As with many major American cities, Nashville-Davidson County has had a long and diverse history in the area of public transportation. Many different frameworks have been implemented with varying degrees of success. Both private and public organizations have contributed to the goal of providing safe, reliable, efficient, customer-friendly public transit as alternatives to driving alone.
In 1860, the McGavock and Mt. Vernon Horse Railroad Company and the South Nashville Street Railroad Company were chartered and used steam and mules to power rail cars to give Nashville its first taste of public transportation. On April 30, 1889, the McGavock and Mt. Vernon Horse Railroad Company operated the first electric streetcar in Nashville, and the city became one of the first in the nation to have such "modern" transportation.
From the years following the Civil War to the 1920's, numerous companies formed, consolidated, and disbanded as competition for passengers created a variety of financial and legal hardships for the struggling companies.
In 1926, motor buses were first introduced in Nashville to supplement the existing street railway service. The Tennessee Electric Power Company took over the controlling interest of the public transportation system in 1930, and in 1940-41 phased out Nashville's streetcar system.
In 1941, the name of the company was changed to Southern Coach Lines, Inc., and under still another reorganization, the name was changed to the Nashville Transit Company in 1953.
The next 20 years brought unprecedented growth and prosperity to Nashville, resulting in a dramatic increase in the use of the private automobile. Consequently, the number of people riding the bus decreased, and the health of the transit system deteriorated. Spiraling costs, higher fares, service cutbacks and deferred maintenance meant lower quality transit service for those thousands of Nashvillians who still relied on the bus.
Realizing the importance of a solid public transit system, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County applied for a federal grant for the purchase of the Nashville Transit Company. They realized that a viable public transportation system contributes to the healthy economy by aiding in employment and reducing traffic congestion and air pollution. By September of 1973, the transfer from private to public ownership was completed and the Metropolitan Transit Authority was officially chartered. A five member Board of Directors was formed to oversee the operation of the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The MTA entered into a contract with a company to provide advisory and management services for the public transit system.
In August, 1990, McDonald Transit Associates was awarded the contract to manage the day-to-day operation of the system. In turn, McDonald Transit Associates formed Davidson Transit Management, Inc. to employ the workers that operate the public transportation system. This contractual arrangement continued until early 2003.
On December 29, 1992, the employee unit changed from Davidson Transit Management to Davidson Transit Organization, a private, non-profit organization.
After the completion of a Metro audit and a quest for continual improvement, recent changes were made to the MTA organizational structure with the addition of a Chief Executive Officer, a Metropolitan Government position. This position was developed to provide the strategic leadership necessary to carry the MTA well into the 21st century. The CEO reports directly to the MTA Board of Directors and is responsible for managerial oversight of the entire system. He is the agency's only Metro government employee. Other personnel are employees of the Davidson Transit Organization, a private, non-profit organization.
The Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Board of Directors is a five-member panel appointed by the Mayor and approved by the Metro Council. They make policies regarding the operation of the MTA.
Gail Carr Williams, Chair
Janet Miller, Vice Chair
Walter Searcy, Member
Mary Griffin, Member
Jessica Dauphin, Member
MTA management oversee the day-to-day operation of the MTA following the guidelines set by the MTA Board of Directors.
Stephen G. Bland, Chief Executive Officer
Davidson Transit Organization Board of Directors and Officers
The initial Board of Directors was specified in the Charter of the Corporation. Successors are chosen by nomination and majority vote. Members of the Board of Directors have control and general management of the affairs and business of the corporation. The officers are appointed annually by the Board of Directors. They are responsible for seeing that the orders and resolutions of the Board of Directors are carried into effect.