City seeks residents’ suggestions for transit system
The City of Lake Charles is asking for feedback on its transit system in an effort to improve service.
It’s conducting a survey, available on the city’s website and at the transit center, that will help officials decide what changes to make. Potential changes include extending hours, tweaking routes and installing covered benches, city spokesman Matt Young said.
Many residents have advocated for extending the system’s hours — which are weekdays 5:45 a.m.–5:45 p.m. — during Mayor Nic Hunter’s community meeting series.
Increasing hours, however, will come at a high price, Young said. He said running buses until 10 p.m. on weekdays and adding weekend routes would cost about $1 million annually.
The entire transit system costs $3.1 million each year, and less than 4 percent is covered by money collected from bus fare, Young said. He noted that the system does get help from the Federal Transit Administration, which covers half the operating cost and 80 percent of the capital cost.
Young said federal funding helps to keep the fare at $1 so that residents who can’t afford their own cars can pay for the bus.
Regarding routes, he said the city will use the survey in identifying ways to make them faster and more convenient. The system now includes five buses and two paratransit buses for residents with disabilities.
Covered bus stops, he said, are another city priority. The city has 186 bus stops — less than half of which have a shelter or a bench. Most stops consist of a poll where residents often have to sit on the ground and wait in the rain until the next bus comes.
“It’s always unfortunate when you pass by and see someone who’s waiting by a bus stop and there’s not a shelter in place,” Young said.
He said the city’s goal is to install shelters at every stop, but its budget only allows for covering about 10 stops a year. He said the survey will help it decide which stops to cover next.
Young said having more people ride the bus will alleviate traffic congestion caused by ongoing economic expansion in the area. He noted that ridership is on the rise: About 256,000 rides were taken on the bus in 2016 compared to 240,000 in 2015.
“Our goal is just to provide a more efficient service for those that ride the bus and also try to help entice those who don’t ride the bus to do so,” Young said.
Hunter said the city supports increasing hours, adding weekends and making the system more efficient. But, he said, it first needs to hear from residents.
The survey is available at the Transit Division’s Customer Service Center, 1155 Ryan Street, and online at www.cityoflakecharles.com. Responses will be taken through Oct. 16.
For more information, including routes and schedules, call 491-1253.
Community meeting series
Mayor Nic Hunter is hosting a community meeting series in which residents are invited to share their concerns to his Community Advisement and Assessment Board at a gathering scheduled in their district.
Meetings have been held in Districts A-C. The next meeting, in District D, is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24, at Harbor’s Edge Pavilion in Prien Lake Park, 3100 W. Prien Lake Road.
The District E meeting is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31, at College Oaks Recreation Community Center, 3518 Ernest St.
To see a district map, visit cityoflakecharles.com/council. Call 491-1382.