By LANDON WOODROOF
In late September, Brentwood Mayor Jill Burgin joined a 90-person delegation to Denver, Colorado to study how that city has responded to transportation and expansion challenges.
It was the second Williamson Forward trip that Williamson Inc. has organized in recent years. The trip was intended to allow local community and business leaders to learn more about how comparable communities in another part of the country have dealt with issues that also affect Williamson County.
Williamson, Inc. will discuss the best practices they observed during the Denver trip at their third annual Transportation Summit from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 18, and the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs.
A good deal of the trip centered around studying mass transit, and how it can be used to mitigate congestion. Burgin said she sees the creation of new bus routes as a possibility for Brentwood.
“I believe that the most practical potential solution for the Brentwood area involves buses,” Burgin said in an email. Specifically, she expressed interest in “[e]xpanding MTA and RTA routes into Maryland Farms from Davidson County.” A local circulator bus could then help get people who use that bus service to their ultimate destinations.
She said that circulator bus could also be used around lunchtime and as “a ‘late bus’ solution for kids at local middle and high schools who have sports practices and club meetings after the regular bus routes have left.”
Of course, funding is a big issue with any transit system.
Brentwood used to have an RTA stop on Concord Road, but that stop was discontinued in 2015 after what RTA officials described as a lack of interest from the City of Brentwood in contributing “to the operational costs of providing this service,” according to previous Brentwood Home Page reporting.
Burgin said that one thing she noted from the trip is that “cities do have to pay for some portion” of transit funding. That was a common denominator she took from looking at transit projects in different communities. She thinks Brentwood should be no exception to this.
“Transit planning and funding has to be part of our overall budget planning process going forward,” she said.
She hopes that not just Brentwood but also neighboring municipalities in Williamson County can work together to come up with effective solutions to transportation issues arising from rising populations and expanding development.
“I think we have to, if we want to continue to be the premier destination in Middle Tennessee,” she said. “Someone has to take the wheel, so to speak.”
Although Burgin is optimistic about county leaders’ ability to come together and find a solution for transit issues, she has no illusions about how quickly this will happen.
“It will still take longer than most people anticipate,” she said. “Since being elected I have found that the wheels of government really do turn slowly, especially when multiple jurisdictions are involved. But we need the right combination of modes for each area, modes that don’t actually make the traffic problem worse by attracting vehicles to an already congested area, for example, and figuring that out takes time.”
Burgin said she drew inspiration from several different sources on the trip.
For one thing, she said she was “inspired by seeing that corporate partners and government entities can work together to improve the quality of life for residents of a community.” She singled out a Charles Schwab campus in Lone Tree, Colorado as an example. At that campus, she said, private and public leaders had come together to provide “community-friendly features like a circulator bus and an outdoor amphitheater.”
Burgin was also inspired by the way that local officials she met with approached controversial projects. They were cordial rather than antagonistic toward the projects. Burgin sees that spirit of civility as essential to problem-solving.
“While city and county limits do matter, roads and transit routes don’t stop at these borders, so we all have to work together to address our region’s challenges,” she said.