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More Sheltered TARC Stops Depend on Community Support

Ernie Washington likes the scent of cedar emitting from the new bench.

He's at a newly unveiled TARC bus stop on the corner of Fourth and Kentucky streets, just south of downtown Louisville, on a recent Saturday.

But it's not just the brand-new smell that has Washington pleased. The stop now has a shelter.

“I’m not as spry and youthful as I used to be. Sometimes I need to sit down," he says.

Washington, 60, walks with a cane. And before this new shelter made of steel and wood was built, he had to wedge himself onto a concrete ledge and hunker beneath a tree when he waited here for the bus.

He doesn't own a vehicle and is a regular TARC rider. He takes the bus to dialysis appointments, to the store, sometimes to the library.

Few TARC stops provide seats and shelter to waiting riders. About 250 of some 4,500 stops are sheltered, according to information provided by TARC.

Shelters are expensive, and the transit authority already is working with a tight budget, said Aida Copic, director of planning for TARC.

Earlier this year, TARC cutservice to some of its busiest routes, including the route for this stop at Fourth and Kentucky.

Copic said new shelters cost nearly $10,000 to purchase and install. Maintenance costs pile on top of that too, she added.

But this new shelter is unique because it was funded primarily through community donations. It was also constructed by residents. Copic said community support is key for getting more sheltered stops added across the city.

She said the process for establishing a sheltered bus stop can be arduous. Strict requirements on sidewalk egress and handicap accessibility must be met before a stop can be put into use.

“If there is collaborative effort, it could be easy," she said.

Establishing something like an "Adopt-a-Shelter" program could give an incentive for residents to ensure neighborhood stops are clean and cared for, she said.

Nick Satterfield is an architect who helped source materials and build the shelter. With the aid of a matching grant from New York-based nonprofit TransitCenter, about $8,000 was raised.

Nearly $4,000 of that was spent on building this stop. The other $4,000 will go toward building a similar shelter in the Shelby Park neighborhood, Satterfield said.

He's happy to have TARC's support for the shelter, but he said the restrictions make erecting a sheltered bus stop somewhat taxing.

"They have a lot of rules, and they have a lot of liability they carry on their end. And they're very cognizant of that," he said.

Satterfield said the galvanized steel structure will last at least 75 years. And the nearby neighborhood association is on board to foot the bill for any maintenance costs moving forward.

Washington gives the shelter an approving nod and tests its durability with a tap from his cane. He has a few suggestions that could make it nicer, like more seats and walls to block the cold winter winds.

But he said he's pleased to see community members coming together to help him and other TARC riders.

"They should have did this a long time ago," he said.

Featured image of Ernie Washington at the new TARC stop by Jake Ryan/WFPL News. 

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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