Updated: Nov 21, 2020
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This is one of a series by Jody Dahmer of Beargrass Thunder on ways make a more livable Kentucky , regardless of access to a motor vehicle.
Update : We'd like to thank one of our fans for pointing out that there IS an impound lot still operational in Louisville, at the 1400 block of Frankfort Avenue, it is just at capacity. Read more about this here
TARC LINC has an online map to which anyone can add routes and transit stops. They must have had enough data, because they are not taking any new responses!
We examined the crowdsourced map available at tarclinc.com and compared it to existing TARC routes. The results display a vastly different map than currently exists in Louisville, and a road map to a better transit system in Greater Louisville.
If your car died today, would you be able to get from your house to work or to the grocery store without a motor vehicle?
If you have heard of the new plan by the Transit Authority of River City.
Louisville's TARC has a problem. The current routes just don't cut it.
We have more and more seniors deciding to retire in Kentucky, older Kentuckians from rural areas moving to cities with better healthcare access, and younger generations not wanting a McMansion in the suburbs .
Increasing Rates of Senior Suicide
The lack of ways to get around the city are especially hard for the Kentuckians that cannot drive : children and the elderly. Without a vehicle, the suburbs can be very lonely and isolating.
I remember growing up in Fisherville, a forested exurb right on the border between Jefferson and Shelby County. Our nearest neighbor was about a quarter mile away, with the entrance of our subdivision over a mile from our house.
If seniors decide to keep waiting for property values to increase, what happens if they age out of driving before that happens? Do retirees need to spend their life savings on a Tesla in order to maintain quality of life?
How many times have you seen someone texting while driving 80 miles an hour on the interstate? The real problem with our highways is that they only work as long as someone doesn't get into a wreck. With many Boomers becoming more and more elderly, this is a ticking time bomb.
On a bus, you can text without the risk of killing anyone AND not cause the interstate to shut down if you have an accident. for the rest of the tens of thousands of people using a shared resource.
No Impound Lot
With the recent construction of the Waterfront Botanical Gardens, the city still has no impound lot, meaning that cars illegally parked (Bardstown Road!~) have no place to be moved. This is terrible for trying to get traffic through our roads!
Status Quo = Status No
As someone who has grown up in the East End suburbs, transit was a last-resort option growing up for three reasons.
One: There is no way to get between suburbs without going downtown first.
Two: All the grocery stores,schools, and places of interest have a parking lot. If you know there is free parking at the destination, why go through the trouble of transit?
Three: The bus stops, 4600 in total, are stretched so thin on TARC's current budget that most of them are just metal sticks in the ground with no shade or seating.
Four: There are so many stops to cover and traffic lights to wait at that it is usually takes at least two to three times as long to take the bus to a destination as a car.
Here is the current route map for TARC.
Here is the user-generated map for possible TARC routes.
So What Changed between the two maps?
1. Transit Between Suburbs
The red dots represent a transit stop. The darker the color, the more buses would be dedicated to those routes. This means more buses and shorter wait times
Look at all of the proposed transit routes and stations from J-Town
And St. Matthews
And even Crestwood!
2. S P A C I N G of Neighborhood Stations
The proposed stops are much farther apart from each other. With bike rental stations and scooter parking at every bus stop,
With new options for moving between stations, whether that is bikeshare or scooters,
3. Neighborhood Access to River/Downtown/Airport
Look at all the routes leading from Hikes Point and St. Matthews to River Road. It makes sense when you look at it from a jobs perspective.
River Road leads directly to both downtown Louisville and the River Ridge Complex in Charlestown, IN. Transit doesn't need to pay the tolls going across the Lewis and Clark Bridge, so if suburban residents were given a fast, reliable, and connected way to access them, it would be a win-win for all involved!
Looking at the amount of homes and businesses lining either side, it is wild that there is no way to link cyclists and residents to these job areas. With no transit access, no wonder Brownsboro Road, Newburg Road, and US-42 feel so crowded during rush hour.
