Nashville study: BRT cost less than streetcars

A study of the East-West corridor from Five Points in East Nashville to White Bridge Road in West Nashville, TN found that a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system will cost half as much to build as streetcars but still attract the same number of riders.

The report of mass transit options for an East-West Connector by consultants from Parsons Brinckerhoff found that both streetcars and BRT have positive benefits. BRT, however, merits special consideration because it serves the same purpose as streetcars, but it costs significantly less, is faster to construct and likely will be eligible for more federal funding, the report says.

“A Bus Rapid Transit system with dedicated lanes and fixed stations offers all the benefits of a modern streetcar system without the expense,” Nashville Mayor Karl F. Dean said. “If you look at the cost difference between BRT and streetcars, the choice is clear. It is also clear that doing nothing cannot be an option.”

Without any transit improvements, traffic along the East-West Connector is anticipated to increase by nearly 50 percent by 2035, and travelers will be stuck in traffic approximately eight minutes longer than today. Already, the average person in the Nashville area loses about 35 hours and wastes 10 gallons of fuel per year sitting in traffic.

“Bus Rapid Transit is a prudent investment that is custom-made for Nashville and will transform the way employees, residents, tourists and students move around our city,” Dean said. “BRT will help individuals get to their destination along this corridor faster than they can in a car. I look forward to talking with Nashvillians in the coming months about this rapid transit solution. It is important for us to move forward and move forward boldly.”

The study estimates a Bus Rapid Transit system would cost $136 million to construct, less than half the $275 million required for streetcars. The number of trips riders would make on either system would be about the same, 4,500 average weekday trips on BRT versus 4,800 on streetcars in the first year.