The job of the executive director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization for our community is vacant, and we are dreaming of how nice it would be if we had someone like the one in Nashville.  He actually feels that his job is to speak out against sprawl.  Here, the MPO director can’t speak the total truth despite good intentions, because the small towns have a stranglehold on the organization.

As we’ve written before, beginning with “Is Memphis MPO Inherently Biased,” our MPO is one of the most unrepresentative in the entire nation.  It’s overwhelming suburban and overwhelming white.

For those challenging the dual referenda requirement to consolidate city and county governments, here’s a target ripe for a federal lawsuit challenging the inequality and unfairness found in our present MPO.  We’re overdue for reforming this crucial group, and more to the point, we’re overdue for the tail – the suburbs – to quit wagging the dog – Memphis.

Here’s what the Nashville MPO director had to say about sprawl and recent reports concluding that Nashville had the longest commutes:

A new report says Nashville has the worst commutes in the nation, in contrast to another that ranks the  area 31st in traffic congestion.

The competing studies have unleashed  disagreements between the two groups that issued them, but the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization says both are useful in seeking ways to keep traffic moving.

The most recent report, by CEOs for Cities, ranks Nashville and nearby counties as number one in the time motorists spend in their vehicles during peak traffic times, putting it well above Houston; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; and Los Angeles.

The sprawling nature of the Nashville area requires long drives for many, said Michael Skipper, executive director of the MPO, a multi-government agency that develops regional transportation plans for the area.

“It’s pretty eye-opening and validating about our region,” he said.

The earlier report, an annual one by the Texas Transportation Institute called the Urban Mobility Report, has been the standard used nationwide for years as governments consider expanding road systems.

Its information about congestion — the speed of traffic and traffic snarls in an area — is cited frequently when money is sought to widen roads.

The CEOs for Cities report, analyzing 51 major metropolitan areas, emphasizes the importance of planning for development in a way that minimizes time spent on the roads.

“Both reports are extremely useful to us,” Skipper said.

“It’s really about what’s causing us to spend time in our car. It doesn’t matter if it’s caused by congestion or having to travel farther distances.”These regions that are sprawling and making it so people have to drive so far to work — that’s what’s leading us to spend more time in our cars.”
“If you just widen the roadways, sometimes you’re just throwing more cars on the road, adding to rather than fixing the real problems,” Skipper said.
To read the coverage in Nashville Tennessean, click here.