If the sheer geographical realities don’t persuade politicians, maybe a poll shall: There is widespread support for funding a passenger rail service connecting New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
The poll commissioned by business leadership in the two cities showed how out-of-touch with their constituents are the anti-train politicians.
Respondents in the survey of six parishes in the region favored a train 3-to-1.
Why hasn’t this been done before?
It is costly at the beginning, as there is construction needed to bring up to speed — rather literally — the old tracks between the two cities.
Louisiana missed its chance for a healthier federal subsidy for just that project. In the wake of the 2008 financial crash, an economic stimulus program might have paid for an upgrade and trains for passenger rail. Then-Gov. Bobby Jindal’s transportation department refused to even apply.
A new poll commissioned by business interests from Baton Rouge and New Orleans suggests there's widespread support for funding and using a pas…
It was a classical failure, rooted not in economic reality, but a less-than-rational animus toward urban life — and a rightist phobia about planning.
Cities across the nation and globe have embraced rail as a diversification of the transportation grid. God forbid that Louisiana would invest in something that progressive.
All is not lost. John Spain of Baton Rouge is chairman of the Southern Rail Commission. He said leaders in the region — including parishes like Ascension, St. John and St. James — want the state to find $100 million to be matched with a variety of federal sources to build it.
Once built, will riders come? At an estimated $10 to $15 each way, it’s less than Uber and allows business people to work on the train instead of wasting their ride in a car.
Cities like Gonzales and LaPlace are already working on potential terminals for commuters, or just Saints or LSU fans on game days, to get on the train.
St. John the Baptist Parish officials expect next month to unveil plans for a passenger train station in LaPlace, one of the targeted stops of…
The state will be subsidizing the service to some amount every year, although pretty much chicken-feed in terms of the overall transportation budget. And it is not as if highways and bridges and airports are not also heavily subsidized every year.
The unwillingness to embrace the obvious also has a geographical dimension to it. Viewed from above, particularly in a small plane, the trip from Baton Rouge down the river to New Orleans makes obvious the geographical limitations on transportation routes.
Growth over time is not going to be reasonably or efficiently served by a viable 12-lane Interstate 10. It is not futuristic planning to recognize that an additional route over the swamps and bayous of southeastern Louisiana already exists and can be developed to add passenger rail to the transportation network.
There is also a demographic reality. An aging population in the United States and Louisiana requires alternatives to driving. While there is some potential for self-driving automobiles to work, those still require routes, and in any case their promise is probably a good many years away. While Baton Rouge is a work in progress on public transit, it is more readily available in New Orleans, and ride-hailing services are popular in both places.
In the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the 2007 Louisiana Speaks planning process involved thousands of people seeking more resilient and efficient ways of daily living, including reducing the trauma of commuting that is particularly the source of gridlock on I-10, on both ends of the region.
Thousands of citizen-planners embraced the rail alternative then, and the new poll underlines public support for the idea a dozen years later.
“This is a time when voters are ahead of their leaders and it’s time for them to pay attention to what is being said,” Spain said of the rail proposal.
Email Lanny Keller at email@example.com.