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Transit funding referendum to appear on Nashville’s November ballot

Nashvillians can anticipate plan and funding details in the coming weeks, as well as opportunities for public input.

Three purple WeGo busses are parked in an empty lot downtown with the Downtown Nashville skyline in the background and clear skies.

Metro is putting a new transit plan in drive.

Photo via WeGo Public Transit

The wheels are turning to implement a plan aimed at improving Nashville’s public transit by way of new tax revenue. Mayor Freddie O’Connell announced Thursday, Feb. 15 that local transit funding is expected to appear on the November ballot.

Specifics surrounding transportation projects and the price tag associated with them are forthcoming, likely by March, but this step is the first in the city’s campaign to support its Choose How You Move initiative. Citywide transit improvements were a key focus of Mayor O’Connell’s campaign for office in 2023.

Let’s backpedal a bit

To ensure ballot inclusion, Metro has a few requirements that must be met by August 22. On the checklist is public input (that’s where you come in), in addition to preparation and approval of the financing plan, some of which is dependent on outside parties.

Funding could come from an increase in a combination of local option sales tax, including business, motor vehicle, and hotel occupancy, among others.

Does this feel familiar?

You might remember a similar transit referendum in 2018, which was ultimately rejected with 64% of voters opposing the proposal. Following the vote, critics suggested that officials moved too quickly and didn’t allow for enough public input, ultimately dooming the $5.4 billion plan.

So, what makes 2024’s plan different? Without more details, it’s hard to say yet. However, the 2018 Let’s Move Nashville proposal focused largely on light rails and called for less than the suggested funding recommended for bus service. Previously, Mayor O’Connell mentioned a future transit plan could include funding and improvements for sidewalks, the bus system and transit centers, and service to the airport.

Additionally, plan details will be crafted using WeGo and NDOT’s master mobility study, as well as other citywide and regional plans like NashvilleNext and Connect Downtown.

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