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TARC Considers Cutting Routes Because of Budget Shortfall

The Transit Authority of River City on Tuesday proposed reducing routes to make up for a nearly $1.2 million budget shortfall.

The proposed reductions affect buses serving routes on Broadway, Dixie Highway, Preston Highway and Fourth Street, among others, according to a news release.

The cuts would allow TARC to keep its operating costs on budget in the upcoming fiscal year—but they would also mean fewer stops along those busy corridors, director Barry Barker said.

Barker said the need for these changes is due to "more service on the street than what we've got funding to cover."

He stressed the changes are not to for efficiency sake.

"These are pure, straightforward funding decisions—we've got to pay the bills, we don't have the money to put the service out there we want," Barker said in an interview with WFPL.

Buses along the three routes, which include the 4, 18 and 23 buses, will arrive at stops every 13 to 15 minutes—slightly longer waits than currently found for those stops, Barker said.

The three routes account for nearly 48 percent of TARC's ridership, Barker said. Nearly 21,000 people travel along the routes each day.

TARC officials are "developing strategies" to monitor potential overcrowding that may occur on the routes slated for change, Barker said.

The funding issues arose because resources from federal, state and local entities aren't enough to meet TARC's needs, Barker said.

He said federal funding has fallen "flat," especially with the recent cut in funds from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program, which assisted in supporting three routes slated for reductions. 

State funding, he said, is "virtually nonexistent."

The transit authority receives about 60 percent of its funding from Louisville residents via a two-tenths percent occupational fee, known as the Mass Transit Trust Fund. The fund provides TARC with $2 for every $1,000 earned by residents and $2 for every $1,000 in corporate profits, Barker said.

This flattening of revenue sources is not consistent with ever increasing expenses, Barker added.

He said ridership continues to grow, but the revenue from bus fares accounts for about 17 percent of TARC's entire budget. A fare increase is not expected any time soon, he added.

"A fare increase—that's the most regressive of all alternatives," he said.

"The folks it hits are the lowest income users of TARC."

Barker said TARC will apply for a $1 million federal grant that will be aimed at helping boost service to area where jobs are located, like southern Jefferson County and Bullitt County.

That grant, he said, depends on a local match of $200,000.

"I think it's doable," he said. "We'll see who wants to join us, who wants to invest."

And urban sprawl add to the pressure of operating a transit service. Not only are buses traveling further to serve the same population, the people on the buses are being forced into longer bus rides, he said.

"On top of a long days work, so the attractiveness of being able to travel in this fashion gets reduced," he said.

Barker said state and federal governments need to step up.

The federal government needs to pass a "fully funded, long term authorization bill in Washington," the state of Kentucky needs to move out of the bottom rung of funding for public transportation and there needs to be a "concerted effort locally to get more funding."

A  spokesman for Mayor Greg Fischer said in an email: "It's unfortunate and highlights why we need the transportation bill to pass in Washington, D.C."

TARC officials are asking for public input on the changes before they are finalized.

The public comment period will last through May 22. Three public meetings will be held and residents are also encouraged to reach out to TARC on Twitter, Facebook, email and phone.

Here is when and where the public meetings will be held:

  • May 12 11 a.m. - 1 p.m., Louisville Free Public Library Shawnee Branch, 3912 West Broadway
  • May 13 11 a.m. - 1 p.m., Louisville Free Public Library Main Branch, 301 York St
  • May 13 5 - 7 p.m., Southwest Government Center, 7219 Dixie Highway

And here are the specifics of the proposed route changes. Information provided by TARC:
#4-Fourth Street – Weekday bus arrival times will be every 13 minutes instead of every 10 minutes from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. north of Central Ave. On Saturdays, bus arrival times will be extended from every 20 minutes to every 25 minutes from 10 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. On Sundays, bus arrival times will be every 25 to 30 minutes all day.

#18-Dixie- Preston Highway – Bus arrival times will remain every 15 minutes on the main parts of the route. On Dixie Highway south of Heaton Road, bus frequency will be reduced from every 15 to every 30 minutes. No changes are proposed on weekends.

#23 – Broadway– From 6 a.m.- 6 p.m. on weekdays, bus arrival times will be extended from every 12 to 13 minutes between Shawnee Park and Bardstown Road and Taylorsville Road. On weekdays, 20 minute bus frequency will begin at 8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. Service frequency on route branches will be extended from every 36 minutes to every 39 minutes. No changes are proposed on weekends.

#65X - Sellersburg Express – Elimination of a mid-day round trip experiencing low ridership.

#25-Oak-Westport Crosstown – Bus arrival times will be adjusted slightly with no service reductions.

#17-Bardstown Road – The eastbound trip leaving 8th Street and Jefferson Street at 5:06 p.m. will instead leave at 5:11pm.

#40-Taylorsville Road – The westbound trips leaving Michael Edward Drive at 11:31 a.m. and 12:46 p.m will leave 5 minutes later.

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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