Getting to grips with the transport options in a new city is crucial for newcomers to settle in their adopted home, and, similarly, those moving to Nashville will have to do their research about how they will get around. Prospective Nashvillians moving from places where they were perhaps accustomed to, and relied heavily on, public transport will likely need to make some adjustments in the 'Music City'.
Nashville’s public transportation infrastructure is nearly non-existent outside of the city centre which means most residents drive, and newcomers will likely have to do the same. That said, there are occasions where it is easier to make use of other forms of transport too, so below is an overview of it all.
Public transport in Nashville
Anyone who has lived in a city with a sophisticated public transport system such as New York City, Boston or Chicago is going to be in for a disappointment when they see what Nashville has to offer in terms of mobility.
Nashville’s public transport infrastructure is limited, to say the least. Anyone who plans on settling down in the Music City will soon realise that it makes sense to invest in a car, especially when one considers the long distances the average Nashvillian travels on a daily basis.
E-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are becoming increasingly popular in Nashville and provide a convenient alternative for those occasions when driving isn't an option.
WeGo Public Transit, formerly known as Nashville MTA, is the authority in charge of the city’s bus network and that of the wider Davidson County area. The network is designed around a central hub with over 40 bus routes in operation throughout Nashville, covering downtown and some of the surrounding areas.
While the bus system in Nashville is sufficient, it isn't the most viable option for people commuting from the suburbs, as services aren’t all that regular and buses rarely run on time. They generally run from 9am to 5am – there are limited late-night services available but they only cover certain areas.
Overall, new arrivals who have lived elsewhere in the USA may find that Nashville’s bus operations are substandard compared to the advanced systems found in other prominent cities.
The system’s Music City Circuit is a free service that covers key parts around downtown Nashville and the Gulch. It is mostly used by tourists residing in the downtown area and doesn't provide much value for long-term residents of the city.
The Music City Star is the name of Nashville’s single line commuter train. It runs from Lebanon to Riverfront Station stopping at Donelson, Hermitage, Mount Juliet and Martha along the way.
There are also two shuttle services linked to the Music City Star that transport commuters from Riverfront station to other key parts of the downtown area such as Broadway, West End and Vanderbilt.
The train operates from Monday to Friday from 5.45am. There are three trips in the morning and three in the afternoon. On Fridays, there is an evening train too.
Music City Star fares are reasonable with ten-ride and monthly passes on offer for further savings. Kids under the age of four ride for free and there are various discounts for students, pensioners, people with disabilities and Medicare cardholders.
Taxis in Nashville
As one might expect of any midsize city, cabs are pretty easy to come by in Nashville, especially in the downtown area. There are a number of reputable taxi companies in operation in Nashville. Some of the big names include Green Cab, Allied Cab, Music City Taxi and Checker Cab.
Most taxi companies will get people where they need to be 24/7. In busy parts of Nashville city-centre such as Broadway or Midtown, one can easily hail a cab at all hours. Elsewhere, it's better to pre-book a vehicle by phoning ahead.
E-hailing services in Nashville
E-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber are well-established in Nashville. Although most Nashvillians have their own cars, ride-sharing is a great option for times when no-one wants to be the designated driver or on game days when parking becomes a nightmare.
Users just need to download the relevant app on to their smartphone, register for the service using a credit card and they're all set.
Scooters in Nashville
Here is a form of transport that newcomers might not be used to, but may enjoy nonetheless. Electric scooters are a nifty, sustainable alternative to driving and have become an incredibly popular way of getting around in the city. So much so, that multiple scooter companies have seen the value in tapping into this lucrative market. Companies such as Bird and Lime have created scooter-sharing apps which allow users to track scooters near them. By registering with a credit card, users have access to hundreds of scooters in Nashville.
Driving in Nashville
As is the case through much of the US, owning a car in Nashville is pretty much a necessity. Public transport is barely sufficient for those living in the downtown area and central suburbs, as operating hours are very limited.
Driving in Nashville will give newcomers far more freedom in terms of getting around at their own leisure, but also when choosing a neighbourhood to settle down in.
One major downside to driving in Nashville is that traffic is terrible at times, especially during rush hour. Unexpected delays as a result of construction and road accidents are also fairly common. Smartphone apps such as Google Maps and Apple Maps provide good indicators of congestion and help drivers plan their journey by suggesting alternative routes.
Another thing that drivers need to bear in mind is the cost of parking which can easily mount up especially if one travels downtown regularly. Free street parking can be difficult to come by and parking lots are increasingly expensive the closer you get to city hotspots.
Cycling in Nashville
The popularity of cycling as a means of getting around in Nashville is on the rise. The city authorities have also taken note and invested heavily in cycling infrastructure, which means the city now has a growing collection of designated bike lanes to ensure cyclists can get about safely. Bike lock-up facilities have also become more readily available throughout Nashville.
Nashville has a bike-sharing scheme called B-Cycle which offers on-demand rentals from docking stations scattered around the city.
Walking in Nashville
Nashville is believed to be one of the least walkable cities in the USA. Around three quarters of Nashville’s population live out in the suburbs where having a car is deemed a necessity.
Even within some of the suburbs themselves, residents need a car to get to the local grocery store or to drop their kids off at school.
Despite the city's general sprawling nature, there are some suburbs that are highly walkable and may, in fact, be better explored on foot. Germantown, Hillsboro Village and East Nashville are some of the areas that are great for a leisurely stroll.