We need easier ways of getting to one another. We need public transit with the central aim of connecting people to good jobs, to good times, and good travels, and we have already demonstrated throughout this paper that having these values also ultimately boosts economic development in Louisiana. When you center people, things work out. To accomplish this, we believe there should be a state-wide public evaluation of existing transportation systems within each parish in Louisiana. This study should first help us identify easy wins. The reality is that so often the demands for public transportation start with the need for money. But honestly, we care about how that money is being used and if there is transparency in the decision making and allocation processes. Some parishes are going to require deep work – because they have been built in floodplains, or their grocery stores are nowhere near the neighborhoods, or the highway expansions that disrupt neighborhoods are already underway. But the easy wins exist, let’s maximize them! If service is great here, can we reconfigure the entire system to include other cities and parishes? If Amtrak already runs one route, why can’t it go a few miles more and extend it? If the station closed down decades ago, why can’t we renew it for a 2nd Act? And, if the funding is just not being applied for, can we start working on applications for federal funding? One of our favorite examples of easy wins is North Baton Rouge. Divested from and underserved, the area has some of the best opportunities for world class transit that actually serves the hard working folks of Scotlandville, Glen Oaks and the Southern University community. Achieving zero emissions goals within part of any given parish is effective and can be the launching pad for expanded goal achievements. Areas like North Baton Rouge, if invested with the integrity and innovation it deserves, will be the model for what the remainder of the parish should look like by 2030, by 2050 and beyond.
This study will be time-bound and will take about six months to complete. The results should reveal which areas of Louisiana are the most inaccessible for public transit and which routes have just not been proposed. Are we neglecting North Louisiana? How are people getting to their jobs? Are rural areas serviced with direct shuttles? Could they integrate with a larger system? Where are the hospitals, grocery stores, and jobs centralized in a given parish? These are crucial questions we will seek to address in coordination with others and with the development of our model. Oh, and with our volunteers and leaders on the ground, of course!
The second point of this demand involves providing transportation options for low-income or no-income residents who need to be able to afford public transit. To make this happen, Louisiana must invest in public transportation that runs often, makes sense, and gets people to where they need to be on time. “Factors to help encourage greater patronage include improvements to frequency and reliability, provision of real time information and an integrated ticketing system that allows travel across different modes (e.g. transfer from light rail/metro to bus) saving costs for passengers. Informal transit services need to be integrated”, per the C40 recommendations. Sierra Club’s Urban Infill Policy goes on to add: “Transportation investments should focus on improving walking, bicycling and transit connections in already built-out areas, and ensuring access for persons with disabilities.” In other words, reduce new road-building and focus on transportation modes that are healthier, more sustainable, and that do not negatively impact the climate. “Where we live and how we get where we need to go is no accident. It is the result of a series of decisions made at the federal, state, and local levels of government ranging from zoning laws, to subsidies for gasoline, to the low level of federal support for public transit. But much of the increase in driving comes down to how we have designed and built our streets, roads, and highways, and the billions we pour into this system each year with little accountability for spending it well.” To fix the rising rates of emissions from transportation we have to change both the physical layout of our communities and transportation infrastructure.