Once again, the Koch brothers have their hands and wallet in local issues. Of late their money has been directed at ending Nashville’s The Amp, a Bus Rapid Transit project. The Amp was slated to connect East and West Nashville using a 7 mile long BRT system.
The Americans for Prosperity is a lobbying organization created and funded by the Koch brothers. The organization took part in creating the legislation that passed Thursday making “it illegal for buses to pick up or drop off passengers in the center lane of a state road”, thus making The Amp and several other projects illegal.
The Amp is in response to growing concerns in the city. The Urban Mobility Report (2012) estimates congestion is costing Nashville drives nearly $801 million. Congestion issues will continue to grow with Nashville’s population growth.. The city’s population is projected to reach 3 million by 2040.
The Amp aimed to offer an affordable alternative to driving while reducing air pollution and congestion. According to Nashville’s MTA, the proposers hoped to “help Nashville stay competitive with cities like Charlotte and Austin, where high-quality public transportation systems are attracting new jobs and residents.”
Those against the project, such as Auto dealer Lee Beaman, contend the route will actual cause choke points and increase congestion. Some detractors argued the system is not inclusive enough, ignoring areas such as North Nashville, a lower income African American neighborhood. Others complain it is too inclusive stating, “we don’t want the riffraff from East Nashville in our neighborhood” and it will cause an “influx of burger-flippers.”
The Amp is not a perfect plan but it is a start. Regardless, The Amp is an issue that affects the residents of Nashville and should be decided by them, not the Koch brothers. Holly Mccall, the spokesperson for The Amp project says it best. “It’s pretty tough to find that kind of money – AFP gets funds from the Koch brothers, and they’re billionaires,” she said. “We continue to work our local campaign, and we’re probably going to make some tweaks to the design – we’re interested in compromise, because if we don’t, our entire future transit plan is going to be dictated by people who live out of state.”
Chariese is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire