Nashville transit system rejected by voters, 64% to 36% in referendum

Nashville voters soundly rejected a proposed $5.4 billion overhaul of the city’s transit system in a referendum Tuesday. Funding would have come from a package of local tax increases.

The final unofficial totals: 79,327 against the proposal (64 percent); 44,636 for it (36 percent).

From The Tennessean report:

“The voters have spoken,” Ralph Schulz, CEO and president of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, said at a subdued gathering of Nashville for Transit supporters at the Adventure Science Center. “But we still have to find that proper (transit) solution. Let’s keep working on it.”

The transit plan, supported by Mayor David Briley after it was first introduced by former Mayor Megan Barry, would have increased the city’s sales tax, hotel-motel tax, business and excise tax, and car rental tax to fund a $5.4 billion transit infrastructure plan. The price tag was $9 billion when factoring in operational, maintenance and other long-term costs.

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.

“This is an awesome moment for Nashville,” said jeff obafemi carr, a top organizer for NoTax4Tracks, the main opposition group of the referendum. He chooses to lowercase his name in a gesture of humility; carr is also a candidate for mayor.

“This was a necessary thing to go through, and we appreciate the process that we went through together,” he said.

“What happened is there was a gap in Nashville neighborhoods and leadership downtown. And what happened was people felt left out.”

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