Louisville Magazine

MAR 2014

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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11 6 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.14 Tonta Williams, a mother of four, catches the 23 heading west near East Broadway and Barret Avenue, having just fnished an early-morning errand at the Urban Government Center on Barret. Te African-American 34-year-old greets passengers with an easy smile. Her long, straight strawberry-blond hair covers her shoulders. She's been riding the bus on and of since she was a teenager. Usually, it's the 18. She says she must budget up to two hours to arrive at her job at the Fairgrounds on time. (Particularly on weekends, commute times grow.) She lives near 22nd and Muhammad Ali. In a perfect scenario, a bus would head directly southeast. Instead, she rides the 18 north, then down Market, through downtown and up Preston toward her work. "It takes you all around the city before getting to the Fairgrounds," Williams says. TARC's executive director, Barry Barker, knows roundabout twists and loops deter potential riders from using public transit. "People want the bus outside their house when they want it with a cof- fee and newspaper," he jokes. "Tey want a per- sonal limousine service. We're not going to be able to do that. But how close can we come?" Barker would love to saturate the streets with more buses, more routes. "All it takes is money, right?" he says. About 60 percent of TARC's funding comes from a percentage of the Jeferson County Occupational License Fee, a tax employers and employees pay. Tis source of revenue is referred to as the Mass Transit Trust Fund or MTTF. (Fed- eral funds, fare box revenues and other sources make up the rest of TARC's fnancial streams.) If the economy slows, the MTTF sufers. Even when revenues from that source increase, the rate doesn't always ofset the burgeoning costs of fuel, employee health care and pensions. Williams leans her head on a window streaked gray and white from salt and snow. Te lifelong Louisvillian hopes to move to Charlotte, N.C., soon. A few friends just moved there. "I don't know for sure. It's in my plans though," she says. "I'm over this city." Her phone rings. She answers in a low voice, "Hello?" All around her, the 23's erupted in pockets of loud conversation. Someone pulls the yellow cord draped across windows. A dainty chime rings. A red message fashes: Stop Requested. Williams springs up, still talking on the phone, and disappears from the 23 on West Broadway. T wenty-three-year-old Savannah Hargrove hates cars. Never wants one. She's headed to a doc- tor's appointment. She recently had gallbladder surgery. Close to 20 times a day a 23 bus heads to the area around Baptist Hospital East and Norton Suburban Hospital in DuPont. A long brown po- nytail lays on Hargrove's back. A pink Winnie the Pooh bag rests at her side. She stares at a GPS on her phone. "Tis is way out here," she mumbles, keeping eyes glued to her phone. "I'm 200 feet away," she says, looking from her phone out the window. Her appointment is at 12:15. "Right on time," she says with a smile before exiting. A bus veteran, Hargrove knows that getting home from out here could take awhile if she misses her bus. While the 23 picks riders up about every 15 minutes at stops from Shawnee Park through the Highlands, service drops once out east. Sometimes there's close to 40 minutes between buses. I learned this the hard way after missing a westbound bus on Dutchmans Lane. I thought I could run across Breckenridge Lane and catch it a few blocks away. But slick, snowy patches of grass slowed my stride. I sloshed and slid (cursed a bit too) as the 23's square, fat rump sailed away. Twenty-six minutes later, my frozen toes are thawing aboard another 23. "Staying warm?" asks Tom Evens. Te jovial 35-year-old with a red beard, buzzed hair and a dandelion-yellow pufy coat looks like an expert outdoorsman. He's a long-haul trucker. Tis after- noon he's headed to the DMV downtown to clear up "issues" with his license. An extrovert, he greets many passengers with a "How you doing today?" Two out of fve times, he estimates, he successfully gets a stranger talking. "About the same average as the rest of the world," he says. Originally from upstate New York, Evens wound up in Louisville a few years ago after he "got lost," he jokes. Actually, his three-year-old daughter lives here. Evens rides TARC only occasionally, usually only if he's trying to avoid paying for parking or gas. Having utilized public transit in New York City — the gold standard — he gives Louisville's transit system average marks. He's experienced that stranded feeling before, stuck standing by a pole and a sign for 40 minutes. No bench to sit on. No shelter. Tat's a complaint among many users — a lack of lighting and a comfortable place to sit at stops. It doesn't help that along a lot of Jeferson County's eastern edges, where buses come less frequently, sidewalks aren't always available. It's worth noting, TARC has improvements in the works, including partnering with other agencies to improve lighting, ramps and sidewalks. Eleven hybrid buses will join the feet this year. TARC hopes to enhance service to and from Indiana as part of the Ohio River Bridges Project. Also, as part of Mayor Greg Fisch- er's Vision Louisville project, some 80,000 citizens contributed ideas as to how to improve transit. At a recent regional transportation meeting, a presentation by a transportation consultant envisioned a robust "multi-modal" transit system in Louisville by 2030. He showed slides of transporta- tion hubs scattered throughout the city, cute cofee shops and markets attached to the hubs. Not only would people wait for buses here, they could pop on a bike or borrow an electric car, dropping it of when done. It's all for sharing. A beautiful, idealis- tic vision. One that would require massive amounts of political will and money. At this same meeting, another slide graphic stated that if nothing changes, car trafc in our region is expected to increase 180 percent in the next 25 years. Transportation is tricky. Funding the needs, scrambling to fulfll the wants. Small, incremental steps agitate those who desire a sea change. Adding one line of bus rapid transit (for instance, a bus CONTINUED FROM PAGE 47 84-120 BACK.indd 116 2/20/14 2:41 PM

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