Transit Authority of River City

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Transit Authority of River City
Tarc logo.png
Tarc 2013 Gillig Brt
Founded 1974
Locale Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Service area Louisville Metro
Service type Bus service
Routes 36
Fleet 176

The Transit Authority of River City (TARC) is the major public transportation provider for the Louisville, Kentucky, United States metro area, which includes parts of Southern Indiana. This includes the Kentucky suburbs of Oldham County, Bullitt County, Clark County, and Floyd County in southern Indiana. TARC is publicly funded and absorbed various earlier private mass transit companies in Louisville, the largest of which was the Louisville Transit Company.

TARC operates a fleet of 176 accessible buses, including numerous Hybrids, starting in 2004 TARC purchased Hybrid buses, and by 2008 started purchasing clean diesel buses for a cleaner greener fleet. Fast forward to late-winter 2013 TARC added 16 more clean diesels. Then by mid-summer 2013 11 hybrids were added bringing TARC's hybrid total to 32. As of right now TARC has 21 new clean diesel commuter buses, bringing their clean diesel fleet to 59 total. Coming soon will be All-Electric buses circulating downtown Louisville. Service is provided 365 days a year. It also operates many specialized routes providing transportation to major local employers, educational institutions and recreational events. It began bus operations in 1974. TARC has explored other forms of public transit, including light rail, but as of 2009 provides only bus service.

In August 2011, TARC's new $4.5 million, 17,700 square-foot, Maintenance and Training building receives Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification.[1]


The transit authority was created in 1971 after 1970 legislation authorized city and county governments to operate mass-transit systems using local funding. At the time, public transit was still being provided in Louisville by the private Louisville Transit Company. The Louisville Transit Company had long operated mass transit lines in Louisville, converted from electric trolleys to diesel buses in the late 1940s, and changing its name from the Louisville Railway Company in 1947.[2]

Ridership by year.
Includes TARC's predecessor, Louisville Transit Company, in years prior to 1974.

1920 – 84 million
1970 – 14 million
1980 – 20 million
1997 – 15 million
2006 – 15.8 million

Following a trend seen in cities across America, the company had seen annual ridership decline from 84 million in 1920 to 14 million in 1970. The ridership was no longer enough for to cover operating expenses and in 1971 it posted its first ever loss. In 1972 the company announced it would cease operations on September 1, 1974.[2]

The local government began subsidizing fares in July 1973, but this was not enough to make Louisville Transit Company profitable. At about the same time, Bridge Transit Co., which provided mass transit between Louisville and Jeffersonville, ceased operations due to lack of revenue, clearly setting the stage for a metropolitan area without any private mass transit companies.[2]

In 1974, voters approved a controversial referendum allowing for an increased occupational tax to fund mass transit, which was pushed for by then-mayor Harvey Sloane.[3] Combined with a federal grant, this was enough for TARC to purchase the Louisville Transit Company, buy new buses, reduce fares, and extend new service lines.[2] TARC bought up the remaining mass transit companies in the area; Blue Motor Coach Lines, which served outlying areas, in 1976 and the Daisy Line, connecting New Albany and Louisville, in 1983.[2]

In 1993, TARC experimented with a "water taxi" service connecting the Belle of Louisville wharf and Towboat Annie's Restaurant in Jeffersonville.[4] During the 1990s and early 2000s, TARC advocated extensive funding to build and operate light rail system in the Louisville area, but despite wide press coverage, the plans never went past planning stages.

In February 1994, an audit committee headed by future political candidate Bruce Lunsford revealed TARC had been mismanaging funds and was on pace to deplete its once-large trust fund due to skyrocketting expenses such as door-to-door services for the disabled as well as rates of spending on personal services and fringe benefits for administrators that was much higher than in transit companies for similar sized cities.[5] In the fallout of the audit, TARC's executive director resigned and fares were nearly doubled before year's end.[6]


TARC 2010 Gillig Diesel Hybrid - Electric Advantage

TARC purchased Louisville's Union Station for $2 million in 1977, the year after the former train station had ceased rail operations. The trainyard was replaced with a large maintenance facility for TARC buses and the former train station is now TARC's administrative headquarters.[2] In 2003, TARC did a major remodeling of Union Station for the first time since it purchased the facility. The renovation cost $2.1 million.[7]

TARC is administered by an eight-member board. TARC had a budget of $67.8 million for the 2008–09 fiscal year. Fares only cover about 12% of TARC's operating expenses; the rest is paid for by Jefferson County's occupational tax, federal aid and some other minor sources. [8] The occupational tax is 0.20%, it makes up about two-thirds of TARC's operating expenses in any given year. The actual total varies due to availability of federal grants and fares collected.[9] In 2002, TARC had 710 employees, 460 of whom were bus drivers.[10]

