With demand up and funding down, the River Parishes Transit Authority (RPTA) is advertising for proposals aimed at maximizing service.
Corey Faucheux, RPTA board chairman and St. Charles Parish’s director of economic development and tourism, said the feasibility study will benefit St. Charles Parish by evaluating operations and assessing needs of local citizens. The study is intended to include public transit service alternatives, as well as the estimated cost.
“The study will provide a much needed third-party review of current operations and will provide the RPTA Board and member parishes with different ideas on the most effective ways to offer public transit,” Faucheux said.
It also will identify ways to ensure “local dollars are prudently expended and transit service is maximized for local residents.”
Faucheux said federal matching funds will decrease while next year’s local funding or matching funds will likely increase.
“This is a result of more of the service area is included in the federal urbanized area versus the largely rural area when the transit system began,” he said. “The federal local match for a rural system is much less than a system operating in part of an urbanized area.”
Also, by statue, the RPTA cannot operate in the red and operate on a budget that isn’t balanced.
The board is charged with implementing a public transit system that maximizes service based on the funding made available by member parishes and other potential local funding sources, he said.
Faucheux called the proposal part of the board’s due diligence process to ensure it is considering all funding and operational options.
Overall, the goal is to provide residents with a “fully-leveraged local public transit system that maximizes service and inter-parish connectivity,” he said.
A Federal Transit Administration grant is covering the feasibility study cost.
Salutient Corp. is accepting the proposals on behalf of the RPTA until Jan. 6.
Public transit has been a longtime subject in the parish.
In 2015, an RPTA study was done to determine if stepping up public transit was feasible and again cited lack of funding as to why the service was available on an appointment-only basis. Increasing demand also was cited as reason for the study and pursuing fixed routes.
By 2017, increasing requests for a fixed-route service with the transit system prompted RPTA to consider implementing the service in the River Parishes by the following year, which did not happen. RPTA Operations Manager Evangeline Jackson-Martin told the council then that this service was really public transit, but she also advised doing it would require approval by parish presidents, as well as RPTA’s board of directors and funding.
Currently, the parish provides a fee-based or demand response system with specific places at specific times in St. Charles, St. James the Baptist and Jefferson parishes. Martin called it a system unique to these three parishes.