We would be remiss not to address the discussions about potentially implementing a commuter rail from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. However, there is little public awareness and knowledge about this project. According to recent poll results from The Southern Rail Commission, 37% of respondents answered that they had heard nothing at all about the project, 24% answered not much, and only 31% answered that they have heard some information about the rail service plan to operate from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. To continue the discussion and momentum of rail projects in Louisiana, we must evaluate and optimize rail projects in Louisiana that would benefit the most people at the micro-connectivity level before expanding parish to parish service. State and local governments have a difficult decision to make when it comes to megaprojects like these. While they have been heavily discussed, action has not been taken to feasibly see them through. For example, buses and bus rapid transit are a natural set of first steps before jumping to commuter rail. We need buses in the interim to actually beef up ridership. Next, there are potential areas for short term gains. Why can’t Amtrak and KCS (or their new owner) determine ways to expand high-quality service along existing routes? What would be the cost to lay a new and dedicated track? And what about traveling to Shreveport, Bossier, to Monroe or Bunkie and Lake Charles? How can we make those routes happen? What makes the most sense for moving the most people?
GIS and remote sensing can also be integrated into this measure in order to determine which areas or parishes would benefit most from passenger rail based on population density and modes of transportation available in the area. To make this a reality, we must have better public feedback and communication measures in order to ensure accountability in tracking the progress of all of our demands.