Some funding comes from a transportation trust fund kept by TARC. In 1992, the fund contained $28 million, which a local alderman claimed made TARC the "Cadillac" of America's bus systems, and unsuccessfully proposed raiding it to fund the Louisville Free Public Library.[11] The fund declined from $34 million in 1989 to $13 million in 1994, prompting severe cutbacks and rate hikes that year.[12]


As of 2013,TARC has a fleet of 176 buses. 32 are hybrid buses, which combine a traditional diesel engine and an electric motor to reduce emissions and eliminate tailpipe exhaust during acceleration, but cost nearly twice as much as a conventional bus. The hybrids were provided through Federal highway bill earmarks by Federal Senator Jim Bunning (Republican). In 2007, a new TARC bus cost $285,000, while a hybrid bus cost $504,000. Now a New clean diesel costs $405,000 dollars a bus while a hybrid costs $600,000 dollars a bus.

In October 2010, TARC announced that the hybrid bus fleet would grow to 29, with the addition of 8 new buses, with a grant of $3.9 million, from the Federal Transit Authority’s Clean Fuels Bus and Bus Facilities Program. A previous grant through the federal stimulus program paid for nine hybrid buses that arrived in July 2010.[13]

All buses are equipped with "kneeling" bus technology that makes them easier to board, and a wheelchair lift. TARC once required disabled riders to use a special service with smaller buses that had to be scheduled in advance, but all regular buses were made accessible following protests in 1986.[14]

Current Bus Fleet[edit]

Year Manufacturer Model Fleet Numbers Engine & Transmission Fuel Type Notes Image
1998 Gillig Advantage Low Floor 901-999 Diesel All retired except 980-992 922/971 scrapped/sold due to fire damage
2000 Gillig Advantage Low Floor 2001-2057
  • Cummins ISL

Allison Transmission B400R-5 Speed Automatic

2001 Gillig Advantage Low Floor 2101-2111
  • Cummins ISL

Allison Transmission B400R-5 Speed Automatic

Diesel 2105 scrapped/sold due to fire damage
2002 Gillig Advantage Low Floor 2250-2266
  • Cummins ISL

Allison Transmission B400R-5 Speed Automatic

2003 Gillig Advantage Low Floor 2301-2320
  • Cummins ISL

Allison Transmission B400R-5 Speed Automatic

2004 Gillig Advantage Low Floor 2401-2405
  • Cummins ISB
  • Allison Hybrid EV40
2005 Gillig Advantage Low Floor 2501-2516
  • Cummins ISL

Allison Transmission B400R-5 Speed Automatic

2007 Gillig Advantage Low Floor 2701-2704
  • Cummins ISB
  • Allison Hybrid Drive EV40
2008 Gillig Advantage Low Floor 2801-2806
  • Cummins ISL

Allison Transmission B400R-5 Speed Automatic

Diesel 2800's Are Currently being Re-Wrapped in the new TARC Logo
2009 Gillig Advantage Low Floor 2901-2903
  • Cummins ISL9
  • Allison Hybrid Electric Drive EV40
2009 Gillig Advantage Low Floor 2910-2926
  • Cummins ISL9

Allison Transmission B400R-5 Speed Automatic

Gillig 2923
2010 Gillig Advantage Low Floor 1001-1009
  • Allison Hybrid Electric Drive EV40
Gillig 1009
2013 Gillig Advantage Low Floor 1301-1316
  • Cummins ISL9

Allison Transmission B400R-5 Speed Automatic

Gillig 1309
2013 Gillig Advantage Low Floor 1320-1330
  • Cummins ISL9
  • Allison Hybrid Electric Drive EV40
Gillig 1328
2013 Gillig BRT 1350-1370
  • Cummins ISL9

Allison Transmission B400R-5 Speed Automatic

Gillig Brt 1351
2014 Gillig Advantage Low Floor TBA
  • Cummins ISL9

Allison Transmission B400R-5 Speed Automatic

Diesel Currently on order, TARC to receive 33 in late 2014.


The Toonerville II Trolleys provide transportation in downtown Louisville

TARC operates a series of city buses that serve throughout the Louisville area. TARC claims over 7,000 bus stops, although only about 200 of them have benches and rain shelters—the rest simply have a sign indicating the location is a bus stop.[15] The stops are served by 20 weekday and weekend routes, 16 express routes with weekday service only, and 36 total routes. The daily routes are named for the primary road they serve. On the daily routes, there is no more than hour between scheduled buses at any stop, and on weekdays on the busiest routes have even less time between stops. Most of the daily routes have existed under the same name and number for decades, although their routes have almost all been extended to provide access to suburban locations.[16]

