TARC plans to launch its MyTARC tap-card fare system the first week of January. | Courtesy of TARC

Louisville’s bus operator wants to hear your complaints and requests.

TARC Interim Executive Director Ferdinand Risco said the first step in a lengthy, just-over-$500,000 analysis-and-planning process will be a town-hall type event this coming Thursday. Risco, who took the interim role this month following J. Barry Barker’s retirement, said he hopes the event draws concerned citizens who want to help shape the future of transit in Louisville.

“We want their thoughts and opinions and comments on what it is they’d like to see,” Risco said in an interview at TARC’s Union Station headquarters. “Also, we’d like to know about the current service: What are some of your pain points? What are some of the things we can do better?”

The kickoff of the “comprehensive operations analysis” — to be followed in about 18 months by the formulation of a long-term plan — comes just weeks before the several-times-delayed launch of a new tap-card fare system and revamped website.

In the works for years, TARC switched vendors and had to work through several technical issues before building the confidence to roll out the MyTARC system. Most recently, launch was put off to the first week of 2019 from October of this year, to make sure riders were really prepared, Risco said.

“The last delay was a call that I made to make sure that we were doing all that we could to make sure the message got out,” said Risco, who joined TARC as assistant executive director in February 2017. Risco, an Army veteran, previously worked at Atlanta’s rapid-transit authority, MARTA, and earlier for Greater New York’s Metro-North Railroad.

Ferdinand Risco
Ferdinand Risco

Risco said TARC was careful to make sure people without access to banks wouldn’t be stuck, adding there were no plans to phase out cash fares. To encourage the shift, however, the MyTARC fare is $1.50 a ride, while cash will continue to cost $1.75. Also, free transfers will only be available for MyTARC users.

Risco said TARC was working to form partnerships with local retailers to make MyTARC more widely available.

The rollout of MyTARC is just the first phase of what Risco says will be a bigger transformation for the transit authority, which was founded in 1974 under Mayor Harvey Sloane. For instance, TARC is looking to form partnerships with ride-sharing companies and others to seamlessly serve customers’ “first mile, last mile” needs.

And following the rollout of the fare boxes with contactless smart cards, the next move would be a shift from a card-based system to an account-based system and then mobile payments, he said. “So once you move into those various phases, that is how we move closer and closer to mobility as a service.”

The TARC open house is scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. on Dec. 13 at the Union Station headquarters, 1000 W. Broadway. Risco, TARC Director of Planning Aida Copic and representatives from consultancy HDR Inc. will speak and take questions and comments from the public.

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Mark R. Long
Louisville native Mark Long is glad to be home after 18+ years away in New York and London. He’s putting his writing and editing experience at The Wall Street Journal to work as a freelancer, digging into stories on infrastructure, transportation, urban design and ecology.