The Transit Authority of River City (TARC), Louisville’s government-owned bus company, announced today that it wants to raise fares and make service changes, including elimination of nine express routes, to offset a projected $4.6 million budget shortfall next fiscal year which begins July 1.
The changes are proposed at a time when ridership is increasing and TARC is improving service on some routes with targeted federal funding, TARC Executive Director J. Barry Barker said. TARC will continue using federal funds to provide 15-minute bus arrival service on two major routes - Broadway and Bardstown Road (Rt. #23) and Dixie and Preston Highways (Rt. #18). TARC is optimistic it will have additional targeted funding to expand frequent bus arrival times to Fourth Street (Rt. #4) next fiscal year, Barker said. The frequent and fare-free trolley service downtown will also continue with the help of contributions from business organizations, he said.
"We simply do not have the operating revenue to continue the level of service we now provide everywhere because of rising expenses for fuel, health care, pensions and other costs," Barker said. "The proposed changes are designed to keep as much service as possible to meet the greatest needs with a balanced budget."
The fare increases would take effect July 1 and changes to routes would begin Aug. 12, under the proposal. "We encourage public feedback on all the proposals and we will carefully consider comments before any decisions are final," Barker said.
TARC's Board of Directors earlier this week approved an upcoming annual budget including proposed fare increases and route changes. The Board is expected to take final action on a rate increase at a regular scheduled meeting on May 21 when TARC also expects to finalize schedule changes.
Under the proposal, one-way adult fare would increase from $1.50 to $1.75 and a monthly pass would increase from $42 to $50. The proposed rates are in line with public transportation fares charged in Indianapolis and Cincinnati where one-way adult fare is already $1.75. TARC has not raised its base fare since 2008.
Barker said the proposed route changes are based on an analysis of ridership trends and operating costs. TARC currently operates 46 routes in Jefferson, Bullitt and Oldham counties in Kentucky and Clark and Floyd counties in Indiana. The nine express routes proposed for elimination out of a total of 16 express routes have experienced low ridership and high operating costs, Barker said.
One other route, #74-Jeffersonville, would also be eliminated as part of a major restructuring of TARC service in Southern Indiana, under the proposed changes. The proposed Indiana service is designed to better address population and employment centers, with the level of overall service in Indiana unchanged, Barker said. The proposed service would extend to River Ridge Commerce Center in Eastern Clark County and the Veterans Parkway corridor between Jeffersonville and Clarksville. Routes will continue to cross the river but the Southern Indiana express routes are among those proposed for elimination.
"We are working hard to make our service as responsive to the needs as possible," Barker said, adding that ridership is up about 10 percent compared to last year and demand is expected to continue to grow as more people seek relief from rising gas prices.