Axios Nashville

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February 15, 2024

Good morning! Let's all wipe the chocolate off our mouths and get this Thursday started.

Situational awareness: U.S. Rep. Mark Green, a Republican who represents part of Nashville in Congress, announced yesterday he would not seek re-election.

  • "This place is so broken, and making a difference here is just you know, just it feels like a lot of something for nothing," he told Axios.
  • Green's seat representing Tennessee's 7th congressional district will be on the ballot in November. Former Mayor Megan Barry is running in the Democratic primary; the Republican primary is now wide-open.

Today's newsletter is 870 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Our commutes are getting longer

Change in average travel time by car, 2021 to 2023
Data: TomTom; Map: Axios Visuals

Traveling by car in Nashville is taking longer these days, but work is underway at the city and state levels to pump the brakes on stubborn traffic jams.

Why it matters: More time stuck in traffic means less time for family, friends, and life in general.

By the numbers: The average 6-mile trip in Nashville's city center took 11 minutes and 6 seconds last year, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Kavya Beheraj report from new TomTom data.

  • That's 48 seconds longer than in 2021.

Driving the news: Car commutes have largely gotten slower across America since the mid-pandemic era — likely a reflection of increased traffic as more people head back to the office at least some of the time.

Reality check: Even with a significant increase, Nashville is still slightly behind the national average.

Average travel time by car, 2023
Data: TomTom; Note: U.S. overall includes average of 80 cities; Chart: Axios Visuals

State of play: Last year, a coalition of downtown residents and businesses in Nashville worked with the city to identify changes that could alleviate some of the congestion in the urban core.

Zoom out: The Tennessee Department of Transportation has identified increasing congestion as a statewide problem as the population continues to grow.

  • The agency is working alongside researchers to study traffic patterns on a particularly busy stretch of Interstate 24 in Middle Tennessee. Experts hope to use their findings to chip away at time-consuming traffic jams.
  • Vanderbilt University engineer Dan Work tells Axios the data is already informing some improvements. For instance, he says, researchers have determined how to use variable speed limit signs to ease sudden slowdowns as drivers head into heavier congestion.

Of note: Not everyone returning to the roads is doing so by car. In 2023, WeGo Public Transit reported that ridership had measured an increase of 1.8 million rides over the previous fiscal year.

What's next: Mayor Freddie O'Connell is on the verge of unveiling an ambitious push to expand public transportation options. The plan would appear on the ballot in November.

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2. Music City Grand Prix leaving downtown

A race at the Nashville Superspeedway in June 2023. Photo: Logan Riely/Getty Images

The Music City Grand Prix is moving from downtown to the Nashville Super Speedway in Wilson County, race organizers announced yesterday.

Why it matters: The IndyCar road course race held three annual events in Nashville and previously announced plans for a return in 2024.

  • Race organizers said last year the course would shift from primarily around Nissan Stadium to covering more downtown streets west of the Cumberland River, including a pass through Lower Broadway.

Details: Music Row executive Scott Borchetta recently assumed control of the Music City Grand Prix. According to a press release, Borchetta spent recent weeks reviewing plans for the downtown course before deciding a move to the Super Speedway is the better option.

  • Borchetta praised O'Connell's administration for working with his team to try to make the race happen.
  • Titans stadium construction is scheduled to finish in 2027. "We fully intend to continue conversations with [the Titans and Metro] as to when the right time will be to return to the streets of Nashville," Borchetta said in a press release. O'Connell also said he looks forward to the race returning to downtown.

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3. Effort to honor Allison Russell stalls

Allison Russell poses with her new Grammy. Photo: Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Tennessee House Republican leader blocked state Rep. Justin Jones' resolution honoring Allison Russell, a singer-songwriter who won her first Grammy for her performance of the song "Eve Was Black."

  • Jones' similar resolution honoring the band Paramore for its win in the best rock album category was approved without objection.

State of play: House Republican Caucus chair Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) objected to the Russell resolution Monday night, per the Tennessean. His reasoning was not discussed.

What they're saying: Jones (D-Nashville) praised Russell on social media, saying she had "worked tirelessly to foster an inclusive Nashville through her music and continues to make Black History here in Tennessee."

  • Russell, who has been critical of Republican lawmakers in recent years, said she considered the procedural block a "compliment."

Between the lines: Republicans briefly expelled Jones from his seat last year after he interrupted House business to protest for gun regulations. He was later re-elected.

  • Jones has continued to spar with Republicans during the current legislative session.

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4. The Setlist

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

📜 Language for a constitutional amendment that would allow judges to deny bail on a wider range of criminal charges is advancing with bipartisan support. (Tennessean)

📈 A new study ranks Metro Schools among the top districts in the country for academic recovery since the pandemic. (WPLN)

🩺 A Tennessee House committee advanced a bill that would make it illegal for an adult to help a minor get an abortion without parental consent. (The Associated Press)

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5. 🏠 Data du jour: Back to the nest

Share of millennials living with their parents, 2022
Data: U.S. Census via IPUMS; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Younger people are increasingly struggling to swing high housing costs and therefore returning to their childhood bedrooms or basements, Axios' Sami Sparber reports.

  • The number of Americans aged 25–34 living at home has jumped over 87% in the past two decades, according to census data.

Zoom in: More than 9% of millennials in Nashville were living with one or both parents in 2022.

📬 Tell us: If you're a millennial who came back home to live with a parent, or if you're a parent with a not-so-empty nest, hit reply and let us know what factors drove that decision.

Our picks:

Nate is still trying to convince Adam to finish watching "The Office" and would appreciate help from Axios Nashville readers.

😌 Adam loved his Valentine's date, which included takeout food and "The Great British Bake Off."

This newsletter was edited by Jen Ashley and copy edited by Katie Lewis.