St. Gabriel woman starts petition to save LA Swift

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Could a St. Gabriel woman's petition save the LA Swift bus system from ending service later this month? Milisa York hopes the signatures of more than 800 people will at least grab someone's attention.

Every afternoon, Milisa York's ride picks her up from the Home Depot at Highland Road and Perkins Road. It's one of several stops in the city where the LA Swift drops off and picks up people who commute between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

"It saves the wear and tear on your vehicle...parking costs down in New Orleans," said York. "Let's not talk about gas prices. It drops me right nearby building, so I really don't have that far to transverse."

York has been riding the bus since 2007. While she understands it was set up as a temporary transit system between Baton Rouge and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, she says it's something she and her fellow passengers have come to heavily rely on. So, when she found out she and her fellow passengers could be losing their convenient - and for some their only - transportation at the end of the month, she started an online petition to save it.

"We have children that ride the bus from Baton Rouge to New Orleans attending college. We also have students coming from New Orleans to Baton Rouge going to LSU and Southern. You have people attending medical appointments. We have veterans on our bus that are riding to the VA hospital in New Orleans. We don't have a VA hospital in Baton Rouge," said York.

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber says connecting the two cities also gives this region an upper hand when competing to get new business in the area.

"Connecting the two regions through transportation, when we already have integrated economies, is something that we try to do," said Phillip LaFargue, senior vice president of marketing at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.

There have been talks of building a light rail that would run between Baton Rouge and the Big Easy, but it's still just an idea and it's still years away. York says it would make much more sense for the state to fund the LA Swift instead

"It's going to cost billions of dollars to get this rail system up and running because currently the tracks that are in place cannot accommodate a high speed rail. It's designed for freight. Not to mention, you're going to have to have it elevated to go over the Spillway. The money is just really not there," said York.

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber estimates between 140,000 and 150,000 people use the LA Swift each year.

While the feds won't be giving it 100 percent funding any longer, the government will match up to $750,000. BRAC is working with community and government leaders in hopes of coming up with a solution.

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