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TARC to end express buses and modify other routes in August

TARC Route 61X is one of four express bus routes in Louisville that will end in August.
Jacob Munoz
/
LPM
TARC Route 61X is one of four express bus routes in Louisville that will end in August.

Louisville bus commuters will have fewer and slower options for getting between downtown and the East End, after changes announced Wednesday by the Transit Authority of River City take effect.

The agency detailed the changes in a press release and said they would “improve overall system efficiency, and adjust service to areas where it is most needed.”

TARC’s Board of Directors approved the alterations, first proposed in March, last month. The changes will happen on August 6.

Six bus routes across Louisville Metro will be modified in terms of where they run, and bus frequency will change on a couple:

  • Route 4 Fourth Street
  • Route 6 Sixth Street (less frequent on weekdays and weekends)
  • Route 10 Dixie Rapid
  • Route 18 Dixie Highway (less frequent on weekdays, more frequent on weekends)
  • Route 52 Medical Circulator
  • Route 74 Chamberlain Lane-River Ridge

The agency is also ending its four express routes, which connect eastern Jefferson County to downtown using highways:

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

Express bus ridership has been extremely low, according to TARC data shared with LPM News. Operating costs per passenger ranged from $53 to $132 in 2022, much higher than busier trips like Route 4 and 10 that cost under $15 per ride.

Alex Posorske, TARC’s communications director, said the agency decided on cutting express service in order to respond to a projected fiscal cliff in the next several years once emergency federal support from the COVID-19 pandemic runs out.

“Eliminating routes is not a step to ever take lightly. But with limited resources, we do have to make frequent and honest assessments of the route system,” Posorske said.

The initial proposal did not include changes to Route 52, which runs downtown and connects to the medical campus there. It did propose changing Route 72, which goes to Clarksville, to have longer wait times between buses.

Posorske said TARC’s original plan was to use electric buses on Route 72 but decided to shift them to Route 52 instead.

He added that TARC will notify commuters of the route changes through messages at bus stops, flyers on buses and other means.

Local concerns

TARC held four public meetings and received more than 50 public comments about the proposed bus route changes, according to agency data.

The changes to Route 18, which runs along Dixie Highway, received the most public support.

That route’s buses will now reach the southwest campuses of the University of Louisville Medical Center and Jefferson Community and Technical College, in exchange for cutting some service along Dixie Highway.

The least popular proposals were the cuts to express routes, which respondents mostly opposed.

Posorske said TARC conducted a Title VI analysis that “did not find any disparate impacts to low-income or minority communities” that would be caused by the service changes.

Three of the four express routes will still be serviced by regular fixed-route buses that get to downtown less quickly.

But there isn’t a direct replacement for Route 61X from Middletown, which has many TARC stops that will be removed entirely.

That will affect Priyam Roy, who said Thursday morning he was using the express bus for the first time.

He was caught off guard by the upcoming cut and said he’s worried about getting to work on time because doesn’t have a car yet.

“I definitely think that is going to impact my daily commute to the office in a much more severe way,” Roy said.

He estimated getting an Uber or Lyft to commute would cost him at least ten times as much as bus fare.

In March, Six Republican Metro Council members sent a letter to TARC director Carrie Butler asking her to reconsider cutting the express routes serving their districts. They argued their communities are among the fastest-growing parts of the county in terms of population and development.

Rob Stephens, the agency’s chief operating officer, wrote in response that the express routes had high operating costs per passenger. He added that TARC was considering adding on-demand and micro-mobility transit, like shared bikes, in the Route 61X area.

“The basic idea of micro-mobility is for targeted service in areas where a fixed route doesn’t make sense,” said Posorske, saying the strategy is more similar to rideshare services than a traditional bus path.

TARC released a report in October looking at possible micro-mobility options across the city, including around Route 61X.

About 500,000 riders used TARC’s fixed routes in April, according to data shared at a recent Board of Directors meeting. The number of public bus commuters has been rising over the past two years but is still below pre-pandemic levels.

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