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If You Work in Downtown Louisville You Probably Drive—and You May Have Concerns About Alternatives

City officials want fewer downtown Louisville workers commuting by car, especially those that do so alone.About 65,000 people work in the downtown area and a recent survey found that nearly 78 percent made the commute alone in a vehicle.  About 7 percent ride with a friends or family.Patti Clare, the director of multi-modal transportation for Vision Louisville, said an ongoing initiative called Move Louisville is aimed at addressing the issues related to getting around the city. One of the strategic goals is to “decrease that percentage of people that drive alone.”“Be that by shared rides, by transit, by bikes or by walking,” she added.Currently, nearly 10 percent of downtown workers commute via TARC and about 3 percent go by bicycle, according to the Louisville Metro Transportation Survey, published in June 2014.So, how do city officials plan on getting people to leave the car at home? Clare said that is a question the public is encouraged to help answer.  Through Dec. 15, public comment is being sought regarding the Move Louisville initiative, which is a long range multi-mode transportation plan looking to increase mobility between downtown areas and rural Jefferson County.The initiative addresses a swath of proposed projects relating to bike lane markings to a complete overhaul of Broadway.Terrell Holder, a spokesman for the Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation, said Move Louisville is a step to creating a more “robust transportation system,” which is necessary before people decide to nix the car for public transit. Kim Bradley works in downtown Louisville. She said she drives to work alone everyday.Bradley said she lives in eastern Jefferson County—too far to bike, and the bus would take too long. She also believes “it’s not safe.”She said if the day ever came that she decided to not drive “the buses would have to become more safe” and “they would have more direct routes to downtown.”Bradley isn't alone in her impressions of public transit. Respondents to the survey who said they haven’t recently ridden a TARC bus say it’s because the trip takes too long (28.7 percent) or they feel unsafe (26.2 percent).Jeremy Johnson also works downtown and said he drives because he doesn’t quite feel safe commuting by bike, and the TARC system doesn’t fit in his schedule.“There is a selfish amount of ‘I want to get there when I want to get there,’ and I’m frequently running behind,” he said.  “It’s just not convenient.”Many respondents (47 percent) said they do not use the bus because they need their vehicle before or after work.  And nearly 60 percent of respondents said they don’t feel comfortable in traffic when they ride a bicycle.But for some workers, the cost of driving is too much.  More than 62 percent of respondents who said they frequently ride TARC said a main incentive is the cost savings that come with public transportation.A single ride on a TARC bus is $1.75, a monthly pass is $50, according to TARC’s website.  The 46 percent of respondents who said they paid for parking in downtown Louisville pay an average of $56 a month.Clare acknowledges that it will be struggle to decrease the amount of people driving alone into the downtown area for work everyday.“We’re not going to wake up tomorrow morning and not use our car, we’re not going to be that kind of community,” she said. But she added that it’s time to start a conversation that focuses on developing a strategic approach to making public transit more attractive and communities more walkable—with less desire for vehicles.“Louisville is a community of communities,” she said.  “We need to connect those places so that people can get from one place to another more easily.”

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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