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 7 waits for a mother and child who usually board here en route to school. No sign. Oh! Tat's right. School's not in today, she remembers, pushing the bus to Second Street at a leisurely pace, like an airplane taxiing out of the gate. A stocky 30-something with a brown goatee, khaki-hued jacket and dark pants boards. He settles for the front row — three seats facing inward with an identical row directly across, sort of like a rib cage of seats. He's headed to work at a drugstore in east Louisville. His name is Kalt, at least that's the German family name he'd like to provide as his identity. As the 23 makes its way through the Highlands, the crowd thins. Out- side, the sun begins to tear clouds into thin wisps. If Kalt had been on the bus about an hour ago headed southeast on Bardstown, a neon orange sun would've emerged strong and majestic nearly straight ahead, a little romance to the routine. Most days, Kalt's commute takes 40 minutes. Last week, though? What a mess. It was just he and Pruitt on the bus. When she stopped at the train tracks that cross Six Mile Lane, she was met with a train stuck on the tracks. It jammed trafc for 45 minutes. It was Kalt's second day at his job. He got nervous. What would his boss think — second day and strolling in late? Pruitt got on the radio to a TARC supervisor. He came out and drove Kalt to work, personal-chaufer style. "Tat was so nice of him," Kalt says, smiling. He hasn't had a license since he was 21 years old. "I let it expire and . . ." Kalt gestures a "poof!" with his hands. He relishes not burning money on gas. Still, he understands why others avoid public transit. "It can be anxiety-inducing," he says. During peak commute hours, dozens cram into the 40-foot-long capsules. "What if someone pulled out a gun or knife?" Kalt says. "Where would you go?" Such violence is rare but not unheard of. In 2008, a fght on a TARC bus led to a shooting at 10th and Broadway. Last year, two men allegedly shot a teenager on a 23 at Goldsmith Lane and Bardstown Road. All-day riders report horror stories: fghts, babies fying of their mothers' laps when the driver hits the brakes too hard, more fghts. Still, those same riders report feeling safe. Fear adheres to memory. Te absurd percolates, shading perceptions of what one might encounter on a TARC bus. In the days following this 12-hour ride the colorful will survive: the early-morning ride with Kent and his friend; an elderly woman in Jackie O. sunglasses and headscarves chatting to herself with the cadence and pep of an accordion polka; a glossy-eyed teen demanding use of my cell phone; an overheard conversa- tion: "Remember how I was in for that meth thing? Tey just got me on robbery. Ha ha." But in proportion, the hours of shared silence largely outweighs these brief encounters. By the time Pruitt's bus pulls into the parking lot of the Meijer on South Hurstbourne Lane, Kalt is the last passenger. Tey say goodbye. She parks the bus for her 25-minute break, opening her Kindle to a game of Candy Crush. So far her day's been easy. No crazy drivers. Sometimes they cut her of or box her in. She clutches the wheel and looks to the heavens. "I pray a lot," she says with a laugh. "Pastor says whatever's going on with that person? Just let it go." God hears from Pruitt more in the afternoons when she drives the notorious No. 18. A quick lesson on the 18, the marathon of TARC routes split between two long legs — one spanning 12 miles from Market Street all the way down Dixie Highway into Valley Station. As of 2012, when an express route got cut, the 18 stretched out even more, reaching past the Gene Snyder Freeway. Te 18's other, stumpier leg heads down Preston High- way and swerves into Okolona. One round trip to Valley Station and back takes Pruitt about fve hours. Her left knee (the one that doesn't drive) stifens. Her fngers freeze as the bus gulps cold air at each stop. And she endures this question often: "Why are you late?" Te route is so long, trafc so heavy on Dixie Highway in the afternoon, buses can eas- ily fall behind. Te 18's known for large crowds, carrying slightly more riders than the 23. (TARC's actually just added three afternoon buses to this route to help reduce overcrowding.) Tree years ago, a $1 million federal grant helped pay for increased service on the 23 and 18. Buses now come every 12-15 minutes for most of the day, down from roughly every 30 minutes. As it turns out, ofer bus riders more service, more service they will take. Te number of boardings grew 21 percent the frst year of the grant, 8 percent the second year. Now in its fnal year of the grant, TARC plans to keep this popular service fowing. Pruitt glances at the clock programmed into the bus's GPS. It reads 9:40. She turns her bus on with a switch, wheels the bus in one wide arc and begins retracing her route. Trough Jefersontown, down Six Mile Lane, few passengers board. In that respect it's a quiet ride, save for the rattling of metallic joints. Tat's constant. As is the hum of air. Occasionally, a shrill Beep! Beep! Beep! pierces eardrums. Tat's the bus kneeling down for an elderly rider or wheelchair. Hit a pothole at 30 miles per hour and . . . THUD! Twenty-six thousand pounds of clumsy could make thunder quiver. So the bus never travels in total peace. "Hey, I only have a dollar and I have to get to class," says a scrufy 20- ish man with sagging pants after stepping on board. Pruitt waves him in. She picks up two teens standing at the wrong bus stop. In the High- lands, near Kentucky Refugee Ministries, she picks up two Asian men who barely speak English. She looks at a sheet of paper they carry. Yel- low highlighter illuminates two lines of text. Pruitt slowly explains how they'll transfer to a diferent bus once on East Broadway. As ungraceful as this bulky machine is, those who steer them extend grace daily. CONTINUED ON PAGE 116 42-53 Abort BUS.indd 47 2/19/14 3:11 PM

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