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TARC shares plans for reducing and updating Louisville bus services

Photo by J. Tyler Franklin
TARC's proposed changes would go into effect in August 2023.

The agency intends to eliminate its weekday express bus trips, which use highways to connect eastern and southeastern Jefferson County with downtown Louisville:

  • Route 17X Bardstown Road Express
  • Route 31X Middletown Express
  • Route 40X Jeffersontown Express
  • Route 61X Plainview Express

Routes 17, 31 and 40 would continue covering the same journeys as the existing express trips. However, more than 20 stops on Route 61X in residential areas between Shelbyville Road and Interstate 64 would no longer operate.
Carrie Butler, TARC’s executive director, said the agency cut most of its express services in 2020 and wanted to see if ridership would be strong on the ones it kept.

“We've seen a pretty marked change in our commute patterns, especially with regard to work trips,” Butler said.

Last month, six Louisville Metro Council Republicans sent a letter to Butler expressing concern about the service changes impacting their districts.

Rob Stephens, the agency’s chief operating officer, wrote back saying the changes were intended to “[balance] our limited resources” and cited costly operating expenses. He added that the area around Route 61X was being considered for on-demand and micro-mobility transit options.

According to data shared by Jeremy Priddy, TARC’s executive communications manager, an average of 7 to 20 riders used each express trip daily in 2022. The agency spent an estimated $53-$132 per rider.

TARC also plans to update six routes across the Louisville area, which would add or remove stops and adjust how frequently buses arrive, among other changes:

  • Route 4 Fourth Street
  • Route 6 Sixth Street
  • Route 10 Dixie Rapid
  • Route 18 Dixie Highway
  • Route 72 Clarksville
  • Route 74 Chamberlain Lane-River Ridge

The routes TARC plans to update had 250-1,700 average daily riders, costing between $7-$20 per person, according to Priddy.
The agency said all the proposed changes would go into effect on August 6. It’s seeking comment on the plans through April 25 and will host a virtual public meeting on April 12.

Current routes are displayed on the map below. Proposed cuts are indicated in red, and proposed changes are indicated in yellow:

TARC hosted a public hearing for the proposed route changes Thursday at the Middletown Branch Library.

Carol Pike, mayor of the southeastern home-rule city of Jeffersontown, attended the hearing. She said she wanted to see how service changes would impact her city, and said she felt the proposals were appropriate.

“I understand why TARC has to do what they have to do. They cannot continue on with the routes they have with the amount of people that are taking the services that they offer,” Pike said.

Joel Benedict is a resident of the Douglass Hills neighborhood who also stopped by the meeting. He said he had been concerned that TARC’s proposed cuts would be larger than they actually were.

Benedict added that he hopes the agency will receive more funding in the future to add and improve routes — and increase ridership.

“If we don't spend money at TARC, we're going to be spending it elsewhere. So, you know, all this money that's not going towards TARC is going to go towards individual car maintenance,” he said.

According to TARC statistics on fixed routes, TARC ridership was near 500,000 commuters in February 2023 — about 100,000 more than a year earlier — but is still sharply below pre-pandemic levels. Buses are also running late more often than in previous years.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.