Tuesday, August 5, 2008

TARC finds greater demand problematic

One of these days, I may research TARC-- beyond the little bit I've already done, noting its staggering subsidy and cheering when its monopoly over Kentucky Derby services was broken.

From Marcus Green in Sunday's C-J, news that increased demand presents a problem for TARC-- an odd outcome and probably one more sign that it's a mess...

Rising gas prices have resulted in more riders boarding Louisville buses -- roughly 1.4 million in June alone -- and passengers are clamoring for better service.

"They want more frequent buses. They want cross-town buses. They want park-and-ride lots and so forth," said Barry Barker, the Transit Authority of River City's executive director. "That conversation starts to bog down when you start talking about the money to improve that, to pay for it."

TARC officials say they plan to address those demands, weighing options such as bus-only lanes and more neighborhood routes to get riders to their destinations faster.

But first they have to find the money -- at a time when diesel-fuel prices have forced TARC to raise fares and announce service cuts.

TARC depends on a share of Louisville's occupational tax revenue to operate its fleet. But to make improvements, the agency must compete with other cities and regions for federal funds.

As opposed to being (even close to) self-financing...

Since 1995, TARC has received nearly $23 million in federal discretionary money, mainly to add buses and improve its maintenance annex. But officials note that the most recent round of federal funding didn't commit any money for TARC's $6.7 million request to overhaul its radio system and buy new buses. In the past four years, TARC has received $740,000 in federal earmarks, according to the agency. The overall government funding is "not adequate to provide any kind of upgrade or expansion of our service," said Nina Walfoort, a TARC spokeswoman.

While a recent local effort to increase bus funding failed, TARC is part of a group that is lobbying for more than double the amount of federal money, to $123 billion, in the next transportation bill.

Thanks TARC for working to take more of our money to subsidize highly inefficient services. If they worked this hard at being efficient, maybe things would be improved? (Or maybe they're already doing the best they can-- and it's just that bad!)


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