Thursday, September 10, 2015

New TARC payment system rolling out [eventually] -- some thoughts.

I have a love/hate relationship with the bus system in Louisville. It is the worst public transportation system of any city I've lived in, BUT when it works, it works so well. I was at my destination less than two minutes after hopping on the bus this morning. Granted I was only going a mile and a half, but, still, it was quick and efficient.

Now, I have had plenty of family and friends who have worked in government, so I understand that things are not easy to change. I go back and forth between being just completely angry and grumbling things like HAS ANYONE IN METRO GOVERNMENT ACTUALLY RIDDEN ON ANY OTHER CITY'S PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION BEFORE?!?!? I get that change costs money, and I get that people in Louisville loooooooove their cars. And most of the people with the time to go to goverment meetings and public forums, well, public transportation is not at the top of their concerns list. But but but but but but but but... 

Something good that is coming is that we are FINALLY -- almost 20 years after New York -- getting a MetroCard type option: https://www.ridetarc.org/mytarc/ . It's called MyTarc, and the signs have been posted on the buses all summer, telling us it's coming sometime in 2015. The website now says winter or spring 2016. This gives me hope that maybe they are going to make it a little better than the website says. 

Some things I love (starting with the positive):


  • You will be able to buy them ahead of time and store money on them.
  • There are unlimited-ride options. $3.50 for a day pass and $15 for a weekly. 
  • The cost is only $1.50 a ride, while paying cash for a single ride is currently $1.75. Note that even now you can buy $1.50 single tickets in packs of ten ($15). Of course, you can't actually buy them on the bus. You can have someone at TARC mail them to you in 5-7 days, or you can go down to Union Station like David did and buy a pack in person. It turns out you can also buy them at the Main Library or any 5/3rd Bank location, which I can't believe I didn't know having lived here most of my life. The tickets are pink and sparkly, and I love them. I keep 4 in my wallet at all times, so you and I can go on a spontaneous adventure without searching for $1.75 each.
Lousiville TARC single ride tickets. 

Some things about the new system I wish they would fix:
Okay, okay, I really really don't want to be so grumbly. I'm adding this paragraph because my list of complaints, as it turns out, IS very grumbly. I know that someone downtown is working super hard and probably has had to argue to a committee or a supervisor who doesn't understand and maybe the person in charge of the system has the same gripes I have, but this compromise was the best they could do. I just really don't understand how a system that costs $5 million to update is still not as sophisticated as the MetroCard system of the late 1990s. 

  • You can add money to your card, BUT you cannot allow your friends or family members to use your card. That is, you can't swipe twice and pay for the person behind you. Not the biggest deal, but if you have family in town, they'll need to buy their own card (which you cannot buy from a bus driver).
  • Your swipe comes with 1 free transfer within two hours (they say this isn't any different from now, but every paper transfer I've ever gotten has been good for three hours), BUT once the MyTARC smart card system is in place, anyone who pays cash will NOT get a transfer. The website says this will save the drivers the time of tearing off that piece of paper that seems to actually take no time to tear off at the moment. 
  • This is the one that makes me shake my head in disbelief. You can use a credit card (not Amex, another grrrr), BUT ... "If adding value using Visa, MasterCard or Discover cards, allow 48 hours before use as fare."  So, if I'm reading this correctly, I will not be able to stand at a bus stop, use my phone to add value to my card by credit card, and then get on the bus a few minutes later. Yes, I totally realize that this sounds like I'm taking for granted the amazing future in which we live, but it's absurd that the city is spending $5million dollars on a very cool new system that won't actually allow credit card purchase in an immediately-useful way. Which means the people in my we-love-our-cars-even-though-the-bus-might-be-cheaper-and-quicker-neighborhood (Highlands/Bardstown Road) are still probably not going to take the bus
  • Where's the App????? Please, please, I hope I'm able to correct this blog entry and say, "My bad! Fully functioning app ready to roll out with the new cards." But seriously ... $5 million ... just toss in an app to let me scan and store my smart card, so I can ideally wave my phone at the new scanning system, but at the very least, not have to visit a website to add money to my card. And maybe the goal isn't to increase ridership (though shouldn't it be?), but it seems like it would make things a lot easier for Millennials and anyone who doesn't absolutely-have-to-take-the-bus if you could figure out a route and buy a ticket on your smartphone while standing at the bus stop (and not relying on Google Maps).
Anyway, I've been hesitating hitting "publish" on this blog for a while now because, again, I don't want to be so grumbly. Mostly, it's the credit card thing that seems completely insane to me. I love progress. I love change. I am all for people ditching their cars and riding the bus. I just think we can do better.
Again, I would love nothing more than to correct or edit or write a new blog saying that Louisville has got it right! How can I help?? I know this is just a blog. I thought about pitching an article to a news outlet in town, but I'm swamped these days. Maybe IL wants do more research and keep me posted?

3 comments:

  1. If you know any media type person, it could be a good story. This isn't the first time TARC has tried and failed to move into the modern era. I think we should know where the $5 million is going.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. I know lots of local media folks (and have written for various publications as well). Before publishing this, I thought about pitching the story to one of them and writing a more researched article rather than just a bloggy rant. But I decided I didn't have the time ... will shoot an email to some friends though and see if any of them want to run with it. I agree with you completely. -brigid

      Delete
    2. I agree. I know lots of local media folks (and have written for various publications as well). Before publishing this, I thought about pitching the story to one of them and writing a more researched article rather than just a bloggy rant. But I decided I didn't have the time ... will shoot an email to some friends though and see if any of them want to run with it. I agree with you completely. -brigid

      Delete

Vegetarian Tasting Menu in LOUISVILLE!!

I was 22 the first time I had a proper meal. It was Paris. A lunch. It was a friend of my parents, who had taken us all out to lunch at a cl...