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TARC riders to pay more, keep route

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By Alex Wimsatt

    LOUISVILLE - Those concerned that the Transit Authority of River City would halt service to Bullitt County can now breathe a sigh of relief.

    On Monday morning, TARC’s board of directors unanimously agreed to accept a recommendation by Executive Director Barry Barker to take 66X and 15 other express routes off the chopping block.

    Instead of eliminating the Bullitt County Express, Barker proposed reducing service from three buses to two and increasing fare by $1. Under the proposal, fare would go from $1.50 to $2.50. If approved, the fare increase and run reduction would take effect on Sunday, June 6.

    Bullitt County Express rider Carolann Ascolesi of Shepherdsville said she was very pleased with the board’s decision.

    “I think that’s a good idea if it works for them. Of course its amicable for us,” Ascolesi said. “I don’t think they’ll find anyone who’ll object to paying more.“

    From the beginning, Ascolesi and others have advocated raising fares to maintain service to the county and help offset the nearly $140,000 annual cost of the route.

    Ascolisi said she and others were also agreeable to having service reduced to two buses. “We dealt with two buses before, we’ll deal with it again,”

    Ascolesi said. “As long as we have the service available I’m happy and I’m sure everyone else feels the same way,” she said.  “Everyone just wanted to keep the route.”

    Barker’s recommendation to keep the route came after receiving comments from over 200 66X riders and attending a series of public hearings where riders were adamant about saving their route.

    “It really came home how critical the service was to them,” Barker said.

    Ascolesi felt she spoke for everyone who rode 66X in saying how thankful she was that TARC officials reconsidered eliminating 66X.

    “Everyone involved gets a big thank you for this,” she said.

    The board had originally considered a Feb. 22 proposal to eliminate the Bullitt County Express route 66X and 19 other routes as a way to help close the $5.5 million budget gap TARC faces in the 2011 Fiscal Year, which begins on July 1.

    Board Chairman Cedric Powell said Barker and his staff have been working very hard to avoid cutting service and the board has considered all public comments.

    “I want to assure you we’ve taken everything very seriously,” Powell said.

    Along with raising fare and reducing service on 66X, TARC will probably eliminate four routes, make fewer runs on 12 routes, change three routes and combine two routes.

    As a result of the new proposal, TARC officials expect to cut the 2011 FY shortfall by $2.6 million. Barker said they were looking into other possible ways to make up for the remaining deficit, including cutting administrative and information technology costs. Barker said federal funds were also a possibility.

     “If you get the sense we’re scrounging, yes we’re scrounging,” Barker said.

    Barker added that despite the budget shortfall, TARC was working on improving service with things like hybrid buses and a new maintenance annex, paid for with federal grant funds.

    “I don’t want to leave any impression that we’re shriveling up and blowing away,” Barker said. “We have some aggressive plans. TARC will be here in the future.”

    TARC will be holding public hearings to discuss the proposed $1 fare increase on 66X and 15 other routes for those who wish to offer comments or ask questions. Those who wish to offer their thoughts can email TARC by clicking “Contact Us” at ridetarc.org, or by calling (502) 561-5112.