The $5.4B is for new rail AND bus capital costs

This week, I have been trying to clean up some discrepancies and debates that are going on about the proposed transit plan. My earlier posts are here and here.

One argument people are having is about whether the $5.4 billion listed in the referendum language refers to light rail capital costs only, or to light rail AND bus capital costs. This debate arises from page 49 of the Transit Improvement Program.

On page 49, there are two different numbers that are both close to $5.4 billion. You’ll see that there are two columns…the first shows the present value of expenses in 2017 dollars, and the second shows the amounts to be spent in the “YOE” or “year of expenditure.” So, for example, in the “Music City Star” row, it says $30 million in the first column and $40 million in the second. This means that, after taking expected inflation into account, the total amount of checks to be written for the Music City Star over 15 years will be $40 million. But, in today’s money, this is only $30 million.

Here’s where the confusion starts. The cost of rail corridor improvements in the “YOE” column is $5.475B (which would actually round to $5.5B).  And separately, the present value of the cost of both rail and bus improvements in the “$ 2017” column is $5.354B (which rounds to $5.4B). Both of these numbers are very close to $5.4B and have created confusion.

The referendum language uses $5.354B, which represents the present value in 2017 dollars of both the rail and bus capital improvements.

One of the talking points filtering around social media and also in some live conversations I have had is that the $5.4B number in the referendum is supposedly misleading because it only includes the rail improvements and not the bus system improvements. I think this talking point started innocently from confusion over two numbers that are coincidentally similar. But, the referendum’s use of $5.354B is accurate and definitely refers to the present value of rail and bus capital improvements.

Bob Mendes

Bob Mendes represents all of Nashville as a Council-At-Large member of Nashville’s Metro Council. He is Chair of the Council’s Charter Revision Committee, a member of the Metropolitan Audit Committee, and a member of the Council’s Budget & Finance Committee, Rules & Confirmations Committee, and Ad Hoc Affordable Housing Committee. Bob also practices business law at Waypoint Law PLLC. Bob’s complete bio is here. You can follow Bob @mendesbob.