4. All Transit Stops Lead to Shopping, Parks, and Grocery Stores
What is most interesting is the lack of direct routes from West to East as well as to the Ohio River.
There are only 3 roads south of Broadway that connect the West End to the Highlands/East End in a straight line.
There are only four roads that directly connect the East End neighborhoods including St. Matthews to the river.
Can you imagine if every neighborhood had a way to get to these places?
The YUM Center
The University of Louisville
Muhammad Ali International Airport
Let's address what a lot of East End residents are thinking...
In a city with scooters, bikes, and car rides just an app away, why would middle class or wealthy Kentuckians want to ride transit with poor strangers?
It's a fair question. Only 3% of all Louisvillians take public transit, compared to 81% driving single vehicles. That places Louisville as one of the highest rate of single-occupancy vehicles (SOV) in the NATION.
The long and short of it is that if our city and region is to compete on the national and international stage, we have to do better than we are now. 61% of professionals workers surveyed by the Young Professionals of Louisville (YPAL) state the lack of public transit as the biggest flaw that Louisville has.
Additionally, with Louisville's affordability, more and more seniors are deciding to retire in Louisville. With no other form of transit, our roads will become more and more dangerous!
Inequality reigns free. We rank in the top 5 segregated cities in the United States. We have the 2nd highest corporate profits but also rank 17th nationally in largest income inequality.
Transit and government policy have a large role in this. Job centers are spread throughout the region rather than in one concentrated area. This is a boon to the region as a whole, but the profits from this are not being distributed equally.
The Census Bureau projects the 65+ population will be 83.7 million in 2050 (roughly 21% of population), almost double the number in 2012 (when it comprised about 14% of population). What’s more, the number of people 85+ is projected to triple by 2050, from 5.9 million in 2012 to 18 million.
Gas and car repair doesn't need to be a reoccurring expense for families if there was a viable option to use transit instead.
Part of the reason residents don't want this to change is because most of us have never experienced life in Louisville without using a car. If your car is your only lifeline to civilization and social events, you are going to fight like hell to have it.
For new construction in Louisville, you are mandated by government "parking minimums" to have a minimum number of paved spaces for vehicles. Even worse, by forcing everyone in the suburbs to drive, it creates EVEN WORSE TRAFFIC on our interstates every rush hour.
These development codes are arbitrary and reinforces the iron grip that the car has on our city's economy. For people that can't access this critical infrastructure, Louisville is a terrible place to live, work and play.
Spending hundreds of millions of dollars to expand highways A recent study in Houston has shown that even after renovation and lane expansion of the largest Freeway, traffic congestion did NOT improve!
Our city is spending millions of dollars to cut grass , mow lawns, build new parking lots, turning lanes, and freeway expansion that only benefits a shrinking percentage of the population. If one car wreck can cause a 30 minute delay, what's going to happen when more and more elderly drivers are on the road?
Lines and LÖÖPS
The transit routes that users suggested follow two broad patterns : lines connecting one neighborhood center to another , and loop circulators around the general boundaries of regional neighborhoods.
Here are straight line corridors connecting previously unconnected areas of the city.
A BRT line from Chickasaw Park in Shawnee to Crestwood would incentivize development in every neighborhood that spans the route!
This "Highland" Triangle connects Joe Creason Park, Bardstown Road Kroger, and Baxter Point all in one short distance route. Think of how much less traffic there would be at Lakeside, Douglass Loop and Barrett Ave!
Parking Minimums Have an Impact On How We Live
We isolated the intersections with the largest amount of different bus lines running through them.
Looking at the map, it is certainly no surprise that this is where many people want transit stops and centers -- this is where all the shops and services already are.
For a neighborhood to thrive, residents need to live close to amenities like grocery stores and banks.
What surprised us was when we used satellite data to see what these intersections look like currently.
All of the current major route intersections are almost completely inaccessible to pedestrians, wheelchair users, and anyone not using a vehicle.
Look at HikesPoint.. The longer I look at it , the worse I feel. Why?
