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'Makes you feel trapped': TARC service changes hit riders and businesses

People seated in a glass bus stop
J. Tyler Franklin
Riders wait for a TARC bus at a stop near the Amazon warehouse at River Ridge in Southern Indiana in 2018. TARC adjusted the #71 route this week, along with several other service reductions.

Recent service changes implemented by the Transit Authority of River City are leaving some riders without reliable transportation, so they’re scrambling for alternate means.

Shawnee resident and aspiring social entrepreneur Yejide Travis had to grab a bag of sweet potatoes from the Kroger on west Broadway this week. It’s the grocery store closest to her, about a mile and a half away. Travis doesn’t have a car and depends on the TARC bus service.

But what was supposed to be a 40 minute trip on the #27 bus turned into a two-hour ordeal. Travis had to walk to the next stop. When the bus finally arrived, she had to make two transfers. That’s not how it used to be.

“Not being able to walk out and get on a public bus system makes you feel trapped,” she said.

Service reductions and cuts to TARC’s bus service that were initially planned for early 2025 kicked in this week.

The struggling transit agency announced last month that it was making weekday service on 19 fixed routes less frequent, while keeping Saturday and Sunday services the same.

It’s part of TARC’s effort to address a looming fiscal cliff, and comes after a deal with Jefferson County Public Schools, which is facing a bus driver shortage. TARC agreed to shift some drivers to JCPS to avoid laying them off.

Travis said no amount of notice would have helped her come up with alternate transportation in the event of service cuts.“I surrendered my driver's license because of seizures. So I don't have another choice,” she said.

Many Louisvillians, like Travis, are now faced with a double whammy: limited access to fresh food options and a lack of reliable transportation.

That will exacerbate food insecurity in the city, according to Taylor Ryan, executive director of local nonprofit Change Today, Change Tomorrow.

“Not a lot of people also have societal support, especially seniors, people who are disabled. Not everyone has a whole bunch of people to just depend on,” she said.

Employers and companies are also concerned about the route changes and cuts. TARC eliminated three routes this week. Two of them, #73 and #74, connected Louisville to the major River Ridge employment hub in Southern Indiana. The #71 route, which also connects River Ridge, will have different times and schedules throughout the day.

The two discontinued routes were funded by a temporary federal grant that was slated to expire soon, said TARC spokesperson Alex Posorske this week.

Over 80 companies operate at River Ridge. Those companies employed almost 12,000 people last year, according to River Ridge. They’re currently hiring for a few major projects like the upcoming Meta data center, Canadian Solar and a Cheesecake Factory Bakery.

Workers who use the service regularly and don’t have personal transportation may have to arrange for alternate means or risk arriving late or missing work.

Wendy Dant Chesser, the chief director of external affairs and corporate strategy at River Ridge Development Authority, said she understands TARC has to address its financial troubles.

She anticipated employers will begin to feel the impact of the service changes in the next couple weeks.

“We will stand ready to help provide solution ideas for them and with them, whether it's to communicate with TARC or whether it's to coordinate meetings to find other solutions,” Dant Chesser said.

Dant Chesser said she hopes TARC will revisit the changes and cuts in the future.

TARC will soon start its community-driven redesign process called TARC 2025. Residents can fill out a survey as part of TARC’s transit study process.

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.

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