LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – After years of planning, Louisville launched a new type of fast-moving bus service on Monday linking southwestern Jefferson County with downtown.
The “bus rapid transit” system includes eight new TARC buses and an existing one running from the Gene Snyder Freeway along the Dixie Highway route, stopping at 37 designated bus shelters every 15 minutes during weekdays from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“This will be a more convenient service from Gene Snyder all the way downtown, connecting more people to jobs in our central business district,” TARC executive director Fernando L. Risco Jr. said, with a goal of “more time moving and less time stopping.”
The system will use new technology meant to keep buses running on time by coordinating with traffic lights, keeping green lights longer and shortening some red lights. And it has sections where parts of lanes are reserved for the buses.
Risco said TARC leaders will review whether to expand to other busy routes.
“We’ll continue to look at our others that are high capacity and great volume – and that’s what we want to do is continue to match the density and the volume and to get people to work and school,” he said in an interview.
The U.S. government approved a $16.9 million grant in 2015 that included funds for new buses and shelters and other improvements.
In some cities, bus rapid transit programs include dedicated lanes and stations that resemble subway or light rail systems. But Louisville’s initiative largely fails to meet those standards, Jackie Green, a cycling and transit activist.
He questions the lack of dedicated lanes and insists there are few too buses to make the new system work as well as in other places.
“It is not going to be rapid,” he said. “It may be quicker than what we have now. It’s not going to be rapid.”
In unveiling the new service, local, state and federal officials also touted the nearly complete “New Dixie Highway” that has added medians, sidewalks and other infrastructure along the Dixie corridor between the Watterson Expressway and the Snyder Freeway.
The remaining landscaping and striping on the $35 million project is expected to be done this spring.
The construction has disrupted existing traffic and caused headaches for businesses in the area, said Metro Council member Rick Blackwell, one of the project’s main advocates. But now, he said it’s time for a “phase of reward.”
“The safer and more attractive Dixie is becoming a corridor able to better showcase our current business partners and to attract the development we want, need and deserve in the South End,” he said.