Over at the Atlantic Cities blog, Nashville's own Bobby Allyn has a post introducing the Amp controversy to the rest of the nation.
Allyn points out what's at stake here:
Few Nashville commuters opt for public transit. According to Census statistics, less than 2 percent of Middle Tennesseans take public transportation to work, with some 80 percent getting there by car. By contrast, in Portland, Oregon, a city roughly the same size as Nashville, an estimated 12 percent of residents use public transit for work commutes. Meanwhile, Nashville's traffic congestion woes keep getting worse.
Rest of the nation, if you want to know why people in Nashville don't ride the bus, the simple version is this: Nobody rides the bus because the routes don't make sense, but we can't get more public transportation money that would lead to more buses and routes that made sense because nobody rides the bus and nobody rides the bus because the routes don't make sense. If it reminds you of Sherry Lewis's song that never ends, well, they don't call us Music City for nothing. Even our problems have a familiar tune.
But I'm going to tell you why I really think there's such ambivalence about the Amp—who thinks it's really going to go farther than that one route? The train is a great idea. And we got one that goes from Lebanon into downtown and any enthusiasm from running one from, say, Mufreesboro in or Dickson in seems to have just petered out. Our one train is a white elephant.
I think people would be more excited about the Amp if there was more than one proposed route. And I don't mean just the hypothetical "Oh, well, the next one could run down Charlotte." I mean, show us a whole vision for where all the Amp lines would go and implement them either all at the same time or on a rolling timetable just a year or two apart.
Otherwise, I think we all think the city is going to put in this one route and then nothing else is going to happen, which is what experience suggests is going to be the case.