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VOL. 37 | NO. 1 | Friday, January 04, 2013

Goal is more walking, biking

By Renee Elder

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Walking and biking are actively encouraged in Green Hills as a way to decrease traffic in that overburdened neighborhood and throughout Davidson County.

“Increased walkability is the goal for Green Hills, and for all over the city, really,” says Craig Owensby, public information officer for the Metro Department of Planning.

“It’s about designing new developments in such a way that an auto is not required. It just makes sense to encourage walking in an age of rapidly rising fossil fuel costs.”

The push to build or transform existing neighborhoods into pedestrian-friendly urban communities in which residents live, work and place less dependence on cars has led planners to new innovations in procedures.

A new building code for Nashville’s Downtown based on the design or “form” of a given development, such as its street frontage, height and use of green space, has replaced conventional land use-based guidelines.

The form-based codes have reduced the need for rezonings and variances, according to an article by Metro Planning Director Rick Bernhardt that appears in the December issue of “Better Cities and Towns,” a newsletter published by the Congress for New Urbanism.

Bernhardt has been a champion of New Urbanist planning, which encourages pedestrian-friendly road designs, environmental sustainability, and the mixing of commercial, residential and retail developments.

Also under consideration in Nashville is a workable and efficient mass transit system, something the city lacks and a key feature of urbanism.

While mass transit moves people more efficiently than autos, it can be difficult and costly to carry out in heavily developed areas. Metro currently is looking at implementing mass transit in a cost-effective manner through use of bus rapid transit, or BRT, which uses buses to run quick routes in dedicated lanes.

According to a study conducted by the Parsons Brinckerhoff engineering firm, a BRT system, could be implemented for about $136 million, half the cost of a trolley line with dedicated tracks.

The Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority is seeking federal money to fund a significant portion of an East-West BRT Connector that would run 7.5 miles from Five Points in East Nashville to White Bridge Road on the west side of town.

Mayor Karl Dean has endorsed concept, saying it is critical to avoid continued increases in traffic congestion in Nashville. The Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee plans to sponsor a series of community meetings on the issue in early 2013.