Cameron Price

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For TARC: More People, More Problems

August 17, 2012

Over the past six months, the Transit Authority of River City served 7.4 million passengers. TARC strives to provide quality service to all who step on board, but a shooting on the #23 line last month raised questions about the safety of Louisville’s bus system.

A records request to TARC for all reports of fights or violence onboard buses since the beginning of the year showed that two routes had the most incidents: #18 which runs along Dixie Highway and Preston Highway through downtown, and #23 which runs between Shawnee Park and Hikes Point via Broadway and Bardstown Road. Drivers on the #23 line have reported 26 fights and 13 near fights since January. On the 18, the number is about half with 15 fights and 10 near fights since the beginning of the year.

TARC executive director Barry Barker says the frequency of incidents on these buses is directly related to the number of passengers. Combined, the #23 and #18 carry 30 percent of all TARC passengers, with an average of 16,000 riders on a daily basis. Barker says these routes aren’t inherently prone to violence, but they are convenient, frequent, popular and they cover very long stretches of road. As long as TARC is providing the same level of service along these routes, Barker says they will continue to be troubled by unruly passengers.

When problems do occur, it is the responsibility of the driver to judge the severity of the situation and then accurately record it later. If the drivers feel a situation has escalated beyond what they can control, they radio for help. Police or a TARC supervisor generally arrive in 15 minutes or less. Then, after the fact, drivers are encouraged to fill out incident reports, which are used to watch for patterns and reoccurring troublemakers.

Despite the higher number of incidents, Barker says the #18 and #23 are just as safe as any other routes. TARC realizes that these buses carry more passengers than any other buses and have a method for dealing with the problems. His advice to riders who are still concerned is to not get involved when incidents occur and let the driver and the police do their jobs.

Cameron Price is WFPL’s newsroom intern and an avid reader of public documents.

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Air Pollution Control District Calls for Action on Local Heat

August 15, 2012

Louisville’s Air Pollution Control District is taking a look at Louisville’s rising temperature. In a meeting today, board members discussed the city’s declining tree cover and how a lack of protective legislation is contributing to the problem.

Louisville recently placed first on a list of fifty cities suffering from rising temperatures. Georgia Tech University Professor Brian Stone described the city as the “climate change center of the United States.” 

APCD spokesman Tom Nord said severe weather ands general neglect over the past few years has destroyed much of Louisville’s plant life that helps regulate temperature raising greenhouse gases.

“Our tree canopy right now is estimated to be about 27%,” he said. “Places like Nashville and Atlanta, they’re more like up around 50% and you wouldn’t expect that. You wouldn’t expect that [of] more bigger sprawling urban areas, but they are and I think we’ve become very complacent about this stuff in Louisville.”

Nord also said that other cities prevent these problems with “Zero-Net Loss” laws that regulate the tree population of a city.

“A lot of cities have put in place very strict regulations regarding if a developer cuts down a tree he or she has to replace that tree,” he said. “We don’t have that here in Louisville.”

Louisville Metro Government’s recently-formed Tree Advisory Committee plans to propose a similar law to Mayor Greg Fischer. 

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Man Dies After Being Shot on TARC Bus

July 23, 2012

A Louisville man is dead following a shooting on a TARC bus.

The shooting was reported at 3:00 pm today, and officers declared the victim dead on the scene.

Police say the victim was in his late teens or early 20s and the shooter entered the bus, shot, then fled in an unknown direction. No other passengers where injured.

The police do not have any suspects in custody and described the incident as “unusual”.

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Fischer Pushes for Local Sales Tax Option at Chamber Meeting

July 16, 2012

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer continues to push for a local sales tax option to fund future city services and projects.

The option would make it easier for the city to pay for services in the face of budget shortfalls. Currently, the state must approve a ballot initiative to increase local taxes for specific projects. In 2007, Louisville voters rejected such a tax referendum to pay for an expansion of the Louisville Free Public Library by a resounding 2-to-1 margin.

Fischer supports a change in state law that would allow individual counties to put temporary tax increases up for a local vote.

“Let’s say we want a new forensic crime lab in Louisville, costs $35 million dollars, could be public transportation, could be schools—but again they’re optional. So in other words the voters of your city, the voters of your county get to vote yes or no,” said Fischer at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting in Louisville.

Many other states have similar laws, and Fischer added that voters should have the responsibility to decide how and where the funds are spent.

“People that are closest to the action get to vote on whether or not they want these initiatives so that they are saying yes, I want to invest in this future of my community,” he said.

Fischer made his comments during a joint appearance with Lexington Mayor Jim Gray. The two spoke on the competitiveness of cities in the global market and addressed other issues such as creating jobs and education.

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State Uses Helicopters to Watch Mines

July 13, 2012

State government inspectors have been using aerial surveillance to watch coal operators in central Appalachia.

Helicopter flights have cost The Kentucky Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement more than $477,000 over the past four years, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

News of the flyovers surprised mining industry leaders, including Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett, who protested the covert nature of the inspections and questioned their effectiveness.

Kentucky Department of Aviation documents released to the AP under an open records request show that state police and wildlife officers are also using planes and helicopters for aerial surveillance.

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