Thursday, March 4, 2010

New Metro Nashville bus service offers free rides downtown

Metro hopes a new free bus service downtown will bring more riders to its regular, paid routes as well.
Hometown workers and visitors will "jump on this and not have to worry about the fare, because it's free," said Paul Ballard, head of the Metro Transit Authority. "The next step is you'll walk over to Music City Central and hop on a regular bus."

Transit officials parked one of the new Music City Circuit buses at Riverfront Park on Wednesday, showing off its bold blue-and-green color scheme and its green fuel-efficient technology.

Service starts March 29 when Metro Transit implements other system changes, such as additional service to 100 Oaks Mall.

RelatedFree downtown bus route

The new downtown service will have two routes that loop downtown as far north as the Farmers Market and west to the Gulch's restaurants and condos. Buses and vans will run Monday through Saturday, as early as 6:30 a.m. and as late as midnight.

Buses will roll by about every 10 to 15 minutes, which MTA hopes will entice new riders.

"With the circulator in service, we hope a lot of people will just hop on the bus and not worry about parking," Ballard said. "We believe this will generate interest in the whole bus system."

MTA received money from Metro to cover operating costs for the service this year. It used federal stimulus money to buy the two diesel/electric hybrid buses, which operate on about 12 percent less fuel.

Two buses will each seat 40, and each van will seat 14. All can be running for a big downtown event with a capacity of about 164, Ballard said, or one van might cover the route late at night to pick up patrons from restaurants in the Gulch.

Downtown hotels and attractions will get brochures to hand out to visitors, Ballard said, and the eye-catching design on the buses and signs will make them stand out.

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