Public and Active Transportation in Middle Tennessee

According to the Nashville Regional Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), “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.

A 2015 Harvard study on upward mobility found that a person’s commute has the biggest effect on their ability to escape poverty. This means it is more impactful than factors like crime, test scores and whether or not you come from a two-parent family.

If a member of the workforce making minimum wage lives on the outskirts of the city and does not have access to dependable public transportation, they must either take several public transit routes- equalling a long commute- or rely on a personal vehicle. If that vehicle breaks down, they may not have the means to afford the repairs, or they may have to miss work, which could result in unemployment.

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.”

Active transportation has the smallest environmental impact and the highest 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.

How you can help:



Updated 8/30/17 by Kathryn Bennett