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Louisville Public Transit Use Among Lowest of Large U.S. Cities


Louisville residents use public transportation at one of the lowest rates among the nation's largest cities, according to new research from the University of Michigan.

The study, authored by Michael Sivak from University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute, examined data from the U.S. Census' 2013 American Community Survey to compare commuting habits of the 30 largest cities in the U.S.

Just 2.7 percent of Louisville residents use public transit, the study said. That is the 22nd lowest rate among the cities examined.

Several of Louisville's peer cities—as designated by the Greater Louisville Project—were listed in the study. Indianapolis, Memphis, Nashville have lower rates of public transit use than Louisville, the study said. Oklahoma City, also a peer city, had the lowest rate of public transit use at 0.7 percent.

Louisville's peer city with the highest use of public transit use is Charlotte, with 4.7 percent of workers, according to the study, which was first reported in Louisville by The Courier-Journal.

The lone form of public transit in Louisville is TARC, which provides bus service to nearly 47,000 riders each day across the Louisville Metro area, according to the transit authority.

TARC recently announced cuts to some of its busiest routes along Fourth Street, Broadway and Preston and Dixie Highways. The cuts come as federal grant funds diminish, Barry Barker, executive director of TARC, has previously said.

A 2014 study found that, among people working in downtown Louisville, about 10 percent commute via TARC.

People choose not to use TARC because they feel bus trips take too long (28.7 percent) or they feel unsafe (26.2 percent), according to the 2014 study.

Nearly half (47 percent) of the people who don't use TARC said it's because they need their vehicle before or after work, the 2014 study found.

The more recent study from the University of Michigan found that Louisville residents largely drive to work alone in a car, truck or van at the highest rate among the largest cities in the U.S.

Nearly 83 percent of Louisville residents commute alone in a vehicle, compared to 75 percent of Charlotte residents. New York City had the lowest rate of lone commuters (21 percent).

The cost of owning a vehicle is also a determining factor for some Louisville workers.

A 2010 American Automobile Association report found that Americans spend as much as $12,000 per year to own, operate and maintain their vehicles.

A single ride on a TARC bus is $1.75 and a monthly pass is $50, according to TARC’s website.  The 46 percent of the survey's respondents who said they paid for parking in downtown Louisville pay an average of $56 a month.

About 8 percent of Louisville workers carpool, the University of Michigan study found—the 24th lowest carpool rate among the nation's largest cities. Workers in Memphis carpool at the highest rate (12.8 percent).

Nearly 5 percent of Louisville workers don't have a vehicle, according to the study. The national average for workers without access to a vehicle is 4.5 percent.

Louisville also has among the lowest rates of residents who walk (2.1 percent) or bike (0.5 percent) to work, the study said. Each of these rates were just slightly below the national average—just 2.8 percent of U.S. workers walk to work and 0.6 percent ride a bike to work.

Among peer cities, Columbus, Ohio, had the highest rates of workers walking (2.8 percent) and biking (1 percent) to work, according to the study.

But the study also said a Louisville worker's commute is likely shorter than in other cities, the study found.

Louisville has the third shortest average commute time among the nation's largest cities (21 minutes). Only Columbus and Oklahoma City—both peer cities—have a shorter commute.

A recent Brookings Institution report said the number of jobs located within the typical Louisville commute distance (7.6 miles) is dwindling.

Most Louisville residents who work must commute, the University of Michigan study found. Just 2.4 percent of residents work at home in Louisville—the second lowest rate among the nation's largest cities.

Only Memphis has fewer stay-at-home workers. Portland and Austin (both with 7.1 percent) have the highest rates of residents who work from home. Among peer cities, Charlotte has the most residents (5.8 percent) who work from home.

Here are a few other interesting notes from the University of Michigan study:

  • The median age of Louisville workers is the oldest (41.7 years). Among peer cities, Columbus has the youngest crop of workers (37 percent).
  • Just about half (50.9 percent) of Louisville workers are male. Men make up 52.9 percent of the national workforce.
  • Louisville workers, on average, earn less than the average U.S. worker—$31,466 compared to $32,625 nationally.



Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.