CAPPE addresses mass transit
By Joel Davis
of The Daily Times Staff
Feb. 27, 2007
The prospects for a mass transit system in
Blount County are slim unless regional planning priorities change.
That's the perspective of Jeff Welch, Executive
Director of the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization,
who spoke at the annual meeting of Citizens Against the Pellissippi
Parkway Extension on Monday.
"You are supporting low-density residential
development, and that doesn't support mass transit," he said.
It would take a population of about 5,000 to
6,000 people per square mile for mass transit such as bus lines or light
rail to be feasible, based on "whether you can get a reasonable return
on ridership," Welch said.
Parts of Blount County would only be reaching
up to 5,000 people per square mile by 2030, according to the
"We're rating low ... in what would be eligible
for (federal) mass transit funds," Welch said. "We're not in the hunt.
We have to change our policies in the kind of development we want."
The idea of mass transit is something that has
the support of the people attending the meeting.
"I would love to see a mass transit system, but
we'd have to get rid of our love affair with cars," Elaine Kant said.
Welch said population levels in Blount County
might support some type of more-expensive, call-on-demand bus service
such as currently offered by the East Tennessee Human Resource Agency.
"Only 1 percent or less of our population uses
other transportation choices on a daily basis," he said. "There is a lot
of room for growth."
Back in 1965, there were 98 intercity buses and
22 intercity trains operating out of Knoxville, Welch said.
"We had a lot of transit choices in 1965," he
said. "Since then, our choices have diminished. At the same time our
population has grown."
The region saw the loss of commuter rail and
bus services as suburbanization and sprawl changed the pattern of where
people lived and worked, Welch said.
"A lot of these services in the 1960s and '70s
were for-profit, but they went out of business," he said. "They lost
CAPPE asked Welch and Cindy McGinnis, general
manager of Knox Area Transit, to speak at the annual meeting in order to
gain insight about possible transportation alternatives.
"The county and state have been so focused on
roads and highways that we thought it would be useful to learn more
about alternatives to driving our cars everywhere," said Bill Busser,
McGinnis told the audience that even being
eligible for federal funding for mass transit systems requires intensive
"The federal money is really expensive," she
said. "You have to jump through all kinds of hoops."
CAPPE formed when Blount County residents heard
the Tennessee Department of Transportation was proposing a 4.4-mile
extension of Interstate 140 between Old Knoxville Highway (Tenn. 33) and
East Lamar Alexander Parkway (U.S. 321).
CAPPE filed suit against state and federal
highway officials because the EIS hadn't been done, violating the
National Environmental Policy Act.
A federal court halted the project in 2002 with
an injunction. Two years later the case was remanded to Tennessee state
court and the injunction was lifted so officials could begin the EIS
A draft of the EIS could be completed by this
spring. The final draft is projected for finish one year later.