Did you know Nashville is the 37th largest Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) in America, but the 11th most congested? Our growing population brings increasing attention to infrastructure issues, highlighting different perspectives on the potential solutions considered by state and local authorities.
Reflecting the popular concern for expanding and maintaining our roadway infrastructure, The Improve Act was passed this year to provide dedicated funding through an increased tax on gas, diesel and vehicle registration. Local governments receive a portion of the gas and diesel tax increases over the next three years to fund roads. The legislation also gave “Local Option” tax authority to certain counties to help tailor solutions to meet different pressures on mobility that are experienced uniquely at the local level. Most observers agree these infrastructure and tax strategies are oriented toward very long-term solutions. So what can we do about it now?
Even with the Improve Act victory, leaders in the State Legislature believe there is more work to be done. Draft legislation which was first advanced last session will soon be presented by the working name: The Ride Share Commuter Incentive Act. The objective is to reduce congestion by optimizing the use of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes. Supporters of the revised act put forth arguments for funding crowd based and technology centered enforcement of current HOV lane regulations in Tennessee. They believe this as the lowest possible cost solution to congestion relief and the fastest path to get there, using our existing and poorly utilized assets.
The arguments for legislative action follow this logic:
- Enforcement Challenges: Our troopers need help. Measured against comparable states, Tennessee has the lowest fine and the lowest total number of HOV citations in the nation. Most leaders concede, Tennessee has lost control of it’s HOV lanes.
- The Role of Technology: Tennessee is not taking full advantage of technology in transit solutions, from enforcement to Managed Lane improvements – the law needs to change.
- Overwhelming Proof: data shows significant congestion relief benefits from HOV lanes that perform well when managed well.
- Best Practices: policies in other states achieving success managing their HOV lanes
- Sustainability: Improved air quality, improved population health and reduced workforce stress levels – putting more than one person in a vehicle is the best way to reduce traffic.
- Jobs: The increasing average distance of our typical commute – challenges in affordable housing and other issues impacting the workforce, employers are recruiting people from rural areas. Smart legislation can boost ridesharing participation and offer more incentive for long distance commuters to carpool and leave cars at home.
With one eye on the lowest cost solution and the other eye on the future, regional leaders are importing policies that work in cities focused on cost effectively controlling congestion. Some of the cities included in the research are: Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, and other metro areas working hard to keep gridlock traffic from strangling economic growth.
In the coming weeks, we will follow the emerging details of The Ride Share Commuter Incentive Act as part of our special report on Easing Nashville Area Commuter Traffic.