Williamson County Studies Ways to Alleviate Traffic
Leaders tackle traffic, develop solutions
With the continued growth of Williamson County come traffic challenges, and officials are addressing both short- and long-term solutions. One of those efforts took place in September 2016 when Williamson, Inc. organized Mobility Week, which had excellent participation from local businesses.
“The byproduct of Williamson County’s growth is more people having jobs and more vehicles on the road, so we launched Mobility Week in 2016 to introduce the community to practical ways that they can be part of the solution to help alleviate transportation issues in our community,” says Bryan Doleshel, Williamson, Inc. chief community development officer.
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Each day of Mobility Week had a transportation initiative, with one of the days focusing on public schools. As many students as possible were asked to ride the bus or carpool that day, since some of the biggest traffic congestion areas are school zones during the morning and afternoon hours.
“Williamson County Schools has 38,000 students, and we had good ridership numbers that day,” Doleshel says. “Now the TMA (Transportation Management Association) Group actually has a School Pool app where parents can find out other kids in their neighborhood who wish to be part of a carpooling program.”
Another Mobility Week initiative was promoting telecommuting, which allows employees to work from home if their jobs allow.
“I’ve since learned that a high percentage of companies in Williamson County have telecommuting including big-name corporations like Tractor Supply Company, Mars Petcare and CareHere,” Doleshel says. “We even offer it here at the chamber. Williamson, Inc. has 15 employees, and each employee has the option of working remotely one day a week.”
Alleviating the Lunch Crunch
Another Mobility Week effort was positioning food trucks at strategic office building locations throughout the county, so office employees could buy their lunch from a food truck vendor instead of driving to a restaurant. Since then, the City of Brentwood passed an ordinance in March 2017 to permit food trucks at any office building that wants such a service.
Brentwood resident Bradley Freeman helped push for the ordinance, since he owns Bradley’s Creamery, a food truck that specializes in fresh homemade ice cream.
“I’m up in Nashville working a lot, but now that Brentwood allows trucks along with Franklin and Cool Springs, I’ll be in Williamson County much more with my ice cream,” Freeman says. “Especially in warm weather.”
Take the Transit
Franklin Transit Authority is also seen as part of the mobility effort, since it operates small bus vehicles along three different routes in Franklin and the Cool Springs area. The FTA is still relatively small but growing, and Franklin is looking to put more money into the program. Franklin Transit Authority currently offers two services. One is a regularly scheduled fixed route that costs $1 and picks up passengers at several specific stops. The other is a transportation-on-demand service which passengers call 24 hours in advance to book a trip anywhere within Franklin. The on-demand rides are $3 one way.
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“About 60 percent of passengers use our service to get to and from work, another 20 percent to get to high school or college, and the remainder mostly for medical appointments and shopping trips,” says Stanton Higgs, business development and operations director for Transportation Management Association, the managing contractor for Franklin Transit Authority.
Higgs says ridership continues to increase, with current fiscal year numbers expected to surpass 50,000 fixed-route and 31,000 transportation-on-demand trips.
Another option TMA Group offers commuters is VanStar, a regional vanpool program that serves 14 Middle Tennessee counties, including Williamson. Participants are grouped by similarity in routes and share the monthly costs, while TMA provides the vehicles including insurance, maintenance and repair. VanStar was one of only 11 recipients to earn a 2017 Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Award and continues to grow in popularity.