Because this was designed strictly for cars to go in and out of these parking lots as conveniently as possible. Every restaurant in this area is also a drive-thru.
Not much thought (if any) was taken to consider people walking to these stores.
If you are an elderly person living currently in Hikes Point, the transit stops are located almost a football field away from the actual business!
Can you imagine an elderly person walking there in summer?
You can see the impact that parking minimums have had in suburban areas.
Currently in Louisville, vehicles are not only encouraged but they are mandated by laws enforeced by Metro Council. As a small business owner in 2018, if I was to build a new building for my company I would be mandated to build a parking lot for it.
After the normal business hours, there is absolutely NOTHING to do in a parking lot for the average resident. This means that these large areas quit producing tax revenue and sit empty for hours until customers move back into the area.
As a small business owner myself, it was ridiculous to think that I had an extra $100,000 to drop on building a parking lot that I had no method of recouping the cost.
So how can developers break even on parking lots in the suburbs? The solution is charging more for rent.
Think about it -- what would happen if the strip malls along Hurstbourne Parkway decided to charge $0..25 an hour for parking? I'm willing to bet that those businesses would not be in business much longer due to basic supply and demand market principles. Consumers will want to go towards the cheapest and most convenient outlet. It's the reason Amazon is killing big box store retail.
Not only this, but due to oversupply of parking caused by government ordinance, NO BUSINESS OWNER CAN CHARGE FOR PARKING IN THE SUBURBS WITHOUT LOSING BUSINESS. Parking spaces are a rule mandated by the government that we have to build them no matter what. Bike parking is (surprise,surprise) not mandatory. Neither is outdoor shading. Simply put, the current ordinances are too paltry and enforcement so lax that it is easier to use a car than it is to complain about it..
History Repeats Itself
Few people alive today remember back when Louisville had an entire electric streetcar and train system. It is what all of the original towns and neighborhoods in Louisville were based on, each with their own train station, some of which are still preserved today.
So what happened to it?
Well, for starters, the advent of the automobile caused wealthier residents to turn to private transportation for day to day activity. The rest reads like the plot of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", with large car companies like General Motors purchasing the streetcar companies in multiple cities before dismantling them completey; https://wfpl.org/curious-louisville-why-did-our-streetcars-go-away-and-can-we-bring-them-back/
Smart Conclusions & Fast Solutions
Metro-owned parking lots may be the answer Some of the best property in Louisville to construct transit station are already in land owned by the government. For example, right of way corridors for utility poles. One that may not be so obvious are the parking lots in many parks and service operated by Louisville Metro.
Take for example, the Louisville Zoo.
In conclusion, I think we can agree that these spaces can be redeveloped into something that all generations and races of Louisvillians can use to learn to live much more connected that we are now. It will take time for everyone (looking at you, Brownsboro Road) to get on the same page, but if we are truly going to market ourselves as a city to retire we need to talk about how to adapt.
A bus stop needs three main things to be inviting to all generations of people .
One of the key components to actually having unusable transit system is at the bus stop. When you are not on the bus, you are either waiting or walking to the pickup destination.
What many people think is just a nice bench for a homeless person to sleep on, is actually overlooking one of the main fundamentals of using a transit system.
For someone to use a transit system, a lot of criteria have to be met. 1 is that it needs to be compare obal in speed and efficiency to using a car.
An opinion piece I wrote to Insider Louisville says it best.
If 25% of our city are elderly, why is there no place for them to sit waiting for the bus?
Young children accompanying their parents is key to diminishing trips in SOV, but there is no benefit for a mom or dad to be at a transit stop instead of sitting in a vehicle.
If someone is using public transportation, it needs to be comparable speed to driving or faster.
The St. Charles Streetcar line in New Orleans operates frequent service 24 hours a day, with frequencies of every eight minutes in the daytime (after 9 a.m.), ten minutes early morning (before 9 a.m.) and at night, with 20 minute intervals in the night owl period. (Wikipedia)
If Louisville is to compete with other cities to attract skilled workers and maintain quality of life for our elderly, we need to have better transit options for our citizens.
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