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Nashville to Abandon Urban Rail For Bus Rapid Transit

Nashville's West End at night
Photo by KentonForshee
Nashville's West End at night

As Austin considers an electric urban rail system to shuttle people around the central part of the city, Nashville, TN - a city of comparable size - is abandoning its electric street car plan in favor of bus rapid transit.

The reason is mainly price. A study by New York engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff found bus rapid transit would cost $136 million, compared to $275 million for streetcars, Nashville Scene reports.

"Bus rapid transit is by far the most compelling case we've heard," Nashville Mayor Karl Dean told the newspaper.

Here in Austin, the city is considering a series of bonds to pay for an urban rail system that could total $1.3 billion dollars.  Capital Metro is also working on a bus rapid transit plan, currently scheduled to launch in 2014.

CapMetro promises limited stops, boarding from all doors, bus stops with real-time bus arrival information, and buses that have some control over traffic lights.

The cost to CapMetro is about $9.5 million, with an additional $38 million coming from the federal government.

But not everyone is on-board with Austin’s bus rapid transit project. Mike Dahmus sat on the City of Austin Urban Transportation Commission from 2000 to 2005. He blogs about transportation issues and agues that bus rapid transit will not significantly improve frequency.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
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