TARC operates various circulators providing access to hospitals, Downtown Louisville and art galleries. Since 1999, TARC has operated a shuttle service for the University of Louisville's main campus. It operates two routes shuttling workers to Worldport, the hub of United Parcel Service and one of Louisville's largest employers.[17] In 2007, TARC launched a program called "Ride to Safety" which allows domestic abuse victims to board TARC buses to be given transportation to a shelter.[18]

They also operate a system of diesel-powered rubber-tired buses designed in the style of early 20th century streetcars that act as circulators in the downtown hotel and shopping districts and on certain days are used to provide special shuttle services in other shopping and entertainment areas. The tourist trolleys began operation in November 1987 and their role and fare has varied over the years as funding has allowed.[19]

TARC and its predecessor provided shuttle access to the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks since the 1950s, but in 2008 new federal rules required the racetrack, Churchill Downs, to negotiate with private companies to provide service. The shuttle operation transported tens of thousands of people each year and provided TARC with over $200,000 of annual revenue.[20] TARC provides service to some other local events, including Thunder over Louisville and the Kentucky State Fair.[21]

Through a program called "Bikes on Board", TARC has bike racks installed on the front of all its full-size buses, each with the capacity to hold two bicycles. The program began in 2001, and by 2004 all buses were equipped. In 2005, TARC reported an average of 6,000 riders a month used the bike racks.[22]


The standard fare became $1 in 1994, up from $0.85 for peak hours and $0.50 for off-peak hours. On July 1, 2007, it was raised to $1.25. In June 2008 the adult fare was raised to $1.50 to help defray the increased cost of fuel. Since 1 July 2012 the rate increased a quarter to $1.75.[8] Students at the University of Louisville may ride standard TARC routes for free, discounts are offered to senior citizens and high school students.[23] A Day Tripper 1-Day Pass costs $3.50 and can be used on any TARC vehicle.


  1. ^ TARC's Maintenance and Training Annex receives Gold Certification
  2. ^ a b c d e f Kleber, John E., ed. (2002). The Encyclopedia of Louisville. University Press of Kentucky. p. 892. 
  3. ^ Ryan, Ed (1974-11-06). "Transit referendum". Courier-Journal. 
  4. ^ Staff writer (1993-05-06). "Maiden voyages of TARC water taxi draw 4,500". pp. 3B. 
  5. ^ Walfoort, Nina (1994-02-05). "TARC audit assails budget, management". Courier-Journal. pp. 1A. 
  6. ^ Walfoort, Nina (1994-02-11). "Arnett resigns: TARC's financial priorities redirected". Courier-Journal. pp. 1B. 
  7. ^ Shafer, Sheldon (2003-09-06). "Time-worn Union Station gets a face-lift". Courier-Journal. pp. 1B. 
  8. ^ a b Shafer, Sheldon (2008-06-03). "Rising fuel bill may push TARC fares up 25 cents". Courier-Journal. 
  9. ^ Shafer, Sheldon (2008-08-04). "TARC jumps on fuel deal". Courier-Journal. p. 1B. 
  10. ^ Green, Marcus (2002-11-14). "TARC will get award for workplace fitness". pp. 1F. 
  11. ^ O'Doherty, Mary (1992-06-23). "Bather would raid TARC to aid library". Courier-Journal. pp. 1A. 
  12. ^ Walfoort, Nina. "TARC begins push for another round of fare increases". Courier-Journal. pp. 1B. 
  13. ^ "Hybrid Bus fleet grows to 29". 2010-10-28. Retrieved 2011-01-27. 
  14. ^ Jessie, Lisa (1988-07-23). "7 disabled people held after protest of bus line". Courier-Journal. pp. 7A. 
  15. ^ Shafer, Sheldon (2006-01-01). "TARC seeks state funds to build shelters". Courier-Journal. pp. 1B. 
  16. ^ Shafer, Sheldon (2008-08-21). "Gas prices get people on board with TARC". p. 1A. 
  17. ^ "TARC - Route listing". Transit Authority of River City. Retrieved 2008-06-06. 
  18. ^ Gerth, Joseph (2006-12-27). "Buses will help take abuse victims to safety". Courier-Journal. pp. 1B. 
  19. ^ Shafer, Sheldon (1988-08-09). "Free trolley rides expected through '88". Courier-Journal. pp. 2B. 
  20. ^ Shafer, Sheldon (2008-03-27). "Rule change gives others shot at Derby bus runs". Courier-Journal. pp. 1A. 
  21. ^ Halladay, Jessie (2008-04-09). "Surviving Thunder's roads". Courier-Journal. pp. 1B. 
  22. ^ Bruggers, James (2005-01-18). "More bikers hitching a ride on TARC". Courier-Journal. pp. 1A. 
  23. ^ "Fares & Passes". TARC. Retrieved 2008-06-15. 

External links[edit]