Baton Rouge Bus System & High Speed Rail

The issue is the broken Baton Rouge Bus System versus High Speed Rail. Sort of.

So Mayor Kip Holden of Baton Rouge Louisiana has appointed a “Blue Ribbon Panel” to look at the bus system here. A system that is screwy beyond belief. A system that is perennially short a million or so bucks. It’s a system with big lumbering buses for 60 people carrying a dozen maybe. It’s a system where the buses run oh ever hour or more on their routes. It would be more useful to have smaller buses, like rent-a-car transit vans, making the routes every 20 minutes all day long.

It’s a strange system because the Transit Center of 22nd Street and Florida Blvd is surrounded by cemeteries, where most people really don’t want to go. Yet, every bus heads for this station, so that people can transfer and continue on their way. So instead of a bus leaving Downtown at the riverfront, and going down Government Street all the way to where it morphs into Goodwood Blvd and then keeps going until the end of that road at Flannery – crossing the city in one fell swoop – it’s actually two bus routes. One that goes from the river to the transit center – which is not on Government Street, so the bus has to make a turn to Florida Blvd – and a second bus that goes from the Transit Center back down 22nd Street to Government to make a turn and continue onwards east.

So that anyone seeking to use the bus system to get to work can’t just get on a bus at say Goodwood and Airline Hwy, and get to work downtown in one shot. No, they’ve got to change buses at 22nd Street. It’s silly. But it’s not just that route. Every route is truncated at 22nd Street, so one always has to transfer – and waste time. And hope you make the transfer.

Then too, there’s no bus from East Baton Rouge to West Baton Rouge, on the other side of the Mississippi River. So that no one on the west side can go to a park’n’ride, leave their car, and take a bus over to downtown where they might work. So the bridge is packed with traffic in the morning and evening rush hours.

Nor are there any express buses from Denham Springs and Livingston Parish to downtown. So Interstate 12 is bedeviled by traffic during the rush hours.

No bus route seems to actually cross the city – but all head to 22nd Street. And then there’s a mad dash to change buses, and if you miss it, oh well, wait an hour or two.

It’s nuts.

Not to mention that Obama and Biden are so sure of this high speed rail nonsense that they have dangled $300,000,000 in Louisiana’s face so that we can build a high speed rail from Baton Rouge to New Orleans – to whisk us between the two – in an Hour and a Half. The same time it takes a bus to travel the route. And in fact, there is a bus between the two cities – for $5 one can ride between the two. The problem is that there’s no parking at the 22nd Street transit station – so that anyone not wanting to drive the distance has no where to leave their car in Baton Rouge – defeating the purpose. Not to mention that it only runs once every hour and a half, and at weird times. For $30,000,000 one could probably set up a 24/7 — every 20 minutes, round the clock, bus service that people don’t even have to think about using, but just down to the station and catch the next one. But nope.

Ah, but high speed rail! What a boondoggle. So the governor turned down the big money, but he can’t access it to help the Baton Rouge system with a million dollars they’re always short of.

And is any of that $300,000,000 available for the buses? Nope. Can’t be done – it’s been dedicated to the president’s love of trains. Beats me, it’s weird. What could so much money do for the bus system here!

In a way, Southeast Louisiana – Baton Rouge to Slidell to New Orleans – is a city – one unit. It’s not much wider than Houston or Phoenix is – rough 80 miles. And there’s buses in those two cities that go from one side to the other quite well, I’ve ridden both systems, I know.

So instead of using $300,000,000 in our tax dollars to build a bus network that makes sense, and which would probably cost only $30 Million bucks, and then but $270,000,000 to better use, or just an investment account for the bus system so that it could live off the interest, no, we’re going to dedicate that to a rail line that’s pointless and won’t get us anywhere any quicker in anyway, and will carry less people and be more inaccessible, requiring a car to get to the train. It’s dumb.

And yet, I somehow doubt the Blue Ribbon Panel will actually come up with something useful, for such panels usually just ask for more money to keep the status quo. Time will tell.

But the transit system here is horrendous, and now we’re the largest city in the state. Surrounded by the fastest growing parishes in the state, and it’s time to use that $300,000,000 in rail funds to create a spider web of buses to actually get people somewhere they want and need to go.


1 Comment

  1. ted

    The rail system is a boondoggle with long strings attached. It will soak up resources, and cost out lays will far exceed the 300 mill proposed. It cannot be built for that through the swamp – and when a storm comes – they will have extensive repairs to make to even run. Who benefits form the 22nd street station? follow the money.

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