April 20, 2015. The Courier-Journal.

A faith-based organization received concessions from Louisville and state officials to help expand bus service at employment centers during its annual assembly on Monday.

The Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together, or CLOUT, held its “Nehemiah” action assembly at the Memorial Auditorium on Fourth Street to pressure policymakers on public transit and a number of other issues.

Louisville’s unemployment rate is approximately 5 percent, according to state data. But activists and clergy with CLOUT point out it is around 24 percent in some economically depressed neighborhoods that are far removed from burgeoning job centers.

Joined by nearly 1,100 members who sought commitments from officials, CLOUT said it is critical for the city’s busing system to improve routes going to industrial parks, such as Riverport in southwest Jefferson County.

“Individuals need jobs and they want jobs, and those jobs are out at Riverport,” said the Rev. Reginald Barnes of Brown Memorial C.M.E. Church. “But the situation is that many people can’t get to them. If they have adequate transportation, then they can get to the jobs and begin to support themselves.”

The assembly asked Metro Council members in attendance along with Riverport employers and officials from the Kentuckiana Regional Planning & Development Agency to support a $3 million federal grant over three years that TARC is seeking to establish a circulator bus route to Riverport. And they agreed.

Riverport is home to at least 115 companies and approximately 7,000 jobs, including eBay, LG&E and Yokohama Tire Corp.

TARC currently provides eight trips to the Riverport area through its No. 19 bus line.

The city’s busing service also made schedule adjustments and changed arrival and departure times at stops in response to expanding shifts.

TARC Executive Director Barry Barker, who attended the assembly, committed to meeting with stakeholders. The grant requires a 20 percent local match in contributions for any amount TARC receives in federal funding.

“It’s not in the budget currently; we’re going to have to figure out where we’re going to get it,” Barker said.

CLOUT’s dissatisfaction with the city’s busing system was echoed by Riverport businesses, who also have voiced frustrations with the lack of connecting public transit.

In a survey conducted by the Riverport Business Association, 82 percent of employers who responded said they were dissatisfied with the current busing service.

Employers highlight the lack of routes during third shift hours from 11:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., and no trips during the weekends as something hurting job seekers, small businesses and the local economy.

“I bring in 800 employees every Christmas holiday season and I have to go through about 1,500 because some can’t make it every day,” said Keith Pataluna, vice president of Café Press, an online retailer that employs more than 300 workers at Riverport. “People just can’t get there. It’s just really tough for us.”

CLOUT’s assembly also lobbied council members on approving a revenue stream for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, state officials on regulating predatory loan practices and Jefferson County schools on closing the achievement gap along racial lines.