A Bit of Magic on Wheels

For 40 years, the Transit Authority of River City (TARC) has been providing much needed public transportation options to Louisville. Last month, TARC introduced the ZeroBus, a full fleet of all electric, state-of-the-art, sleekly designed, zero-emission vehicles. Initially, the buses will serve the downtown corridor on circulator routes, replacing the aging and less energy efficient trolleys. I spoke with TARC Executive Director J. Barry Barker to learn more about the new ZeroBus, how they will impact Louisville and how Louisville is very much at the forefront of national public transportation trends with the all-electric fleet.

ZeroBus2-2What exactly is the ZeroBus and how will it operate here in Louisville?
ZeroBus is fast –charging, all electric bus that produces zero emissions. With 10 of these vehicles added to our fleet, people will now have a clean and quiet way to get around downtown. Powered by batteries, ZeroBus can travel for up to two hours fully charged on route in less than 10 minutes. The first initial fleet of ZeroBuses will serve as circulators that will operate downtown along Main/Market Streets and Fourth Street on routes now served by the trolley buses. ZeroBus will actually recharge in just a few minutes each time they come to the charging stop on their route because that’s the most efficient, time-saving option for charging. There’s no tailpipe smoke, no roaring engine, and no gas guzzling with the ZeroBus. And all rides will be free for passengers – downtown workers going to lunch, visitors catching a quick ride to museum row or an easy option to ride to or from a parking spot several blocks away.

How do you think the ZeroBus will impact Louisville?
Louisville will benefit in many ways. We’ve been studying these buses for several years, and have seen benefits to other communities, including, of course, cleaner air. In addition, riders will be able to take advantage of free WiFi on these vehicles, getting work done while on their way to a destination or simply texting friends. The rider experience will be improved. Finally, downtown visitors will not only enjoy a new cutting edge transportation experience, they will return home with perhaps an enhanced opinion of Louisville as a forward-thinking, innovative place.

How do we compare to other cities in terms of public transportation with these new vehicles?
With the ZeroBus on the road in Louisville, we are actually ahead of trends in national public transportation. This is the largest fleet of ZeroBus vehicles in the south or Midwest, and one of the largest in the country. We are also very fortunate to have received $8.8 million in federal and state grants. In addition, Louisville Metro provided $500,000. Not every community has that kind of support so we are indeed fortunate to have a progressive city government that sees this as a wise and needed investment in our community.

Based on the introduction of the ZeroBus, what can we expect for the future of public transportation in Louisville?
As technology advances, we may one day have ZeroBus vehicles that can travel longer distances or require fewer charges. This is an exciting time, and I think passengers are excited to see something new, innovative and energy-efficient on the streets. Our number one priority is safety and right behind is making sure service is running smoothly and efficiently. We’re thrilled to see this next phase come to life and we’re eager to hear from passengers about their experience on the ZeroBus. VT