Today is the final day for the LA Swift bus. That’s the commuter bus between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, started shortly after Hurricane Katrina. It has provided transport between the cities for just a few dollars, by far the cheapest option available.
Downtown at Tulane and Loyola Avenues, Carrie Robicheaux waits for the Swift bus back to Baton Rouge, after a trip to see her New Orleans doctor. She’s taken this bus since she moved away after Katrina.
"Most importantly, it's my only way to see my family, since they still live in New Orleans," she says.
She says the bus is full each time she rides it.
Susan Hutchinson rode to New Orleans from the capital for a conference.
“It’s part of a modern society, being able to go from one big city to the next big city with public transport. The rest of the world does this,” she says. "Louisiana is at the bottom of the list in so many categories. We have something here that's progressive. Why would we give that up?"
Michael Hecht of Greater New Orleans, Inc. says the Swift bus promotes a stronger, regional economy. His economic development team has worked to save the bus service. He says there is federal funding available for it, but those monies must be matched by local funds and in-kind contributions. The proposal Louisiana put before the feds didn’t pass muster, so he says lawmakers and business groups are working on a new plan.
"We don’t know when the service will restart," he says. "But we are cautiously optimistic that we’ll restart in the October to November timeframe."
Any long gap in service means some workers will lose jobs. David Merrick rides the Swift to his job at a legal documents firm, to save money on gas and parking. He says some Baton Rouge-based co-workers who do the same will make a game plan this weekend.
“Couple people talking about carpooling. If I have to I’ll drive; it’s going to be very costly," he says.
Greater New Orleans Inc. says the end of Swift doesn’t just hurt current riders. It hinders future growth. Affordable transportation between Louisiana’s two biggest cities means more viable options for work and housing.