Those who commute on Nashville’s busier highways understand the struggle of the stop-and-go traffic that seems to have gotten worse over the past few years. The neck pain from the jerk of the breaks and the arthritis developing in our right ankle from switching from gas to break so frequently is enough to drive anyone to road rage. Good news, fellow drivers! Nashville Mayor Megan Barry has started discussions this year to make traffic conditions less congested.
While speaking at Lipscomb University, Barry acknowledged the traffic situation in Nashville has been on the decline. She insists improving traffic conditions is a priority for her administration and discussed her ideas with the attendants.
Are Driverless Cars the Solution to Traffic Conditions?
One of Barry’s theoretical solutions is to bring the future to Nashville. Self-driving cars are legal in only a few states, but are likely to be the topic of upcoming legislative discussion this year. The idea sounds like science fiction, however, Metro is considering taking on federal funds as part of a pilot program called the Smart City Challenge. The United States Department of Transportation is granting $40 million to cities that participate in the program, and it would make Nashville a research hub for data-driven ideas that would ideally make transportation safer.
However, when Barry brought up the topic of driverless cars, such as those produced by Google, her audience was not very receptive. At one point, she asked the audience if anyone would ever ride in a self-driving car. Few hands were raised. In any case, putting more cars on already congested highways may not be the best answer.
What is an Interstate Bus Rapid Transit and How Will It Improve Traffic Conditions?
Prior to the Lipscomb event, Barry met with state senators who proposed the idea of allowing buses to drive on the shoulder lanes of interstates, essentially allowing them to bypass traffic on their routes. This idea is called Interstate Bus Rapid Transit or “freeway BRT.” In the case of highways, buses would be allowed in high occupancy vehicle lanes, regular traffic lanes or on the shoulders to evade traffic. This idea was met with more enthusiasm because the infrastructure already exists and would not require new and expensive infrastructure.
Nashville has been ranked as having the 11th worst traffic in the nation, according to a study from Texas A&M Transportation. That said, Barry and her administration hope to make some quick changes. Although the approval for self-driving cars may take some time, Barry calls the “freeway BRT” solution a “quick win.”
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you; Who have set their hearts on a pilgrimage.” Psalms 84:5