BATON ROUGE - Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, DOTD Secretary Johnny B. Bradberry and Department of Labor Secretary John Warner Smith announced Wednesday that LA Swift, the free bus service that transports displaced residents between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, will continue to operate at least through Feb. 28, 2006.
Gov. Blanco said impressive numbers during LA Swift’s pilot persuaded FEMA officials to extend the service.
“The success of the bus service shows again how badly our people want to work and rebuild their lives," the Governor said. "FEMA's decision to extend the service is a concrete example of how federal and local governments can find solutions that help our citizens."
Labor Secretary Smith said, “The bus service has already resulted in dozens of displaced workers and others getting jobs. The service is showing instant benefits for businesses trying to rebuild and revitalize New Orleans.”
DOTD Secretary Bradberry said FEMA’s decision to continue funding LA Swift also allows planners to begin exploring additional stops and schedules to reach more people.
“We want to expand this so more people can take advantage of it,” Bradberry said. He added that LA Swift already has received multiple requests to add stops and routes to help other displaced residents return to the New Orleans area to continue work or to find jobs.
LA Swift began Monday, Oct. 31, as a 15-day pilot program and has shown consistent increases in ridership each day. As of Wednesday morning, the service had provided nearly 3,000 free rides between Baton Rouge and New Orleans to workers and job seekers.
Smith said the bus service was crucial to the success of a Labor Department-sponsored job fair Tuesday morning that was attended by more than 350 people seeking employment from some 30 New Orleans businesses.
Another Labor-sponsored job fair will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, at the New Orleans Job Center, 1530 Thalia St.
“We want job seekers to know that employers in the construction, hospitality and retail markets are eager to hire them. The bus service can help them get those jobs,” Smith said.
LA Swift is an initiative of the Louisiana Recovery Authority. It is coordinated by DOTD and the Department of Labor in cooperation with the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority and the Capital Area Transit System.
Andy Kopplin, executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, said, “One of LRA’s goals was to reconnect workers with jobs and ensure that Louisianians are participating in rebuilding their own state. This bus service makes that happen and suggests that there is a benefit to new transportation links between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.”
For more information about LA Swift, call 1-877-4LA-DOTD or visit www.laswift.com.