Louisville adds six electric buses to existing fleet

The route will drop riders off at popular sites including Churchill Downs, the University of Louisville, the Speed Art Museum and Iroquois Park. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

The route drops riders off at popular sites including Churchill Downs, the University of Louisville, the Speed Art Museum and Iroquois Park. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Louisville officials, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth and other guests Monday celebrated the addition of six new zero-emission buses to the city’s fleet with a ride along sections of the route the buses will circuit.

The buses cost $4.65 million and were built by California-based Proterra. The majority of the funding came from a $3.3 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration’s Low or No Emission Vehicles Deployment Program. The remainder was covered using local and additional federal funds.

TARC (Transit Authority of River City) now owns 15 zero-emission buses. The six new buses are 40 feet long and seat 38, only slightly bigger than the original nine, which are 31 feet long and seat 31 passengers.

“Efforts like these — when we’re adding sleek modern buses to our TARC fleet and being able to say we’re the largest electric fleet east of the Mississippi River — are really important for our city,” Mayor Greg Fischer said at a press conference. “Something that many of our visitors see is our public transportation fleet up and down our streets, and when they are moving in a clean-energy manner, all-electric, it sends a message about our city.”

The six new buses will replace some of the diesel-fueled buses that ran along Route 4 from Main Street downtown along Museum Row out to Iroquois Park.

Route 4 isn’t a new route. The difference is that half of the trips along the route will feature zero-emission buses rather than diesel buses that guzzle about 60,000 gallons of fuel a year and give off more than 30,000 pounds of harmful emissions.

Citizens need transportation options “that fit their lifestyle,” Yarmuth said. “It is good for our health as well as our transportation.”

The route includes popular places such as Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby Museum, the University of Louisville, the Speed Art Museum, Old Louisville, the United Parcel Service Employment Center and Iroquois Park.

The electric buses along Route 4 will recharge at the charging station near Market and Eighth streets, saving on a potential $1 million expense of adding a new charging station, said Barry Barker, TARC’s executive director.

Roughly 18 months ago, the city premiered its first electric buses. The buses circuit Market and Main streets, as well as Fourth Street from the Galt House Hotel to Breckinridge Street. Those routes are free, but the electric buses along Route 4 will cost passengers $1.75 for a one-way ride.

Kay Stewart, TARC’s director of marketing, said the department will charge passengers because it has always charged riders taking Route 4. The downtown electric buses are free, she said, because the city has a history of offering free transit within the Central Business District.

“The fare-free service downtown was fare free before we had the electric buses,” she said.

In addition to the new buses, TARC is tweaking times along its routes slightly, Barker said, to improve accuracy and timeliness. He noted that construction downtown has caused travel delays for buses.

“We are tuning that up, making sure what we tell the public is what we can provide.”