Despite the country’s recent transportation victories on bike share expansion and other mass transit investments, Tennessee seems to have taken a giant step backwards. Last week, the Tennessee Senate overwhelmingly voted to ban any kind of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) construction in the state. The ban was heavily backed by the wealthy Koch Brothers–who some may remember for their devastating oil spill in Texas last year–and seems to have been specifically targeted at squashing the 7.1 mile AMP BRT project in Nashville.
The ban, which WIRED calls “mind-boggling,” aims to block any kind of mass transit project that unloads passengers in the center lane, a key feature of BRT. Unlike typical buses, BRT is a higher-capacity and often lower-cost alternative that operates in its own dedicated lane, similar to light rail. Widely adopted all around the world, this innovative system has been proven to be faster, more reliable, and effective at reducing commute times.
Luckily, however, Nashville’s AMP project and the future of BRT in Tennessee still have a chance in the state House of Representatives. The Koch Brothers’ American for Prosperity organization, however, are determined to use their lobbying influences to formalize the ban. Pressure and concerns over safety have even forced Nashville’s mayor Karl Dean to examine redesigning the bus rapid transit system without dedicated lanes–a move that would likely cripple the effectiveness of BRT. For now, however, Nashville commuters can rest assured that their long commutes in traffic won’t be going away anytime soon.
Images via Nashville AMP Facebook