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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

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Parish to test public transportation system

Parish to test public transportation system

System could be in place within 9 to 12 months

Lafourche Parish Government’s hope of establishing a public transportation system for its citizens was unveiled Tuesday night at the Council’s public meeting in Mathews.

Adam Tater of South Central Planning and Development Commission (SCPDC), the advisory group the Council authorized to look for ways to fund and initiate such a program, presented the Council with a preliminary sketch of how the system could work and what options need to be considered.

Only 0.2% of the parish’s population use any public transit system (the national average is 5%), but Tater called the proposed system a “huge opportunity for persons who need transportation.”

SCPDC interviewed hundreds of people and received over 300 responses online to its questionnaire about a potential transit system and 50% of respondents said there is a “high” need for some sort of public transportation.
“We found that people want to live near reliable transit service,” said Tater.

Limited transit service does exist in Lafourche. Organizations like Lafourche Council on Aging and Lafourche ARC provide residents with a means of getting around if one calls to schedule a ride.

Also, Terrebonne Parish’s public system, Good Earth Transit, includes daily service to Thibodaux and Nicholls State University.

But Lafourche government identified a need for its own parish-wide transit system as one of the major strategies in its Comprehensive Resiliency Plan or “vision” for the future of Lafourche.

Tuesday, SCPDC presented three methods of transit as most likely to serve the needs of the parish.

The “demand response” method, said Tater, would require those in need of a ride to call and set up their route 24 hours in advance.

Another proposed method would be a fixed route running the length of the parish, having limited stops in communities along the way, available twice daily, according to Tater.

A third method might partner the parish system with the Greater Lafourche Port Commission to meet the transit needs of hundreds of workers at Port Fourchon.

Additionally, parish government would have to decide if it wants to operate the service or contract it to a third party.

The parish could also partner with other agencies to form a regional transit authority, said Tater.

Funding for the program would come primarily from the Federal Government. The Feds would provide 85% of the cost of vehicles and 50% of operating expenses for the program.

“The funds come from the fuel tax we all pay at the pump. We would be putting out tax dollars back into the community,” he said.

Although one of the impediments to a public transportation system is the parish’s layout --for the most part,

Lafourche is a long string of rural communities with some densely populated areas-- President Charlotte Randolph said the program is necessary for the parish.

“After Hurricane Katrina, we realized how much people need transportation. I am extremely excited to say that we could have a program started by the end of 2015 or the beginning of 2016,” she said.

Tater said a pilot program with a limited number of vehicles could be in place within 9-12 months.