Subsidy for transit system approved

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 31, 2012



LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Parish Council on Tuesday voted to continue the parish’s annual $125,000 subsidy to the River Parishes Transit Authority for its increasingly popular on-demand bus service. The cooperative agreement, which also includes a matching contribution from St. Charles Parish, was approved during the council’s finance committee meeting. The council also approved the parish’s annual contract with Pyrotecnico Inc. for the parish’s Independence Day fireworks display.

Garrick Rose of South Central Planning and development, the agency that supervises the bus service, said RPTA ridership has grown by more than 23 percent since the service started in 2009. He said passenger numbers increased from 15,500 riders to 19,080 riders last year. The service typically averages more than 70 trips per day.

The service has three buses that travel throughout St. John and St. Charles parishes. It also links up with a similar transit system in St. James Parish. Rose said 55 percent of the total ridership comes from St. John Parish.

“This is the sole means of transportation for some of our residents, especially those who are elderly,” said Councilwoman Cheryl Millet. “It keeps them from having to walk across Airline Highway to do grocery shopping and go to appointments.”

Helen Banquer, vice chairperson for the RPTA board of directors, said most riders appreciate the door-to-door service because it keeps them from having to walk to a set stop to get picked up and dropped off. The round trip fare is $2.

In addition to the payments from the parishes, the system is also funded through state and federal grants through the Department of Transportation, the Federal Transit Administration and the United Way. The RPTA budget for 2011 was $1.3 million, with operating expenses totaling $963,000. Fares in 2010 totaled $38,345. Rose said the agency wants to expand and add more buses, but the funding is not quite where it needs to be.

According to the agreement, the parish pays $10,416 to RPTA monthly. In exchange, RPTA is required to complete a financial report for review by the parish. Parish President Natalie Robottom also asked at the meeting that a representative from RPTA come before the council twice a year to keep the parish informed.

The council also approved a $31,500 contract for the fireworks display on the Mississippi River for the parish’s Independence Day celebrations in Reserve and Edgard. Prior to the vote, Councilman Ranney Wilson asked what happens to the contract in the event of cancellation due to weather. Robottom said there had never been a plan in place to move the event because of the coordination involved in putting on the display. She said the parish would look into that possibility in the future.

“We have been fortunate in the past when it comes to that,” Robottom said. “We have had to deal with rain during the event but never enough to cancel the fireworks display outright.”