- A new poll from Vanderbilt University found while 42% of registered voters in Nashville favor the city’s proposed $5.4 billion transit plan, 30% said they still do not know enough to form an opinion. Pollsters said the data compiled from 800 registered voters from Feb. 8-19 indicates turnout will be the major determining factor in the plan’s success or failure.
- "It is clear the public is engaged and views this debate as important,” Vanderbilt’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions (CSDI) co-director John Geer, also a Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science, said in a statement. "There’s a slight edge overall in support for the plan, but turnout will make a big difference in this referendum. Both sides have their work cut out for them."
- The 15-year transit development plan by embattled Mayor Megan Barry — which includes light rail, adding bus service, bus rapid transit and a downtown transit tunnel under a stretch of Fifth Avenue — goes to a vote on May 1.
The poll’s findings are part of an annual survey by CSDI. Some of its other notable findings were that 66% of Nashville residents said the city’s transit system needs “major improvements” to keep up with the expanding population and new development. Meanwhile, around 75% of residents said they had heard “a lot” or “some” about the transit plan, and more than 70% felt the May 1 referendum on the plan was “essential” or “very important” to the city’s future.
City leaders will be encouraged by those figures as they continue to sell the public on the proposed transit plan, just months after Barry made a speech to combat what she described as the top three “transit myths.” The poll notes that, despite the controversy swirling around her, Barry still enjoys an approval rating of 61%.
But the poll’s major finding will give city officials some reason for pause. According to the figures, now 64% believe the city is moving in the right direction, down from 72% in 2015. A majority of people said they believe the population is growing too fast; too many new buildings are going up too quickly while more affordable housing is needed.
Nashville’s elected officials and city management might hope this new transit plan, a major system that "relieves traffic congestion, connects our neighborhoods, and increases access for all Nashvillians,” can restore optimism. It is intended to create jobs, be affordable and encourage people to avoid driving, so Barry and her colleagues anticipate this ambitious plan for the future will get supporters to the polls on May 1.