Getting to grips with the transport options in a new city is crucial for newcomers to settle in their adopted home, and those moving to Nashville will have to research how they will get around. Prospective Nashvillians moving from places where they were perhaps accustomed to and relied heavily on public transport will likely need to make some adjustments in the 'Music City'.

Nashville’s public transport infrastructure is nearly non-existent outside the city centre, meaning most residents drive, and newcomers will likely have to do the same. That said, there are occasions when it is easier to use other forms of transport too, so below is an overview of getting around in Nashville.


Public transport in Nashville

Anyone who has lived in a city with a sophisticated public transport system, such as New York City, Boston or Chicago, will be disappointed when they see what Nashville has to offer in terms of mobility.

Nashville’s public transport infrastructure is limited, to say the least. Anyone who plans to settle down here will soon realise that investing in a car makes sense, especially considering the long distances of the average daily commute.

E-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are popular in Nashville and provide a convenient alternative for those occasions when driving isn't an option.

Bus in Nashville by Brett Sayles

Buses

WeGo Public Transit, formerly known as Nashville MTA, is the authority in charge of the city’s bus network and that of the wider Davidson County area. The network is designed around a central hub, with more than 30 bus routes in operation throughout Nashville, covering downtown and some of the surrounding areas.

While the bus system in Nashville is sufficient, it isn't the most viable option for people commuting from the suburbs, as services aren’t all that regular and buses rarely run on time. They generally run from 5am into the evening – limited late-night services are available, but they only cover certain areas.

Overall, new arrivals who have lived elsewhere in the US may find that Nashville’s bus operations are substandard compared to the advanced systems found in other prominent cities.

The system’s Music City Circuit is a free service that covers key parts around downtown Nashville and the Gulch. It is mostly used by tourists residing in the downtown area and doesn't provide much value for long-term residents of the city.

Trains

The WeGo Star is the name of Nashville’s single-line commuter train. It runs from Lebanon to Riverfront Station, stopping at Donelson, Hermitage, Mount Juliet and Martha along the way.

Two express shuttle services linked to the WeGo Star transport commuters from Riverfront station to other key parts of the downtown area such as Broadway, West End and Vanderbilt.

The train operates from Monday to Friday from 5.45am. There are three trips in the morning and three in the afternoon. On Fridays, there is an evening train too.

WeGo Star fares are reasonable, offering ten-ride and monthly passes for further savings. Kids under the age of four ride for free, and there are various discounts for students, pensioners, people with disabilities and Medicare cardholders.

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Taxis in Nashville

As one might expect of any midsized city, cabs are pretty easy to come by in Nashville, especially in the downtown area. Several reputable taxi companies are operating in Nashville. Some big names include Allied Cab, Music City Taxi and Checker Cab.

Most taxi companies will get people where they need to be 24/7. In busy parts of Nashville's city centre, such as Broadway or Midtown, one can easily hail a cab at all hours. Elsewhere, it's better to pre-book a vehicle by phoning ahead.

E-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber are well-established in Nashville. Although most Nashvillians have their own cars, ridesharing is a great option for times when no one wants to be the designated driver or on game days when parking becomes a nightmare.

Users need to download the relevant app on their smartphone, register for the service using a credit card, and they're all set.

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Cycling and scooters in Nashville

Here is a form of transport that newcomers might not be used to but may enjoy nonetheless. Electric scooters are a nifty, sustainable alternative to driving and have become an incredibly popular way of getting around in the city – so much so that multiple scooter companies have seen the value in tapping into this lucrative market.

The popularity of cycling as a means of getting around in Nashville is also on the rise. The city authorities have also taken note and invested heavily in cycling infrastructure, which means the city now has a growing collection of designated bike lanes to ensure cyclists can get about safely. Bike lock-up facilities have also become more readily available throughout Nashville.

The City of Nashville has launched a cycle-sharing programme known as Nashville BCycle. Companies such as Bird and Lime have also created scooter-sharing apps which allow users to track scooters near them. By registering with a credit card, users can access hundreds of scooters in Nashville.

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Driving in Nashville

Driving in Nashville by Tolga Ahmetler

As is the case in much of the US, owning a car in Nashville is pretty much a necessity. Public transport is barely sufficient for those living in the downtown area and central suburbs, as operating hours are limited.

Driving in Nashville will give newcomers far more freedom in terms of getting around at their own leisure and choosing a neighbourhood to settle down in. 

One major downside to driving in Nashville is that traffic is terrible at times, especially during rush hour. Unexpected delays due to construction and road accidents are also fairly common. Smartphone apps such as Google Maps and Apple Maps provide good congestion indicators and help drivers plan their journey by suggesting alternative routes.

Another thing that drivers need to bear in mind is the cost of parking, which can easily mount up, especially if one travels downtown regularly. Free street parking can be difficult to come by, and parking lots are increasingly expensive the closer you get to city hotspots.

Obtaining a local driving licence

Newcomers moving to Nashville from another state must obtain a Tennessee driving licence within 30 days of making the move. Foreigners seeking a US driving licence in Tennessee can submit an application on the Driver Services Centre e-services portal. They will then need to visit a Driver Services Centre with their original driving licence, Motor Vehicle Records (MVR), proof of legal citizenship, social security number, and proof of Tennessee residency.

Expats from countries with reciprocal agreements with the US can exchange their foreign driving licence for a local one. Others must take and pass a knowledge test and a practical driving test to obtain their Tennessee driving licence.

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Walking in Nashville

Nashville is considered one of the least walkable cities in the US. Around three-quarters of Nashville’s population live in the suburbs, where having a car is deemed a necessity. Even within some of the suburbs, residents need a car to get to the local grocery shop or to drop their kids off at school.

Despite the city's general sprawling nature, some suburbs are highly walkable and may, in fact, be better explored on foot. Germantown, Hillsboro Village and East Nashville are some of the areas that are great for a leisurely stroll.

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