Churchill Downs' new transportation plan getting first big test on Oaks Day

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Oaks Day is the first big test for Churchill Downs new Oaks and Derby transportation plan.

As part of that plan, parking at the track and at the Kentucky Expo Center is limited to those with reserved parking passes.

The track is running more than 300 shuttle buses to and from the Expo Center. That is a lot of horsepower, but there is no climbing on board without a pass. Otherwise, Oaks and Derby patrons should be prepared to hoof it.

Joe Lese is a Kentucky Oaks veteran, and he is very glad he secured a reserved parking pass instead of trying to catch a cab.

“I love it. It eliminates the whole transaction thing, and they are smooth,” said Lese.

Carrie Rooks said it is a lot easier on her feet "because of my four-inch heels.”

Linda Drechsler just had knee surgery, and was grateful she and her family can catch a bus to the track.

"Saves on the walking," she said. “I walked miles yesterday touring the city, so, the less walking, the better.”

The buses are key to Churchill Downs' new transportation plan. The idea is to reduce the number of vehicles trying to get into and out of the track.

“We wanted to make sure that you were having a safe experience and a thorough experience being able to get in an out as quickly and efficiently as possible,” said Downs spokesperson Katherine Kington North.

The buses drop their passengers near the main gate. For everyone else, it is a walk from more remote places like Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium where patrons can park for $20.

“I don't like it! I don't like it!" said Danny Cissell as he walked alongside a fenced-off Central Ave. “We usually park right there and cross right here. It’s a lot more inconvenient."

Parking in a nearby neighborhood is also an option. But Mark Berry, who has been parking cars across the street from the track for more than 30 years, was not happy.

“Everything's pretty messed up today,” he said.

For the first time, Central Avenue is shut down for all except the shuttles. That cuts off the main route to his lot.

“Because they got so many of the streets blocked off and everything, people don't know how to get down here to the track,” said Berry.

But no matter how Oaks and Derby Fans arrive, the big challenge is getting home.

“I'm hoping to be taken care of as well on the way out as we are being taken care of on the way in,” said Tracy Vaughn as she prepared to hop onto a shuttle bus.

Oaks Day is a good dress rehearsal for the big test -- about 150,000 people or more are expected for Derby Day.

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