on the light rail line that will take visitors to them.

A news report in The Bangkok Post says that testing will begin this month on the nearly 24-km (14.9-mile) line that runs from Sultan Mahmud Badarudin International Airport II to Jakabaring Sport City, where the Summer Games events will take place. Palembang is co-hosting the games this year along with the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, and 10 of the competitions will be held in the city.

The games are set to run from Aug. 18 to Sept. 2. Palembang Sport and Youth Board head Ahmad Zazuli said the line will be open for service in time to handle the athletes and spectators heading to the events.

Aarhus Letbane Off to a Rocky Start - on Paper

The new light rail line in the Danish city of Aarhus opened three months late, and now its first balance sheet shows it’s 706.9 million kroner (US$112.6 million) short.

Aarhus Letbane posted the loss for the one month it was in service in 2017, The Local DK reports. Most of that loss, however, was on paper. The company posted tax write-offs of 636 million kroner (US$101.3 million) on already paid-for assets. As a result, the company’s equity fell from 760.4 million (US$121.12 million) to 186.8 million kroner (US$29.75 million) in the last quarter of 2017.

The three-month delay in the line’s opening caused operating revenue to fall short. The line’s September grand opening ceremony was canceled the day before, when the Danish Transport Authority found the safety procedures operator Keolis had in place inadequate.

Now that the line is running, however, Aarhus Letbane officials say it’s doing well in terms of ridership. Its weekday passenger count of 8,400 is about 2,500 higher than that of the bus route the line replaced. “The Letbane is, in other words, attracting 40 percent more passengers than the bus,” Aarhus Letbane wrote.

Aarhus Letbane is jointly owned by Aarhus Municipality and the Central Jutland regional authority.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

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Tags: transportation spendingtransit agenciestransit-oriented developmentnashville

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