Murfreesboro Pike Gets BRT Lite As MTA Builds Case For West End Bus Lanes

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean told a small crowd near the downtown MTA bus terminal that the BRT lite lines are the start of what will become a "region-wide transit system." He's flanked by Paul Ballard of MTA and the FTA's Peter Rogoff. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean told a small crowd near the downtown MTA bus terminal that the BRT lite lines are the start of what will become a “region-wide transit system.” He’s flanked by Paul Ballard of MTA and the FTA’s Peter Rogoff. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

Nashville is getting $10 million from the federal government to speed up bus service on Murfreesboro Pike. But attention is on West End Avenue, where the city is asking the same agency to help build a $175 million bus line.

The grant announced Friday morning pays for bus stops to be spruced up with concrete sidewalks, covered shelters and clocks that estimate arrival times. All of the traffic signals will be replaced with new lights that hold the green if buses are running behind.

A similar upgrade on Gallatin Pike increased ridership by nearly 50 percent a month, says MTA CEO Paul Ballard. He expects the same for Murfreesboro Pike, theoretically taking cars off the road and easing congestion.

But Ballard says the lite version of a bus rapid transit line won’t cut it for West End, where the city has more expensive and controversial plans to give buses their own lanes in the middle of the road.

“All the buses we put out there and all the signal extenders would not solve that problem on the West End corridor,” he says. “We must have the exclusive guide way.”

The city has asked the Federal Transit Administration to pitch in $75 million toward the crosstown connector, dubbed “the Amp.” The FTA chief met with advocates of the project Friday morning. At another appearance, he was met by a handful of protesters.

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