Nashville has undoubtedly become one of America’s most desired tourist cities. In 2017, Nashville attracted nearly 14.5 million visitors. In 2016, visitors to our city spent more than $5.4 billion on hotels, dining, and Music City attractions. One popular attraction offered in Nashville is golf cart transportation in and around the downtown area. Visitors are able to explore the many attractions downtown Nashville has to offer in a fun, convenient, and relatively cheap way. However, this form of transportation has recently been under scrutiny and the target of new Metropolitan government regulations.
The relevant regulations posed a problem for one Nashville golf cart taxi service in late summer of 2017. The Metro Transportation Licensing Commission issued the taxi service a suspension and probationary period for operating outside the designated downtown area, citing safety concerns. Critics of the regulation responded with heavy criticism that the punishment was excessive.
However, examination of the Tennessee Code and the local Nashville Metropolitan Code has revealed ambiguous and inconsistent statutory language. Under the local Metropolitan code, golf carts appear to be implicitly categorized as Low Speed Vehicles. Under Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-1-122, a “Low speed vehicle” means any four-wheeled electric or gasoline vehicle, excluding golf carts, whose top speed is greater than twenty miles per hour (20 mph) but not greater than twenty-five miles per hour (25 mph). Despite the Tennessee legislature excluding golf carts from the definition of low speed vehicles, Metro-Nashville has categorized them as such and imposed operational area restrictions in order to ensure the safety of pedestrians and other motorists.
Pursuant to the Metro Code, golf carts are prohibited from operating in heavy traffic areas such as West End and the 12 South neighborhoods. This creates a dilemma for golf cart taxi companies wishing to travel in areas where tourist transportation is in high demand. Because of this regulation, golf carting services are forced to drop off visitors at the end of the metro-designated route, sometimes blocks from their desired location. As a result, visitors may opt for other forms of transportation, such as Uber and Lyft, to ensure that they will be brought to their exact desired location.
It is uncertain if Metro-Nashville will relieve some burdens placed on this form of transportation, or if they will be outlawed completely.
Submitted by Nikki Caruso, Legal Intern Spring 2018