LIKE TURKEYS VOTING FOR THANKSGIVING: The Koch Suckers At Americans For Prosperity Convince Tennessee Lawmakers To Ban Rapid Public Transit


WIRED: Tennessee lawmakers overwhelmingly voted in favor a bill that bans the construction of bus rapid transit (BRT) in two counties, one of which includes the city of Nashville.  The impetus for the vote was a proposal to build a $174 million BRT system in Nashville called The Amp, which would’ve ran on a 7.1 mile route and served rapidly growing neighborhoods across the city. There’s a more detailed summary of the project over at The Tennessean. Although BRT has been shown to revitalize economies and reduce congestion, opponents of The Amp voiced concerns about the safety of unloading bus passengers along roadways and whether private land would be used to build dedicated bus lanes. After the vote, Amp opponents revealed that the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, founded with the support of brothers Charles and David Koch, had lobbied in favor of the bus ban. MORE

NASHVILLE SCENE: The roots of The Amp conflict go back years. But it didn’t start heating up until fall 2012, when the project was still known as the East-West Connector. Videos from early community meetings showed middle-aged, well-off residents from the West End and Richland neighborhoods complaining that the new transit system would deposit “riff-raff from East Nashville” at their doorsteps. They got about as much sympathy as Swan Ballers shaking their jeweled fists at the great unwashed. MORE

RELATED: A study completed in December 2011 concluded that a BRT system, with dedicated lanes and fixed stations along the route, would provide the same benefits as streetcars at half the cost. Thus The Amp would move forward as BRT. In addition, based on information that came out of a five-year strategic plan released in 2009, its route would consist of two dedicated lanes going each way from West End to East Nashville. The pro-Amp explanation was heavy on references to West End as Nashville’s “Main Street,” citing the corridor’s 170,000 employees, 25,000 residents and 11 million annual visitors. MORE

RELATED: Rick Williams [PICTURED, ABOVE] opens the passenger door and steps out eagerly. An enthusiastic 55-year-old with a car salesman’s full head of wavy hair, Williams is dressed for a mission. His loafers are black, his pants are khaki, and his T-shirt — a battle flag of sorts — is red. It shows a bus underneath a boldface message: “Stop Amp.” This crisp morning, there is excitement in his nasal voice. The resistance has crossed the river. “We’re putting up our first 2-by-4 in East Nashville,” Williams says. “This is big for us.” Inside the truck, there’s a stack of red signs bearing the same logo and message as Williams’ T-shirt. Over the past six months, they have started to appear in yards across the city, particularly throughout the neighborhoods west of I-440 on West End. They declare opposition to The Amp, the $175 million bus rapid transit line proposed by Mayor Karl Dean. Rick Williams put them there. Typically, Williams spends a few hours every day driving around town and staking them up himself.  MORE

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