Letter from Mayor Cooper to the Transportation Licensing Board

Today, Mayor John Cooper read and submitted the following letter to the Metro Transportation Licensing Commission for review:

Dear Members of the Metro Transportation Licensing Commission:

Thank you for your attention to the issue of entertainment transport vehicles. For more than two years, my office has worked with stakeholders, the Metro Council and state legislators to regulate these vehicles.

In February 2020, I said, “We want to make sure everyone who visits Music City has a good time,” but that “the complete lack of local control over these entertainment vehicles in one of our neighborhoods busier has created security issues and huge headaches. for physical downtown businesses, local residents and commuters. By working with the state, we hope to ensure that downtown Nashville remains a fun, world-class tourist destination while implementing common-sense policies that prevent traffic jams and disruptions for residents and local businesses.

Our persistent work culminated in the passage of state legislation granting Nashville the power to regulate entertainment transportation. In March of this year, Governor Lee and the overwhelming majority of state legislators approved giving cities like Nashville the ability to solve our own problems in this area. We have spent more than two years working for this body to become the regulatory authority to deal with entertainment transport. You now have the daunting task of resolving what has become a problem for our community.

When determining the regulations and number of permits for entertainment transport vehicles, I encourage you to pay particular attention to the “public necessity” provision. Does the public need these vehicles in Nashville? Not a private business interest. No tourist desire. Not market demand. But public necessity. I echo several thousand Nashvillians when I say Nashville doesn’t need these vehicles. In fact, the public needs not to see these vehicles cluttering our public streets and bringing quality of life issues to our neighborhoods and businesses.

Party vehicle operators will cite economic impact as a way to streamline tolerance for noise, traffic disruption and safety hazards. In fact, our business community has made it clear that these party vehicles are having a negative impact on business in and around downtown.

Party vehicle operators will highlight tourism demand as evidence of their contributions to Nashville’s hospitality scene. But when I speak with residents and visitors, hotel managers, restaurant owners, and convention hosts, I hear time and time again that party buses are detracting from the Nashville experience.

And of course, you’ve heard party vehicle owners cite job creation as the rationale for licensing. I remind you that the Nashville metropolitan area has an unemployment rate of 2.4%, the third lowest in the country. There are many job vacancies in our hospitality industry. The greatest risk is that the disruptive effects of these vehicles will lead to a loss of jobs downtown, as office tenants move and customers choose to travel elsewhere.

As you consider the regulations, I encourage you to establish a separate category for seated and non-alcoholic passenger vehicles. I support the call for opening hours to end at 11:00 p.m. with restrictions during peak hours on weekdays. I don’t see why this commission should issue permits for unenclosed vehicles, which pose greater safety risks and disruptions. One of the topics of discussion was the operating zones, which by its very nature is an acknowledgment of the quality of life issues these vehicles pose to residents and businesses. And since you determine the number of permits to assign, I want to point out that any number above zero is already a compromise.

In the words of urban planner Richard Florida, “blotto tourism” is a threat to a city’s image and economy. It’s time to regulate the party. Let me repeat that there is no public need for these party vehicles. In fact, there is a public need not to have these vehicles on our streets, inconveniencing residents and businesses.

I ran for mayor to make Nashville work for everyone. And right now we have an unworkable situation with dozens of party vehicles that only work for owners and drivers who have a reckless disregard for the quality of life here. Help me solve this problem and protect the public interest.

Thank you for your tireless work on this issue serving the neighbors of Nashville.

Sincerely,
John Cooper
Mayor

Upload the signed letter to the Transport Licensing Commission

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