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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3.14 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 4 5 woman's name is Lisa. She works at a packaging plant near downtown. (Lisa tells me her last name but the bus heaves at that very moment, muddying the spelling of it in my recorder.) A tiny silver stud in her right nostril, Lisa would rather have her own car to take to work, but "you do what you got to do." As with most riders I will talk to today, the bus is really her only option. TARC beats walking. For 45 minutes, Lisa scrolls through her phone, occasionally pausing to gaze out the window. For such a collective, confned space, passengers move in isolation. Head- phones pump music into ears. A book cracks open; heads tilt down. Smartphones deliver Facebook or Twitter updates and Candy Crush (a popular video game). Imaginations wander but interactions between strangers rarely surface, especially on a reluctant Monday morning. As the bus moves west down Bardstown Road, passengers rotate on and of. Wet footprints glisten along the foor. Not surprisingly, the stretch of the 23 spanning the Highlands to downtown collects the most diverse crowd. White men and women board, some fashing TARC passes, on their way to work. (Interesting side note: TARC data shows that only 7 percent of individuals who make $25,000 or less have their TARC fare paid for by employers, while nearly half of riders making $75,000 or more have employers who cover their fare.) In the after- noon, it appears Highlands residents hop on and of for errands. Still, 72 percent of the 23's riders are African-American. Seventy percent also earn less than $25,000 a year. One rider I speak with in the afternoon says this surprises her. You'd think as the neighborhoods change, demographics would shift. After all, a recent Metro Human Relations Commission report showed 45 percent of Louisville residents live in "extreme segregation." (White households live among white neighbors in more afuent eastern segments of the city. Black house- holds live in black neighborhoods in older, urban areas.) But as the 23 travels through the elegant homes of Shawnee Park, past dollar stores on West Broadway, and along brick ranches stacked near Jefersontown, ridership never dramatically alters. Te 23 isn't alone in this. While 15 percent of the region's popula- tion is African-American, 55 percent of TARC total ridership is black. Tirty-seven percent of TARC riders are white. Yet Caucasians total 77 percent of the region's population. TARC data shows that while 60 percent of minority riders make less than $25,000 a year, 44 percent of white riders fall into that category. TARC reports that minority riders tend to average longer trips, having to travel farther to get to shopping and jobs. TARC can't control income gaps or the length of commutes. Land-use policies play a big role. A lack of economic development in poor, black neighborhoods shoulders some blame. Rolling through downtown, passengers disappear at Floyd and Broadway. A large crowd exits at Fourth. After fve years as a bus driver, Chris Jarrett has memorized 23's passenger patterns. Te 41-year-old with a boyish grin is a tell-it-like-it-is sort of guy. ("I guarantee I can drive a bus in reverse around a whole city block and not hit one thing!" he jokes one morning.) Barely breaking for a breath, he runs through points along the 23. "I know when I get to Fourth Street, I'm going Tarc's map of route No. 23 (top); Tammy Pruitt (above), an eight-year TARC veteran, drives the No. 23 on a February morning. 42-53 Abort BUS.indd 45 2/20/14 3:31 PM

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