Fixed That For You: Music City Central

Music City Central

Editor’s Note: “Fixed That For You” is a new series in which we pick a problem around town and dream up some ideas for fixing it. What better place to start than, well, transit? Feel free to leave your own ideas in the comments below.

The problem: Built almost 10 years ago in 2008, the downtown bus terminal has already seen better days. With up to 17,000 passengers coming in and out of the MCC, it trails only behind the Nashville International Airport in terms of commuter traffic. Unlike BNA, there haven’t been significant updates to the terminal since it was built, except a bathroom renovation that only happened after the bathrooms had gotten so bad that they became an internet meme.

How we’d fix it: If we at Nashvillest ran the world, here are a handful of things we think would make the rider experience at MCC more pleasant.

  • Fix the overhead lighting – The florescent lights are dim and many just don’t work. Replacing these with brighter and more energy-efficient LED fixtures would go a long way in making MCC safer and happier.
  • Use ticket kiosks that work – The odds you are going to find one of the ticket kiosks in working order are about as high as the Titans making the playoffs: possible, but let’s not get carried way. Replace these with more reliable machines. While we’re at it, sell fare cards at more places than just the MCC. It works in Chicago, so why not here?
  • Re-renovate the bathrooms – The renovations mentioned above have gone a long way towards making the bathrooms seem less like they belong in a state penitentiary. Still, even the abandoned Greer Stadium’s bathrooms are more pleasant than these.
  • Make the bay numbers less confusing – Bus routes and bus bays being in the same numbering range can be confusing for a first-time rider. Consider turning Bay 1 to Bay 100 or using a separate lettering system to make this more user-friendly.
  • Put up better signage – There are a handful of way-markers on poles around the station that can be easy to miss. A better idea would be to put lit overhead signs directing passengers to restrooms, Customer Care, etc.
  • Talk to your passengers – Announcing system delays, the occasional George Strait “welcome to Nashville,” the local time, etc. over loudspeakers would keep folks informed throughout the terminal. Some low-volume elevator music wouldn’t hurt either.
  • Get some heaters – The terminal has two waiting rooms (one on each floor) that are climate controlled, but nothing at the individual bus bays. It gets cold in there!
  • Put a bird on it – Look, I get it: MCC is a utilitarian, purpose-built building for funneling large vehicles around the city. I know there are some concerns about vandalism, but an art installation on each floor would add some character, give folks a reason to visit who aren’t catching a bus, and support Nashville’s ever-growing quest to highlight local artists.
  • Wow! I wouldn’t say “Too Soon” so much as “uncalled for”, ever, on the McNair thing. Not just him, but all the other examples listed.

    • I know, right? The entire thing is pretty stunning.

  • Lee Jordan

    I recently started using MTA after a carpool stopped working. I’m from the UK, we have transit, lots of it. My hometown is Birmingham England, our city was owned by cars we were kind of Motown, the Mini was born there, my family built Land Rovers and Jags. The city is steeped in history of the Industrial revolution. The city was destroyed by war and rebuilt on some Jetson 60’s utopia of the car being the way forward.

    Pedestrians were as I was growing up second class to the cars, we had to cross roads under and through dark urine scented tunnels even in the dowtown area. We had a bus station, much like MCC and shared it with all kinds of rats and birds and transients. There’s something nostalgic that reminds me here of this brutal concreete comfort blanket I grew up with.

    MCC reminds me of the hiddeous disaster of Jetsons style city planning of the 1960’s that I now see as an adult as being a cancer on my hometown a choke point of growth. Here’s the thing, after the death of our motor industry and as the Mini got built by the Germans the MG’s built by China … our city changed. We built light rail, we broke down road systems that didn’t work, major sections of the downtown area were pedestrianised entirely making areas of shopping and entertainment walkable.

    Our bus system got blown up and rearranged so that we had several areas of interchanges for bus services so the buses from the East could stay and loop on the East and it became easy to walk between those hubs. The city took an American sounding concept called the Bus Mall and developed open air bus service exchanges and pushed transit to the edges of downtown rather than trying to choke the central areas.

    So what would I do at MCC? Give up. Start again. The Jetsons got it wrong. The Ascend Ampitheater area seems like the most logical place to have out a better thought out transit hub and that green bus could easily loop around and take passengers into downtown.

    • Great thoughts! For what it’s worth, they did improve the lighting, so one item off the list! It is still not a place you really want to hang around.

      I do agree that they should reconsider the location long-term, perhaps relying less on a central hub altogether (almost all routes currently begin and end downtown).

      • Lee Jordan

        If they do relocate in this climate an open air hub would be much worse than the relative shelter of the lower level MCC.

        I’d much rather have the entire passenger waiting area HVAC’d in a ‘bus stand pod enclosure type thing’. There are stations similar to this in England in Wolverhampton, Dudley and West Bromwich … All strange sounding town names I’m sure but the ‘bus stops’ are all enclosed … The bus pulls up and sliding doors open to allow passengers on and off from the completely enclosed hallway areas.

        If this helps visualize …

        Doing that alone will fix MCC in one fowl swoop. It has been brutal in 100F plus heat index on the lower level.