By TRAVIS LOLLER
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The head of the Federal Transit Administration was in Nashville on today to announce a $10 million grant for a bus rapid transit project.
The money will be used to upgrade traffic signals along the busy Murfreesboro Road corridor so that they turn green for buses. Buses also will be equipped with transponders that will allow passengers to check their cellphones to see when the next bus is arriving.
Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff said the bus stops also will be equipped with signs saying when the next bus will arrive.
"Having that level of certainty does amazing things to ridership," he said. "Getting home on time is the difference between having dinner with your kids or not. It's the difference between helping with homework or not."
Rogoff said he rides the bus to work every day, and in his neighborhood in the Washington area, all of the young people check their phones to see when to go to the bus stop. Meanwhile, the senior citizens watch the young people to know when the bus is coming.
The Murfreesboro Road project is really bus rapid transit light, because it does not involve dedicated bus lanes. Another project in the works that would dedicate lanes to mass transit, called The Amp, is facing well-organized opposition. Several protesters brought "Stop Amp" signs to the Friday announcement.
Rogoff said The Amp is under consideration for funding. While he would not speculate on the chances that it would win a federal grant, he said bus rapid transit is a smart way to go for cities like Nashville, because it is extremely cost effective.
Rogoff said the Nashville area is expected to grow by 1 million people by 2035.
"You can either plan and prepare for population growth or allow yourself to be completely overwhelmed," he said.