BATON ROUGE – LA Swift, a free emergency Baton Rouge-to-New Orleans bus service for hurricane-displaced residents, rolled out Monday with an impressive ridership of 97 people.
LA Swift is designed to transport displaced residents with no transportation from Baton Rouge to New Orleans and back for jobs, job searches and similar recovery efforts. The service is an initiative of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, a 23-member body appointed by Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco to oversee short-term and long-term recovery efforts in Louisiana. LA Swift was conceived by the LRA, which is exploring ways to reconnect displaced New Orleanians with available jobs.
FEMA is providing up to 25 climate-controlled coach buses and bus drivers a day for a 15-day trial period. If the program is successful, the service could be extended.
“We’re happy that 97 people were able to get back to New Orleans today to start work again, to look for a new job or just to start rebuilding their lives,” said Johnny B. Bradberry, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and team leader for transportation and infrastructure for LRA. “We hope to reach more people who need this service in the coming days to make this a longer-term service.”
Under Gov. Blanco’s direction, the Department of Labor and DOTD are coordinating this service to help citizens recover from Hurricane Katrina and to give New Orleans-area businesses a supply of employees. DOL representatives are on hand at the bus stop at Canal and Elks Place in New Orleans to give job seekers information on which employers are hiring people.
“We already have contacted a number of business and industry groups in the New Orleans area to make them aware of the potential employees that will be coming there,” DOL Secretary John Warner Smith said.
LA Swift is operating seven days a week and initially is making seven round-trips a day – leaving the CATS Baton Rouge bus terminal on Florida between 4:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. and returning to Baton Rouge between 3 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
A free feeder bus is taking residents of Renaissance Village, the Groom Road FEMA community, to the CATS terminal and back.
Commuters also can ride regular Baton Rouge buses to the terminal, but standard fares are in place. Once riders get to the New Orleans drop-off point at Canal and Elks Place, RTA buses provide free service on 13 routes.
For more information, call DOTD’s Customer Service Center at (225) 379-1232 or toll-free at 1-877-4LA-DOTD (1-877-452-3683), or visit www.laswift.com.