Nashville voters just defeated a $5.4 billion transit expansion plan by a margin of nearly two to one. Contributed by Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation

Nashville voters just rejected a transit plan - are there lessons for Atlanta?

As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Thursday, Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law a measure that could lead to the biggest expansion of mass transit in metro Atlanta in a generation. 

House Bill 930 would allow 13 metro counties to raise sales taxes to pay for transit construction, with voter approval. But news out of Nashville this week shows transit votes are no slam dunk. 

The Tennessean reports that voters there overwhelmingly rejected a proposed $5.4 billion transit construction plan. 

The newspaper reports: 

The proposal called for light rail lines on five corridors, rapid bus on four others, a 1.8-mile underground tunnel and a range of immediate bus upgrades. 

At times the transit fight exposed a sharp divide — one between younger Nashvillians flocking to gentrifying neighborhoods closer to downtown who have embraced the idea of transit and others who feel the transit plan went a step too far…. 

The measure, most popular among progressives and liberals, failed to gain traction after critics defined the debate by hammering the viability of light rail and cost on taxpayers. 

You can read the full article here.

Metro Atlanta has seen some successful transit referendums in recent years, with Clayton County voters agreeing to join MARTA in 2014 and Atlanta voters approving a transit expansion in 2016. 

Gwinnett and Fulton counties appear to be next in line for transit votes. But the failed Nashville referendum may hold lessons for metro Atlanta. Would welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.

On a related note, you can check out our report on how changing attitudes toward mass transit paved the way for the passage of HB 930 here. And you can read a county-by-county look at the prospects of metro Atlanta transit expansion here.

About the Author