Bus system to roll by October
The RPTA currently has two older buses that will be used inside the parish and has ordered two new buses for the transit system. The new buses should arrive by Aug. 15. Exact hours and operation information will also be available sometime this month.
“I met with the River Parishes Transit Authority and Mr. Brent Petit, who has organized the transit system that will involve St. John and St. Charles parishes,” St. Charles Parish President V.J. St. Pierre said. “This program will begin in September or October and you can call and let them know what time you need to be picked up and they will bring you to your site and bring you back.”
The system will not have set routes, but will instead be a curbside pick-up service.
“It’s strictly going to be demand-response,” Petit said. “That way, we can see where our clientele is going to be located and go from there. We want to start out slow because we want to be prepared when we begin service. We can see what our demand is and grow into it.”
Out of the four buses, Petit says one will probably patrol the East Bank with another set to travel the West Bank. One bus will be set up at a central location and field demand calls, while the last bus will be used as a backup.
St. Charles Parish has already given $125,000 to the program and will provide an additional $50,000 due to the increasing prices of fuel. St. Pierre asked the River Parishes Transit Authority to give him a more detailed breakdown of how the money was to be used before handing it over. That same amount has also been requested from St. John Parish.
All the start-up costs, like acquiring the buses, are being paid for by state and federal grants. The parishes are paying for what the grants don’t cover, such as operating costs.
“Regardless of where you go in the United States, there isn’t a public transit system that makes money,” Corey Faucheux, the parish’s economic development and tourism director, said. “All of them need some form of subsidy.”
St. Pierre also realizes that the extra $50,000 is a hit the parish will have to take in order to have a transportation system.
“It’s just like everything else these days with increased fuel costs,” St. Pierre said. “It’s another burden we’re going to have to accept while we wait for gas prices to even out.”
Planning for the transit system first got underway in 2000 when the South Central Planning and Development Commission was awarded a grant from the Federal Highway Administration to assist the River Region in devising a transit service plan.
The plan for St. Charles and St. John will provide connections from each parish to both St. James and Kenner. From Kenner, riders will be able to travel all the way to New Orleans. The proposed transportation system would serve a population of around 101,298 people living within the 143-square-mile area of St. Charles and St. John Parishes.
The most important aspect of the system is that it would include curbside service. For instance, if a rider lives in Hahnville but needs a ride to the Wal-Mart in Boutte, they just have to call the bus driver, who will then look at the route and tell the resident when a bus will be in that area to pick them up. The driver will also bring the person home when they are ready and assist riders when they board the vehicle.
Bus service should occur five days a week, from 5:45 a.m. to 6:45 p.m., Monday through Friday. Fares have not been finalized yet, but they will most likely be $2 for a one-way trip, $4 for a daily pass or $60 for a monthly pass.
The system is intended to serve the general public, as well as offer service to the physically and mentally disabled, elderly and low-income residents.
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