Getting across Northern Kentucky has gotten a lot easier and quicker with the launch of the first Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK) east-west bus route on Aug. 1.

The new express route, number 35X, provides direct bus service between Florence, the Dixie Highway corridor, Fort Wright and Northern Kentucky University.

It’s the first time TANK has operated an east-west route that doesn’t involve traveling to downtown Cincinnati to make a connection, and it reflects the system’s effort to tailor service to commuter trends.

The new east-west service, which runs hourly Monday through Friday, cuts the old nearly two-hour commute through downtown Cincinnati into less than half that time, says Gina Douthat, TANK spokeswoman.

In November, TANK opened its Florence hub on Mall Road joining the Fort Wright hub as part of a network of hubs planned to better serve suburban communities and make connections easier. The Florence hub is “carrying about 60 people a day. We feel pretty good about the first few months of the service,” she says.

“Having the Florence hub allows us to connect something in each county. We’re connecting the Florence hub and the Florence Mall with the Fort Wright hub in Kenton County and Northern Kentucky University in Campbell County. We’ve never had places to act as collection points in each county on an east-west line before,” she says.

The new route will focus on the needs of NKU students and staff.

“We’ve gone to NKU orientation over the years and the biggest question we get from incoming freshman is how do I get to NKU from Florence? Or how do I get to NKU from Boone County?” she says.

TANK, which carries about 4 million people annually, studied travel activity and found a lot of the vehicle traffic between Boone County and Campbell County is for work and school.

“If you look at Northern Kentucky’s geography, there really isn’t a lot of east-west connections. North–south are the main corridors,” she says. “We hope this will open opportunities for students at NKU to work in Florence where there are a lot of work opportunities in retail and restaurants.”

The express route fare is $2. Students and faculty can ride free with NKU’s U-Pass program.

This isn’t the end of TANK’s east-west plans. It has identified another east-west route closer to the river serving more urban areas of Ludlow, Covington, Newport and Dayton, and plans to launch that service sometime in the future.

As far as hub development, the next focus areas are the NKU campus followed by Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

“We’re working on the NKU hub now, and hope to have it finalized in the next year and a half,” Douthat says.

The hub network allows TANK to better serve more people with limited resources, she says. A yearlong planning effort recommended enhancing transit in key travel corridors, such as Dixie Highway, Madison Avenue and Monmouth/US 27. 

“The goal, over time, would be to have 15 to 30 minute transit service all day in these major corridors and amenities, such as shelters and enhanced signage with schedule information at stops,” she says.