Who Needs Transit?

All Neighborhoods Home to Transit-Dependent Nashvillians

With the 2017 passage of the IMPROVE Act, many Tennessee cities are now able to choose a new local option to fund public transit. As communities across the state look to decide their own transit futures, they may ask themselves…


According to a 2016 report from the Tennessee Department of Transportation , a wide range of Tennesseans stand to benefit from improved transportation infrastructure. Its list of potentially transit-dependent users includes senior citizens, people with a disability and those without vehicle access, among others. It also notes that families with children often must make more daily trips than families without children. For single parents, these trips can be particularly challenging.

As the first Tennessee city to consider exercising the local option, Nashville is poised to make a choice that will affect transit-dependent populations within its borders for decades to come.

An analysis of U.S. Census data and quality-of-life information reveals two important conclusions:

(1) High rates of potentially transit-dependent residents are interspersed throughout Nashville; and

(2) Improved transit access benefits these residents in a wide variety of ways.

Percentage of senior citizens by council district, Davidson County

Across Davidson County, seniors aged 65+ comprise almost 11% of the population—or more than 71,000 residents. In some council districts, they account for as much as 20% of residents.

Yet, as compared with similarly sized areas, seniors in the Nashville metropolitan area experience the fourth lowest transit access in the nation: A whopping 85% of Nashville-area seniors have poor transit access.

Nationally, more than one in five seniors do not drive; more than half of these non-drivers stay home on any given day because they lack transportation options. This restricted mobility often translates into more limited opportunities for physical, mental and social wellbeing.

Indeed, seniors without transportation options make 15% fewer doctor’s visits, 59% fewer shopping trips and restaurant visits and 65% fewer trips for social, family and religious activities.

Four in five seniors believe public transportation is a better alternative to driving alone, especially at night. And 83% of seniors agree that public transit provides easy access to the things that older adults need in everyday life.

Tennessee’s population as a whole is growing steadily older, potentially exacerbating issues related to lack of transit access. By 2040, Tennessee’s 65+ population is projected to nearly double, resulting in almost 800,000 more seniors across the state.