Public and Active Transportation in Middle Tennessee

According to the Nashville Regional Metropolitan Planning Organization, “The greater Nashville region is poised to grow by leaps and bounds over the next couple of decades,“ with as many as another million people forecasted to reside in the region around Nashville by 2035.  As a result, the MPO concludes, the socio-economic characteristics of those people, and where they will live, work and play, “will significantly influence the need for investments into our region's roads, transit, and walking and bicycling infrastructure.”*****

Essentially, a concerted focus on addressing the community’s needs regarding public transportation – shared modes of transport available to the public such as buses, trains and ferries – and active transportation – any form of human-powered transportation such as walking and cycling – is the key to meeting this growth. Most importantly, these modes of transportation must be safe, accessible and affordable in both rural and urban communities. Bike lanes, ADA-compliant sidewalks and ramps, and covered transportation hubs are essential.

For those without a car and limited access to public and/or active transportation options, getting to a doctor, a job, a grocery store with nutritious options, or continuing education can be increasingly difficult. It’s easy to imagine the connection this has to the economic, physical and educational health of the community. As the American Public Transportation Association notes, public transportation “helps our communities thrive.”

“In cities, suburbs, and rural America, public transit provides vital connections to jobs, education, medical care, and our larger communities.”

Transportation is not only an economic, educational and health issue, but an environmental one as well. The American Public Transportation Association says that overall, “public transportation reduces our nation’s carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons annually,” and that “the investment in public transit not only produces green jobs but also provides for a more sustainable transportation system that will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and lessen the transportation sector’s impact on the environment.”****

Of course, active transportation has the most negligible environmental impact, in turn providing the maximum personal health benefit.  From the MPO:

  • Health professionals recommend that adults get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day and children get 60 minutes a day.

  • 40% of car trips are less than 2 miles.

  • It takes about 15-20 minutes to walk one mile.

  • It takes about 10-15 minutes to bicycle two miles.

When active transportation meets public transportation, such as walking or biking to the bus stop, you are making both yourself and your community healthier. Helping others do the same, by investing in and supporting your community’s transportation-based funds and non-profits, is the next step.


  • 56% of regional roadways in the greater Nashville area score a C or better for bicycle safety.*

  • 88% of regional roadways in the greater Nashville area score a D or worse for pedestrian safety.*

  • Based on projections by Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) and the Nashville MPO, almost 20% of TN’s residents will be 65 or older by 2025. According the Council on Aging in Greater Nashville, an estimated 20% of adults age 65 and older do not drive.** Additionally, according the Surface Transportation Policy Project 50% of older people who do not drive in the United States stay home on a given day because they lack transportation options.***

  • In America, nearly two-thirds of all residents in small towns and rural communities have few if any transportation options: 41 percent have no access to transit; and another 25 percent live in areas with below-average transit services.***

  • In America, nearly one in five Americans faces a physical challenge that impacts their ability to travel for their daily needs (i.e. use of wheelchair or diminished vision, hearing, or physical movement). ***

  • Nearly 20 percent of African American households, 14 percent of Latino households, and 13 percent of Asian households live without a car.***

How You Can Help:

Volunteer for or donate a bike to the Oasis Center’s Bike Workshop program, a free, six week program open to Nashville’s youth.

Advocate for public and active transportation and influence future plans by joining boards and committees and supporting nonprofits concerned with transportation. Attend hearings and meetings in your area.

Volunteer for and support organizations that aid seniors and others that need transportation assistance.

Bike and walk! Better yet, bike or walk to work, or combine these active transportation options with public transportation, to lower your carbon footprint and be healthier. Carpool when possible.

Skip the drive-thru and go inside. This reduces the amount of time your car is idling, which in turn reduces the amount of wasted gas and air pollution your car is emitting.

More Local Resources and Stories:

Nashville B Cycle Program

Walk/Bike Nashville


Nashville Bicycling and Pedestrian Advisory Committee

Oasis Bike Workshop

Moving Forward: Public Transportation in Middle Tennessee:

The Transit Alliance of Middle TN

Nashville MPO

The Clean Air Partnership of Middle TN

The TMA Group

American Public Transportation Association

Tennessee Public Transportation Association

Nashville MTA

Transit Now Nashville

Resources and statistics sited:

*Nashville Regional Metro Planning Organization: Walking and Biking:

** Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations: “Moving Forward: Public Transportation in Middle Tennessee:”

***Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, May 19th, 2011 Hearing: “Public Transportation: Priorities and Challenges for Reauthorization:”

****American Public Transportation Association: Public Transportation Matters > Environmental Benefits:

**** Nashville Regional Metropolitan Planning Organization 2035 Regional Plan:

Updated November 10, 2014