Transit system aims at June start

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 29, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – The River Parishes Transit authority is moving one step closer in its long drive at getting a bus system up and running in the River Parishes.

The RPTA bus system has been in planning since 2001.

In January, South Central Planning Development Commission began soliciting bids for operators of the new bus system that will connect St. James, St. John and St. Charles Parishes to New Orleans.

“The bids are due in March 4…We’ve asked for proposals starting on or after June 1st,” said Martha Cauzabon who is managing the RPTA account at South Central. Cauzabon said she expects both private and public agencies in the bid to operate the system.

According to Cauzabon the start date may be pushed beyond June 1, 2008 pending grants RPTA submitted to state agencies that would provide surplus buses for the system.

RPTA Chairman Brent Petit said the system was almost complete in 2005 when Katrina hit, and is now just getting back to where they were before the storm.

Petit said transportation for individuals without vehicles is in dire shape.

“We had a lady in the Edgard area who was paying $50 one way to have someone take her to the hospital,” said Petit. “That is just robbery.”

Eventually, 200 riders a day are expected to use the RPTA system on eight buses that seat up to 18 passengers. The expected fare is $2 for one-way travel. In addition monthly and weekly passes are anticipated to be offered.

Petit said the buses will be handicap accessible and that people who ride with handicapped passengers will ride for free.

Petit also said they will be encouraging people to consider the bus as a consistent option to take them to school or weekly appointments such as dialysis or chemotherapy.

Eventually RPTA expects to have drop-off points in both Jefferson Parish and East Baton Rouge Parish.

In the meantime, those without personal transportation have two options, either take LASwift for travel to New Orleans or Baton Rouge or take a taxi for inter-parish transit.

LASwift, a program of the Louisiana Department of Transportation, is currently the only bus system that operates in St. John.

Buses run between Baton Rouge and New Orleans and make occasional pick-ups in LaPlace behind McDonald’s on Highway 51. One way rides cost $5 regardless of the pickup or drop-off point.

For six years Oak Transport Service, the only cab service based in St. John, has offered a taxicab service that charges by the mile and averages 20 to 25 trips daily.

Owner Steve Reine said he expects competition from the bus system.

“I can’t beat their rates that is for sure,” said Reine. “We are looking to add a few more units to the road and we’ll see what the bus does for us.”