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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

SporTran City Update


Transit company soon to offer more than a bus ride

SporTran is on target to complete SporTran City, its multimodal resource center in the former Sun Furniture store on Texas Avenue, according to Chief Executive Officer Dinero Washington.

The new facility will house a food court for passengers and the public, a transit technology center, a training facility for employees with driving simulators, and an employee wellness center.

“We have completed Phase One, which is our retail course. It is more like an airport-style food court. It’ll house some additional vendors in there for maybe convenience store-type efforts,” Washington said.

SporTran is working to place tenants in the building. “We’ve already had a lot interest from quite a few major tenants. We don’t have them officially signed under contract. We’re working to make sure that their needs are met within the facility.” While Washington cannot specifically name the food vendors yet, he says three major vendors are interested in locating there. The food court is expected to open this fall.

“We’re also working with a major coffee vendor to be there on that corner, which will also be another phase of something we haven’t projected that we think will draw a lot of attention to the location,” he said.

Bidding on Phase Two closed on April 30. It consists of a training center on the second floor and a new state-of-the-art call center. “One of things we’re very big on is the safety culture, and so we are building a new state-of-the art training center,” Washington said. It includes a driving simulator in a separate room, in which trainers can watch drivers complete their routes, so that they can experience their routes before taking to the streets in buses.

“We’ll also do some retraining programs using this simulator, so it’s definitely something different than what we’ve seen in the past, but it also allows us to maybe do things such as reduce our insurance costs,” he said..

Phase Two is a five- to six-month project and is expected to be completed sometime this fall.

“We did a lot of stuff in Phase One that benefits the second floor,” Washington said. That includes new electrical work, air conditioning, lighting, plumbing and more.

The first floor features the employee wellness center. “We looked at how do we give better quality of life to our employees through a health benefit,” Washington said. “This is one of our health initiatives that we rolled out a few years ago.” The company also offers step classes and aerobics classes on its campus, and “this is just another expansion of that health initiative that we’ve been doing here at SporTran.”

How did this all come about? “We’re always interested in what we do in our community,” Washington said. “When we got ready to build our terminal, one of the things we did was we reached out to our employees, and we talked about what did they want to see and the things that they felt they needed, from drivers to dispatchers to call center agents – what do we need?”

What they got was the former Sun Furniture building for their expansion, and work is running along smoothly with Phase Three, an on-site maintenance facility next door to the Sun Furniture location. “So we’re taking federal dollars, investing, bringing our community back, and we saw that (location) as our new home for the next 30 to 40 years,” he said.

“We’re hoping to have Phase Two done by the end of this year, and by first quarter of next year, we’re hoping to have Phase Three. We’re working with Amtrak for that facility as well to bring them in to that facility. That’s actually Phase Four of the project.”

SporTran also received a $1 million Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) grant. “Shreveport was one of the first cities that was named in the medium-sized market to be able to support and introduce autonomous vehicles for public transit,” Washington said. “Stage One is the planning grant, where we’ll be looking at how we’re going to update infrastructure.”

An autonomous vehicle is driverless. “There’s a lot of technology upgrades so the first million dollars will go for that. Once we have completed the first 18 months of the Stage One grant, we’ll be issued a Stage Two grant to purchase the vehicles and be able to do additional technology and actually put this project into use, so we will actually have autonomous vehicles running in our downtown,” said Washington.

A driverless vehicle sounds kind of scary.

How do you overcome concern from the public? “I’ve always been under the impression that you don’t let technology catch up with you, but you meet technology where it’s at.”

“It’s uneasy for all of us at first,” he admitted. “But we have tested the technology before we even applied for the grant. We have done our due diligence. We have been approached about this technology for the last five years, and there’s been a couple of times we’ve said, no, we don’t want to be a part of that.”

Washington said that he and his chief of staff went to Orlando, Fla., in October and spent a day familiarizing themselves with the vehicle and testing it in real-life situations. “I would say, 20 years from now, it will be a way of life,” he said.

“We’re so excited about bringing great projects to Shreveport.”


In our May 1, 2024 edition featuring Willis Knighton’s 100th anniversary, we incorrectly identified CEO Jerry A. “Jaf” Fielder II, who has been with Willis Knighton for more than 30 years. Dr. T.E. Williams was also misidentified in a photograph. The first hospital administrator was Louise Frey.

We apologize for the errors.


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