St. John transit system is close

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 28, 2006


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – St. John Parish is one step closer to having a $1 million mass transit system, for only a fraction of the cost, according to Parish President Nickie Monica.

Members of the River Parishes Transit Authority and the River Region Caucus were in unanimous favor of going along with a plan which would only cost St. Charles and St. John Parishes $125,000 annually to run the program, a cost normally fronted completely by local government.

Monica called the proposed transit system a &#8220Cadillac” of plans, and is glad that now his parish will be able to take advantage of it, as was not the case when the transit authority originally brought the plan before the River Parishes.

&#8220The first plan they gave us was going to cost each parish $350,000 and that’s just something I could not support at the time,” Monica said. &#8220St. James already has a partial transportation system in place so that would place the cost on St. John and St. Charles.”

The River Parishes Transit Authority presented the plan to the River Region Caucus Sept. 11 with parish presidents and council members from St. James, St. John, and St. Charles all in attendance to show their support for the plan.

Brent Petit of the River Parishes Transit Authority says the proposed plan would implement a Hybrid Demand Response Service using 15-20 passenger buses, similar to the ones used for airport shuttles. Each parish will be split into zones, Petit said, with a certain bus assigned to patrol each zone. Each zone will have a connecting route to the next zone providing transportation from the furthest point of St. Charles to the furthest point in St. John in about two hours, according to Petit.

&#8220This is all part of creating a seamless transit route from Baton Rouge to New Orleans,” Petit said.

Drivers will also be equipped with a hands free phone that will connect to a central dispatch residents can call to request a pickup. Petit said there would be marked stops in each zone and if requested, the bus will pick up residents from their curbside

Petit said the system will start out with seven buses, much of which will be paid for through a $1.3 million federal grant over the next three years.

The program must receive approval from the St. John and St. Charles Councils before proceeding. If approved by the councils, Petit said the earliest date the transit system would start is January, but hiring personnel could push that date back some.