The Nashville MTA has asked for a budget increase that would include the restoration of transfers. I think this is a great idea even though these days all my bus rides are one way, and also my employer pays my bus fare as long as I’m going to and from work, but that’s another story. For me riding the bus is an option, and I’m lucky it is because Nashville really isn’t a bus-friendly city. Or a pedestrian or bike-friendly city. Several people have told me they’d take the bus if they didn’t have to drive to the nearest stop.

If you’ve never ridden the bus or have only ridden it in places where they don’t offer transfers–like Nashville in the last fifteen years or so–a transfer is a ticket you can get with your regular bus ticket that allows you to get on another bus route without having to pay the full fare again. Back when they had them the cost of a transfer was a pittance–when Nashville got rid of them a transfer cost ten cents, a price that had probably been maintained since the ‘70‘s, even though in those days a dime was worth a lot more. A transfer was also technically only good for half an hour and would be stamped with the time you received it although I never knew a single bus driver who bothered to look.

The price of a regular fare at the time was $1.75, but you could also get an all-day pass for $3.50, so if you were going more than two places the pass was actually the better deal by twenty cents and you didn’t have to worry about some driver suddenly deciding to enforce the half-hour time limit. Now the regular fare is $1.70 and an all-day pass is $5.25. Go figure.

As I said Nashville is not a particularly bus-friendly city but I’m in favor of transfers because quite a few people who ride the bus depend on it because, to be blunt, they can’t afford a car, and really could use every little bit of money they can save. In fact I remember the first time I learned about transfers. It never occurred to me that you wouldn’t have to pay the full fare every time you got on the bus. One day, when I was in college and living off-campus, I took the bus downtown to drop off my rent check. I came out of the office and waved down the bus going my way. I was close enough to the end of the line that the same driver who dropped me off had just dropped me off and was turning around.

I got on and started to put my fare in when he said, “Hey, didn’t I just drop you off? You could have just gotten a transfer.”

I wish he’d said that before I started handing over my money. I really could have used that dollar.



  1. Mrs Fancy-Pants

    I’ve missed living a short walk away from a train station (never really used buses much in Sydney). Are there weirdos on public transport? Yes, there are. Is it worth dealing with them to avoid driving to/finding parking in the city? Again yes. Hell yes!

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      There are also benefits to dealing with the weirdoes on public transport. Well, it depends on the sort of weirdoes, but mostly I do think it’s worth dealing with them. They create an opportunity for some great stories.

  2. mydangblog

    Toronto has the transfer system as well, which is particularly helpful if you’re going North/South then have to get off at a certain place and then go East/West. A streetcar ride costs a three dollar token, so without the transfer, it would be very expensive to try and cross town.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That does sound pretty expensive–a loonie and a toonie just to go one way. Even though Nashville doesn’t currently have the transfer system a lot of drivers are nice and if someone accidentally boards a wrong bus or just asks for help the driver will write a note and say, “Give this to the driver of the other bus.”

  3. Allison

    Nashville is going to have to get better mass transit – they’re building all these high-population density condos and apartments. They need to start now and build a great system. Well, they needed to start 20 years ago. To me, the best transit system I ever used was in Munich. For next to nothing, you could buy a week’s pass that got you on trains, buses and trolleys. And they were clean, and efficient – and of course, prompt. If the schedule said the bus stopped at 11:37, you could set your watch to it.

    While I don’t think we need a subway, we need fewer people driving individually. Maybe if MTA invested in Pedal Taverns…

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Munich’s system does sound pretty amazing, and Nashville is definitely going to be forced into better mass transit whether it wants it or not. There’s a massive apartment building going up near Belmont that has absolutely zero parking. At the very least they’re going to have to improve that particular route. It’s just sad to me that in the past few years they’ve eliminated some routes, forcing people to change jobs because they depend on the bus.


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