History of the RTA
The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) of Middle Tennessee was created by state statute in 1988 to plan and develop a regional
transit system for the citizens of Middle Tennessee. The members of the RTA are Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Montgomery, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties. The RTA's management team (MTA's managers) oversees the largest
commuter vanpool program in the Southeast, facilitates thousands of carpools, and coordinates nine regional express bus routes and the area's first regional rail project.
When the Tennessee General Assembly created the RTA, it provided it with $100,000 in initial start-up funding with no ongoing funding source. Past funding sources beyond the initial seed monies include Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funds, federal grants and state and local matching funds. Grants are awarded based on need and merit of proposed projects. Most federal grants require matching money from either state or local governments (or both). It is sometimes difficult for the state and local entities to provide matching funds, and many times the issue is timing or competition for limited resources.
Legislation to provide an ongoing source of funding for the RTA via a dues system, which is consistent with the dues system currently in place for the Greater Nashville Regional Council (GNRC), was passed in May 2003 at the conclusion of the Tennessee legislative session. Cities and counties in the RTA service area may join the RTA board by paying dues based on population. This legislation has two distinct benefits. The first benefit is that dues can help provide for the overhead and administrative costs of the RTA such as salaries and office rental. Federal, state and local grant and matching money can be used towards projects instead of administrative and operational expenditures. The second benefit is to the members of the RTA. By paying dues, member governments voice their support of RTA initiatives. The dues structure opens membership opportunities to governments and communities that, based on the initial legislation, could not participate in the RTA in the past.
Part of the RTA's historical funding has come from the federal government, specifically from federal CMAQ funds. These funds are released each year with the approval of the federal budget. The federal fiscal year begins October 1; however, budgets are historically approved sometime after that date. Since the majority of RTA's funding comes from this source, RTA's funding is unpredictable, limited and sometimes inadequate.
Rideshare funding has traditionally come from federal CMAQ dollars. The Rideshare budget is used to support the administrative costs of staff members, all program marketing, supplies and contingencies.
RTA also has a Job Access and Reverse Commute Program (JARC). This program is part of a nationwide federal program designed to provide transportation to and from work for individuals in the Welfare-to-Work program and other economically disadvantaged people. The RTA was recently awarded a continuation grant for the JARC program. Partial matching funds have been secured from the City of Nashville/Davidson County, and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). This funding allows the RTA to continue providing transportation services to Middle Tennesseans who desperately need them. The JARC Program administered by the RTA provides approximately 44,000 work-related rides annually.
RTA also provides bus transportation via its regional express bus service supported by cities, counties and TDOT. This weekday service provides transportation between downtown Nashville and Cheatham, Montgomery, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner and Williamson counties.
The RTA oversees the Music City Star regional rail. The first segment of the regional rail connects Davidson and Wilson counties. The East Corridor utilizes a 32-mile section of track belonging to the Nashville & Eastern Railroad Authority. Tracks, signals and bridges were upgraded and replaced and various grade crossings have been improved. There are six stations: Riverfront, Donelson, Hermitage, Mt. Juliet, Martha and Lebanon. Three trains provide weekday morning and evening service each peak period.
In December 2008, the Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) management team became the managers of the RTA's regional services.