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Column: THE GRAY LINE TOUR

Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / March 7, 1998

NEW TRANSIT SYSTEM NEEDED IN REGION

One of the least-discussed subjects in the broad topic of economic growth and job development is transportation. One of the least-discussedsubjects in the broad topic of welfare reform is, you guessed it, transportation. That seems to be the state of affairs in the River Parishesas well, as people say they want training or they want jobs but they physically can’t get to the schools or to the jobsites It’s an all-too-common picture and one which needs to be addressed to help the economically-disadvantaged join the mainstream of society.

No one wants to support a welfare system where welfare becomes a lifestyle instead of a temporary phase, where instead of people moving off welfare they are trapped within the system.

Imagine, if you will, a person living in a public housing development, with no personal vehicle or with one so old and creaky and unreliable it’s not trustworthy. She may need training but can’t get to the schools wheretraining is offered. She may have the necessary job skills but can’t reachthe workplace. She may have to hitchhike or try and carpool while jugglingchild care and other concerns. Is it any surprise many people on thewelfare rolls are single mothers with no marketable skills, trapped in the system with no escape in sight? Development of a regional transit authority with low fares or no fares for welfare recipients on their way to and from jobs or schools, taxpayer supported and reliable, could be one method to address the problem.

Such a regional transit system could also address another problem.

Foreign sailors, coming into the Port of South Louisiana, are often prey for armed robbers who attack and rob these sailors on the Mississippi River levee.

These sailors, many of whom speak little or no English, are handicapped in dealing with police in the hopes of apprehending any suspects. A transitsystem could stop at the ships, take them safely to shopping or entertainment areas, and return them to their ships. This would sharplycut down the opportunities for such robberies to continue.

A small transit system operated by the Council on Aging, exists in St.

Charles Parish for the benefit of elderly citizens who cannot or should not drive. That need also exists in St. James and St. John parishes as well, forthe safety not only of those citizens but also every other driver on the roads.

All in all, a regional transportation authority is necessary to the River Parishes as population increases, business come into the area, industrialization expands and the needs grow. It could cut down on thevolume of cars on the local roads, decrease accidents, decrease crime and help people get and keep jobs.

Leonard Gray is a reporter for L’Observateur.

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