Buses to make travel to metro areas easier

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 28, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — Parish officials say they are optimistic that a system of buses linking the River Parishes with New Orleans and Baton Rouge could be up and running by the beginning of next year.

Representatives from the South Central Planning and Development Commission and the River Parishes Transit Authority say they are prepared to sign off on contracts for the use of about eight 15-person buses to shuttle River Parish residents throughout the region. The group provided a report to the St. John Council at Tuesday’s meeting, where they received $125,000 worth of seed money.

Representatives will meet with the St. Charles Council at a December meeting to receive a similar-sized grant from the parish. The system has also received a $150,000 grant from the United Way of St. Charles.

“We have a service provider in place,” said RPTA Chairman Brent Petit. “But we wanted to be sure we had some cash in the bank before going ahead with the system.”

Petit said RPTA will enter into an agreement with Veolia Transportation Inc. of Illinois to operate a fleet of 12-person to 15-person buses for the system. He said RPTA has acquired four buses and is still looking for one more to complete the fleet. He said Veolia is also advertising for drivers.

“Our plan is to have four buses running the routes at all times, with a fifth in reserve,” said Petit. “It’s all going to depend on the demand we have for services.”

Petit said the system will begin operation as a demand/response procedure. Residents who need a ride will be asked to contact the service 24 hours in advance. The service will be curb-to-curb meaning that buses cannot leave the public right-of-way, but they can still go into residential areas.

“In most cases riders will be able to be picked up from their driveways,” Petit said. “The buses will be narrow enough.”

Petit said the idea behind the transit system comes from survey of residents conducted by Nicholls State University. The study concluded that a top priority of residents was public transportation throughout the parishes and into New Orleans.

“It seems to be a valid need for the parish,” said Petit. “We hope this system can fill the need.”

Martha Cazaubon of the South Central Planning and Development Commission said the system, which will connect to a similar transit service in St. James Parish, will allow River Parishes residents without an alternate mode of transportation an opportunity to travel between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. She said riders will pay $2 for a one-way fare.

In addition to connecting to the St. James service, Petit said the new system will also hook into the Kenner “park and ride” service along with the LA Swift bus system that runs from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Cazaubon said the system will have an annual operating budget of $1.2 million and should receive most of its financing through federal grants.