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.