It’s been nearly a decade since Nashville saw major changes to city bus service, but reductions and alterations are coming this year to more than two dozen routes.
The cuts come in response to an $8.7 million budget shortfall for WeGo, the city’s transit agency, and they will cause bus riders across the city to make longer walks to their stops, as well as additional transfers in some cases.
While there’s no masking the disruption, WeGo CEO Steve Bland said care and research have gone into decisions about how and where to scale back service. In fact, a route study was already underway.
By realigning other bus routes, almost all WeGo riders — 98% — will still have some busing alternative within a quarter mile after the reductions, Bland said. WeGo is working to keep those people on board, including through a series of upcoming public meetings meant to demonstrate options for riders. But the agency estimates 2% of its riders are facing a loss of service.
A full breakdown follows below, but significant changes include:
- Nine routes to be eliminated (many to be served by other routes)
- Total elimination of the free downtown circulators (blue Route 60 and green Route 61)
- An additional 15 routes to be reduced, realigned or consolidated
- Single-ride fare increase from $1.70 to $1.85
The proposed changes still must go through public hearing and receive approval by the board of the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Fares are scheduled to increase on Aug. 1, with route adjustments coming Sept. 27.
Eliminating Bus Routes
Generally, WeGo says it is reducing or eliminating service on routes with low ridership, where ridership has trended downward, and where alternatives exist. For a full chart of changes, please view this MTA board meeting packet (PDF).
The routes and stops to be eliminated — with alternatives available — are:
- Route 1 100 Oaks
- Route 2 Belmont
- Marriott loop portion of the airport-to-downtown Route 18
- Route 20 Scott in East Nashville
- Route 27 Old Hickory
- Route 36X Madison
- Route 37X Tusculum/McMurray Express
- Route 44 shuttle, mostly used by WeGo employees
- Downtown circulator Route 60 (blue) and Route 61 (green)
Of these cuts, WeGo indicates riders will have the toughest time finding alternatives for the Route 27 Old Hickory bus and the 37X Tusculum/McMurray Express.
Discontinuing the free downtown circulators has already drawn attention, but WeGo says that the quantity of other downtown bus service means that all potential users of the circulators will have alternatives. The agency says it will save $4.5 million per year by eliminating the free circulators, and notes that downtown congestion and detours have made the circulators among the worst-performing of all routes.
Of note, the blue circuit, which runs to Tennessee State University, will essentially convert back to what had been the Route 29 Jefferson Street bus, so that service will continue.
Reductions And Realignments
The following service reductions are proposed:
- End Sunday service on Route 21 University Connector
- End Sunday service on Route 25 Midtown, and eliminate the downtown portion of the route
- End the midday trip on Route 33X Hickory Hollow/Lenox Express
- Reduce peak service on Route 72 Edmondson/Grassmere Connector
- Cut midday service on Route 77 Thompson Connector
In four corridors, WeGo is proposing consolidations in which a pair of existing routes will be combined into a single service. Those consoliations are:
- Routes 28 Meridian with 30 McFerrin in East Nashville
- BRT and local service on Charlotte Pike (routes 10 and 50)
- BRT and local service on Murfreesboro Road (routes 15 and 55)
- BRT and local on Gallatin Road (routes 26 and 56)
WeGo says its BRT routes, which provide more frequent, express-style service are extremely well used, but that riders have not differentiated much between the BRT and local options. The agency says consolidation will require some stops to be adjusted, with additional shelters to be installed.
The following routes will be realigned to either improve efficiency, reduce confusion for riders, or to pick up passengers who are otherwise losing service.
- Route 4 Shelby
- Route 8 on 8th Avenue South
- Route 17 on 12th Avenue South
- 33X Hickory Hollow/Lenox becomes a neighborhood loop that doesn’t travel into downtown
- Route 76 Madison Connector adds Neely’s Bend and Anderson Lane loops
The Cost To Ride
Meanwhile, officials are defending AccessRide service from any reductions. AccessRide is available to riders with disabilities and provides door-to-door service. Its fare would increase from $3.40 to $3.70.
Other than youth fares and passes, cost increases are proposed across the board. In addition, the agency says it will stop handing out change on magnetic change cards. This means that paying with exact change will be encouraged, with WeGo potentially bringing in an extra $100,000 per year, said CEO Steve Bland.
WeGo will also stop accepting pennies for fare payment.
The following public hearings have been scheduled for WeGo to receive public comment, as well as to allow the agency to assist riders in understanding their bus service alternatives.
5-7 p.m., Thursday, May 30, Madison Library
5-7 p.m., Thursday, June 6, Hadley Park Regional Center
5-7 p.m., Tuesday, June 11, Lentz Public Health Center
5-7 p.m., Tuesday, June 4, Southeast Community Center
5-7 p.m., Monday, June 10, WeGo Central Meeting Room
10 a.m.-6 p.m., Wednesday, June 12, WeGo Central Meeting Room
5-7 p.m., Wednesday, June 5, East Park Community Center