Now the hard work starts
The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) gave us all a nice holiday present on Tuesday, December 19 when they approved the long-term strategic transit plan. The plan is a big step forward and sets the table for major transit improvements in the coming years.
Ride New Orleans played a big role with this plan. We kept the public informed and pushed for real reform throughout the process. But the hard work is just starting and we need your help.
Will you support our campaign to make this plan a reality for New Orleans transit riders?
Keep reading below for an overview of why we like this plan and what the next steps are.
Why do we like the plan?
There are three important reasons why we think the RTA strategic plan is an important win for transit riders:
1. Great ideas for moving transit forward!
The plan has some great proposals that will make a big difference for transit riders. We’re especially excited about:
- A proposed high frequency network that crosses parish lines and would ultimately provide rapid and frequent service with a bus every 10 minutes during the morning and evening rush and every 15 minutes the rest of the day
- A network redesign process to adjust our system to better serve riders – especially if you’re going across Canal or from New Orleans East or Algiers
- New rules that most transit stops with 15 or more daily boardings must have benches or shelters
- A lot of other good ideas that will make life easier for transit riders, including simpler schedules, branding of bus and streetcar lines by frequency, more info at bus stops, and ‘real’ real-time data.
2. A big win for transparency and transit rider control
In recent years, it’s been hard for RTA riders to push for change because there was no well-known plan, set of goals, or framework to guide transit improvements. There was no easy way for riders to comprehensively hold the RTA accountable. This plan changes that with a detailed series of action items that are well-organized by strategies and goals, and tied to clear performance measures and targets. Transit riders now have a checklist of what needs to happen and a timeline of when it needs to happen. While that won’t turn around transit overnight, it will make it a lot easier to hold the RTA accountable in the coming years. And that’s a really important win!
3. A better way to measure success
The plan redefines success for the RTA with a number of important metrics. Especially exciting is a goal to double the amount of jobs accessible via transit over the next 10 years. That’s an important goal that Ride New Orleans has often stressed. This should prioritize projects that get riders to their destinations more quickly instead of projects like the Rampart-St. Claude streetcar expansion that don’t increase access to jobs and other important destinations.
The challenge now is to make sure that this transit plan is not just a pretty document that sits in a glass case, but a practical road map to improving transit.
When we spoke in favor of the plan this week, we reminded the RTA board that passing the plan is the easy part. Finding the will to stick to the plan and make a real push to find the funding to implement the biggest parts of the plan are harder.
In the short-term, we will be watching closely to make sure that the RTA sticks to the list of short-term action items like:
- Launching reliable real-time data
- A regional pass between Orleans and Jefferson parishes
- Better bus stop shelters and signage
- Greatly improved transparency
We also will push the RTA board to start immediately on some important additional planning steps that will take some time to complete.
Especially important is a 2018 launch of a comprehensive operating analysis (COA). This is a detailed study of rider demand and travel patterns and that precedes a network redesign. Those are both really important pieces to ultimately give riders increased frequency, reliability, and connectivity. A smart network redesign can improve both without the need for immediate new funding. The strategic transit plan calls for these processes to be completed at some point in the next five years, but riders need to see them started within the next year.
We also need to quickly begin studies of the proposed high frequency transit corridors ASAP to determine what investments need to be made and how much they will cost. Additionally, RTA officials must start conversations with Jefferson Parish and other parishes to determine the best way to implement the regional routes that the plan calls for.
Finally, riders need to see short-term improvements to service as soon as possible, even if the true high frequency lines are a number of years in the future. Small increases in frequency on high priority lines throughout the day and on nights and weekends would be a great step.
Support our 2018 work
We appreciate your ongoing support of better transit in New Orleans and wish you and your family the best for the holiday season! We’ll be back in touch in early 2018 with an update on what’s happening and how you can get involved.
Your support is an important part of our annual budget and we greatly appreciate your continued trust in our work!