Inside the Plans to Open Up Nashville’s Streets

By Justin Stokes

Nashville’s gradual transition into a full-fledged big city comes with both sweet perks and some growing pains.

Traffic congestion is an issue on every commuter’s mind: it can sometimes double the travel time for what should be a quick trip. Though Mayor Megan Barry has proposed a $6 billion transit proposal to un-jam the traffic flow, that plan will take 25 years to fully come into effect.

But is the transit proposal the only solution to the city’s traffic woes? And what are Nashvillians to do between now and that estimated time of completion? Tues., Sept. 13th’s Pitch Nashville event offered some viable solutions to the current problem. Held by the Nashville Junior Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Lyft, the event was the first in what will be an annual address of transportation issues in the Middle Tennessee region.

About half of the Willard Collins Alumni Auditorium of Lipscomb University for those present to hear crowd-sourced ideas on what to do to solve traffic problems. Presenting a new concept to the room and a panel composed of city officials, each model was judged backstage to determine a winner for an official presentation of their idea to the city government.

“Something needs to happen before congestion chokes and suppresses the amazing momentum our city is currently experiencing, said Sarah Willard, VP of Programming for the Nashville Junior Chamber of Commerce at the opening of Pitch Nashville. “The amount of original, native ideas of how to address this issue is immense, and we think the pitches you will hear tonight demonstrate that. We hope tonight will spark the kind of change that is needed here in Nashville to create and keep our healthy and thriving city.”

The event had many notable pitches to those seated. Among those were the Foundations Recovery Network’s Chief Marketing Officer Lee Pepper‘s idea, linked his former life in Dallas. He pitched a solution akin to Dallas’ DART system, the potential use of a combined light rail system (possibly cutting through the canyons along the freeway) and trolley system.

Nick Rau of video production company Creative Feels showed a presentation that referenced activities such as bicycling ripe for an augmented reality upgrade that created an emotional experience for pedestrians.

Of course, not everyone supported these transit solutions as potential remedies to the transportation problem. Planning Specialist at TN Department of Transportation Ian Preston shared a personal story about the “collision theory” of strangers bumping into each other through sharing public transit, and reformatted his pitch by advocating more affordable housing in the city. His notion of tweaking the perception of Nashville MTA’s strategic plan nMotion got him in the “honorable mention” category for the competition.

Christian Bruckman, the Director of Marketing & Business Development for the ride-sharing app Hytch, was the winner of the Pitch Nashville competition for showcasing a use of technology that was both immediately accessible and socially responsible. Avoiding the direct comparisons to services like Uber and Lyft, Bruckman likened Hytch to “a Frankenstein between AirBnb, Tinder and Uber” that creates a car-pooling community of people wanting to “share the ride.” Users are able to build a group of new friends who need a ride to work; they pay an average cost of $1 per ride, and the driver gets reimbursed through the app at a capping of $.54/ a mile.

President of the Nashville Junior Chamber of Commerce Mark Silvestro was pleased with the evening’s outcome. “I thought we had a great turnout. It’s our first annual. The presenters were professional, with well-done slides. All had unique ideas, and we had a great panel of judges. Lipscomb was a great place for us… we’re excited.”

For more information about the Nashville Junior Chamber of Commerce – including a full list of events like the Pitch Nashville event – visit nashvillejuniorchamber.org. Forward Beat will keep readers updated on any developments with the proposed ideas at last night’s event. Hytch (also known as “Hytch Me”) is available to download via the Google Play store. The final version of the app should launch Oct. 4.

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