Metro’s first rapid bus line starts rolling this month

By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • April 4, 2009

Bus rapid transit, one of Mayor Karl Dean’s campaign promises, will start in a scaled-down way along Gallatin Road this month, the Metro Transit Authority’s chief executive said Friday.

The rapid transit line will get more sophisticated — and more rapid — this summer with the installation of signal extenders that allow bus drivers to alter the timing of green lights so they won’t have to stop.

The idea is “to speed up the trip so we become more competitive with the automobile,” MTA’s Paul Ballard said at a budget hearing.

Starting in mid-April, MTA will use 60-foot hybrid-electric buses on the Gallatin Road route, which is the city’s most popular with up to 100,000 passengers a month. Later this year, it will use federal economic stimulus money to upgrade passenger shelters with real-time digital readouts telling riders when the next bus will arrive.

Dean said the impact could go beyond getting East Nashville and Madison residents to and from work more quickly.

“It’s a chance to expand that corridor as an economic development tool,” he said.

The mayor said he hopes a second route can start sometime in 2010. But the 2009-10 budget year might be a difficult time for expansion. Dean is readying a painful budget for the year that starts July 1 and has asked department heads to detail the impact 10 percent cuts would have.

NP NowPublic

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