Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Rainy Night in Tennessee

This time in my series "Profiles in Transit" I talk about my recent trip to Nashville, Tennessee. In this series, I reflect on transit systems around the country that I've ridden, focusing on interesting elements.

Nashville is only a few hours drive from my parents' home near Atlanta where I've spent the holidays this year. So yesterday, my father and I set out on a day trip to the Music City. The weather did not cooperate with us, but I was able to achieve the main goal of the trip: to ride my 10th American commuter rail system, Nashville's Music City Star

The train pulls in to Lebanon

The Basics
The Music City Star opened in 2006 to demonstrate the feasibility of commuter rail in Midstate Tennessee. So far, only one line operates, but there are plans to expand the system. At present, the single-line system has 6 stations on a 32 mile route running from Downtown Nashville east to Lebanon, a suburb along the I-40 East corridor. Trains operate only during peak periods, but do operate in a bidirectional service pattern, allowing commuters to travel either from suburb to central city or central city to suburb. 

Riverfront Station in downtown

My Visit
I made one round trip on the Star:

Segments Ridden
  • Lebanon->Riverfront (Downtown)
  • Riverfront->Lebanon
Stations Visited
  • Lebanon
  • Riverfront
The system is the only commuter rail system in the Deep South at the moment and I think it shows the potential for these sunbelt cities. The Star was constructed relatively cheaply. At just $41 million it shows that transit can be done on a budget. Stops are simple, but adequate. The service was on-time, and my peak direction train was at least 80% full despite the rain.

The Star at Riverfront

Nashville seems to be offering a great example to other southern cities of how to get commuter rail started in their communities. So, if you find yourself in the Music City, give the Star a try!


Rob Pitingolo said...

Matt, what day of week and time of day did you ride the Star?

Also, not knowing your exact definitions of "commuter rail" or "deep south" I might add the Trinity Railway Express between Dallas and Fort Worth and the Rail Runner Express between Albuquerque and Santa Fe to the list of southern systems.

Matt' said...

Fair enough. I would define TRE and Railrunner as commuter rail, however, I wouldn't count Texas or New Mexico as deep south. The Deep South, in my opinion, stretches from North Carolina to Mississippi.

Anyway, I was on the Star on Monday for the evening rush. My inbound train was mostly empty (left Lebanon at 3:20p), but my outbound train was much fuller. It left downtown at 5:05p.

Paul Wilson said...

I don't know if South Florida counts as "deep South", but there's Tri-Rail of course. And Orlando's system is in development, but ran into a logjam over liability issues.

beyonddc said...

It's worth noting that one of the ways they saved money on this system is that all the railcars were purchased used from Chicago's Metra system.

About the time Star opened, Metra retired hundreds of decades old railcars. They sold several to various commuter rail agencies in need of inexpensive cars (including both MARC and VRE, in addition to Star).

IIRC, railcars were sold for as little as $1.