Voters Leaning Against Nashville Rail Plan

An April 12 and 13 survey of likely Nashville voters found that 62 percent, plus or minus 4 percent, say that — if the election were held the day of the survey — they would vote against the $9 billion Nashville transit plan. Since early voting has already begun for the election that is officially scheduled on May 1, the plan’s proponents may not have a chance to turn that around.

Early polls showed that most people supported the plan. I’d like to think that a January conference I spoke at helped turn things around. But the sex scandal that forced the unexpected resignation of Nashville’s mayor, who was the plan’s biggest proponent, probably had more to do with it.

In addition, the plan’s opponents, No Tax 4 Tracks, have run a well-funded campaign. While supporters raised more than $2.5 million to promote the plan, opponents have spent nearly $800,000 in opposition to the ballot measure. The Antiplanner’s experience has been that rail transit measures only pass when supporters completely swamp opponents’ spending — 50 or 100 to one would do it, but three to one usually won’t.

The bottom line is that gee whiz ideas like light rail may sound good at first. But once voters get a little educated they realize it is expensive and serves little purpose other than to enrich contractors and developers. We’ll know for certain in a couple of weeks if Nashville voters have understood this lesson.

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