If your future travel plans include a visit to Nashville, Tennessee, you may want to consider using the city’s public transportation system to help you get around. Battling local traffic can be a real challenge in the Music City, and finding affordable parking in the downtown area can be difficult as well. Using alternative methods of transportation can help alleviate some of those issues, but it is important to understand the limitations of the system prior to your arrival.
The main form of public transit in Nashville are city buses, but there are other ways of getting around that are quite popular, too. A limited light rail system exists in the city, and bike and scooter rentals have become very popular. Additionally, the downtown area is extremely walkable, although as you venture out further from that point it gets harder and harder to continue to use these methods of transit.
With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about public transportation in Nashville.
How to Ride WeGo Public Transit
Originally launched back in the early 1990s, Nashville’s bus service was known as the MTA, or Metropolitan Transit Authority. In 2018 however, the MTA announced a plan to rebrand itself as WeGo Public Transit. Aside from changing the name and logo, as well as painting the buses purple, this hasn’t had a dramatic impact on the service as a whole. At its core, WeGo runs public buses that shuttle locals and visitors alike, with a resemblance to the same bus service you find in hundreds of other cities across the U.S.
All told, the Nashville bus system features more than 50 routes stretching out across the entire city. That includes a number of express routes designed to whisk passengers off to their destination in a faster, more efficient fashion. Some of the key routes for visitors to be aware of include the #18, which provides service to and from the Nashville International Airport and downtown, as well as #34, which runs to Opry Mills. The Music City Circuit is also a good one for tourists, taking them to a number of key locations in the downtown area at no cost.
Fares and How to Pay
The cost of riding the bus in Nashville is $2 per ride, although discounts are offered for passengers under the age of 19 and over the age of 65. Kids under 4 years old can ride for free. All-day passes are available for $4, while discounted passes for 7, 20, and 31 days are also offered.
All WeGo buses are equipped with fare boxes that accept payment as the passenger boards. That box accepts $1, $2, $5, $10 and $20 bills as well as U.S. coins, including $1 coins. If a passenger uses larger denominations, change is provided in the form of a charge card. No cash is provided by the driver. As of this time, there is no smartphone app to allow riders to pay their fare, so be sure to bring cash.
Hours of Operation
Most of the buses in Nashville go into operation at 5:30 a.m. and run into the evening, although the exact times vary depending on the route. It is important to point out that some of the buses don’t operate at all on Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays. If you know which route you’ll be using it is best to check the times and schedule on the WeGo Transit website. Generally speaking, the more heavily used routes run longer in the day and are more accessible in general, while those with fewer passengers have shorter schedules.
Park and Ride
The Nashville MTA also offers options for travelers who want to park and ride (drive their cars to a designated pick-up spot and catch a bus to downtown or other popular areas from there). There are more than a dozen such parking lots located throughout the city, making it easier than ever for locals and visitors alike to ride the bus.
WeGo Transit buses are equipped to allow disabled riders to easily enter and exit the vehicle. That includes onboard lifts to allow wheelchair bound passengers access to the bus too. But if a passenger can’t reach the bus stop, a specially equipped van can be dispatched to pick them up from their home as well. This service is known as ADA Paratransit and it is available every day of the year, except major holidays. The cost of such a pick-up is $3.70 each way.
To find out more about the WeGo accessibility options visit the organization’s website.
Other Ways to Get Around
As with most major cities, Nashville has other options for travelers who don’t have the time or the inclination to take the bus. Here are a few of those choices:
Music City Star Train
While Nashville doesn’t have a true light-rail system, it does have the Music City Star Train. This commuter route runs across the city and surrounding communities, offering riders a chance to access various locations with minimal fuss. There are seven stations to access the train and tickets cost $5.25, with reduced rates for advanced purchases of more rides.
There are multiple cab companies that operate in Nashville, making it relatively easy to grab a ride when other options aren’t available or convenient. Pricing can get quite expensive if you’re covering a significant distance, but for short rides hailing a cab can be a good way to go.
Taxis are usually easy to find in the downtown area and at the airport, but in most other parts of town you may need to call or use an app to find one.
As with most major metropolitan cities in the U.S., Nashville features service from both Lyft and Uber. These ride-sharing programs often provide a less expensive option for getting around, even when traveling longer distances.
All of the major car rental companies have multiple outlets for renting a vehicle. Depending on your needs, this may be the most convenient way to get around, although it isn’t necessarily the least expensive.
Nashville has a growing collection of bike lanes throughout the city, making it a more bike-friendly environment in recent years. Bike rental shops can be found throughout the city. B-Cycle offers on demand rentals from various stations.
The electric scooter craze has hit Nashville with at least three companies offering the app-operated vehicles for rent. Most of the scooters are located in the downtown area or part of nearby East Nashville. This is a viable option for short trips in a limited area, although traffic and lots of pedestrians can create safety hazards.
Tips for Getting Around Nashville
- Avoid rush hour when heading into downtown. The morning and afternoon commute can be an extremely busy and difficult one. Wait until after 10:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m. for faster travel times.
- Both Google Maps and Apple Maps offer accurate and convenient transit directions on your smartphone. Use either to help you navigate the city via public transportation.
- Many Nashville hotels offer shuttle services to and from downtown, as well as to the Grand Ole Opry. Often these shuttles are faster, more convenient, and less expensive or even free. When booking your accommodations, check to see if they offer this kind of service.
- There are a number of different options for city tours that use buses, trolleys, and other modes of transportation to explore the Music City. These are great ways to experience what Nashville has to offer without renting a car, using public transportation, or simply wandering around aimlessly.