January 17, 2011
The classifieds in this issue include 1 notice, 12 bids & proposals, and 7 job opportunities!
TARC Focuses on Building a Stronger Community
BY J. BARRY BARKER, Executive Director, Transit Authority of River City, Louisville, KY
Rebounding from a year of service cuts and layoffs, the Transit Authority of River City (TARC) is refocusing on its mission to enhance the economic, social, and environmental well-being of the greater Louisville region.
Our focus and several TARC projects in development support community goals expressed by Louisville’s new mayor, Greg Fischer, who is emphasizing educational attainment, the key to job creation, and a healthy and compassionate community.
Working with community organizations, business, and education leaders, TARC is designing services with available resources to continually improve access to jobs, education, and recreational opportunities.
When TARC introduces its new electronic fare collection system, it will acquire technology that will help support community goals—especially those relating to education. By using identification cards to pay fares, the new system can produce information such as how many students attend which programs and the routes they take to get there. This data can help support and track activities that wrap around educational experiences and make them more successful.
Also, by working with community organizations and the city’s Department of Health and Wellness through a federal grant, TARC will provide service to improve access to parks and recreation as a way to help curb obesity and foster healthy lifestyles. We’re putting more bike racks on dedicated buses to offer more options for using bike loops and exercising.
Our green initiatives are continuing, providing a more energy- and cost-efficient operation—including the addition of new hybrid-electric buses. TARC continues to partner with a wide range of human and social service agencies to improve Louisville’s quality of life.
TARC’s growing partnerships with major employers also underscore the importance of public transportation for job access and as a recruitment tool for young professionals who prefer the bus to driving and parking.
All of these efforts are important ways to support a strong community, both now and in the future. Our population is aging, younger people want to drive less, and environmental concerns and rising energy costs make accessible public transportation a requirement for major cities to be successful.
Importance of Federal Funding
Federal funding is helping TARC be a strong part of community-building efforts. With nearly $17.8 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds, TARC built an energy-efficient maintenance and training building, completed several other cost-saving and needed facility upgrades, and purchased 10 hybrid-electric buses. The ARRA funding also offset operating revenue shortfalls, which meant we avoided even steeper service cuts and layoffs.
With another $9 million in competitive federal grant funding awarded last fall, TARC will install a new electronic fare collection system, make renovations to boost energy efficiency in its historic headquarters building, and add another eight hybrid buses to the fleet. The fare collection system, which will allow customers to pay with a card, will make the system easier to use while also providing TARC with information that will improve planning efforts and help address community transportation needs.
In addition, TARC will implement a new radio system this spring, providing technology that will allow the agency to know the precise locations of buses in service: a first step to further advancements that will make this information available to customers.
TARC is preparing a major service improvement in February with increased bus service on two popular routes that carry a total of 20 percent of our passengers. Federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds totaling $1 million will allow TARC to add new buses to these routes to provide for headways of 15 minutes or less between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays.
By demonstrating the popularity of public transportation with frequent, reliable service, TARC intends to generate additional funding to maintain and expand this type of service on other routes.
Our ridership is also growing through partnerships with nonprofit organizations such as the YMCA; major employers such as Humana and UPS; Louisville Metro government; and the University of Louisville. Employees can use their identification cards for fares under these partnerships.
We are stressing these efforts with increased attention to bolster community initiatives, especially a public-private partnership pursuing the goal of achieving 55,000 new college degrees in our community by 2020. At the University of Louisville alone, students, faculty, and staff have taken more than eight million trips in the past eight years by showing a school photo identification card when boarding a TARC bus.
Barker is a member-at-large on the APTA Executive Committee.