On January 24th, 2015, Ride New Orleans hosted ‘Voices for Transportation Choices’, an unprecedented community convening, that brought together a diverse group of public transportation riders, community leaders, business owners, and public officials to talk openly and honestly about community transportation priorities.
The convening kicked off with the “Making Transit Work” exercise. This breakout activity brought people together from all walks of life to plan a transit trip in various scenarios based on real stories of New Orleanians travelling to school, work, doctors’ appointments and more. We learned that reliable, on-time transportation services are essential to holding down a job and succeeding in school, that missing a connecting bus can add 45 minutes or more to a commute, and options for getting home after a late night shift are limited. Through this exercise, we explored what it means to depend on transit for everyday lives.
Next, we considered neighborhood transportation priorities with the help of Arthur Johnson, Executive Director of the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development; Cheryl Vallerie, a resident of Hollygrove; and April White, of the Faubourg Lafitte Tenant Association. The areas of greatest need to support our neighborhoods included more early morning and later evening buses and streetcars, shorter wait times, greater access to the LIFT bus for seniors and the disabled, and getting more buses on the streets with convenient neighborhood bus routes.
Public officials joined in the community conversation to talk transportation priorities for 2015. Justin Augstine, Vice-President of Transdev in service to the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA); District D City Councilmember Jared Brossett, Chair of the Transportation and Airport Committee; and Flozell Daniels from the NORTA Board of Commissioners highlighted opportunities for community members to shape transportation planning and decision through NORTA’s new Riders Advisory Committee and discussed big projects like the N. Rampart streetcar expansion, the Canal Blvd Terminal, new ferry boats and terminal upgrades and more.
We rounded out the convening with an inspiring story from our neighbors in Baton Rouge. Edgar Cage from Together Baton Rouge shared his experiences forming a community coalition that came together to support transit reforms and new revenues as the Baton Rouge transit agency – Capital Area Transit System (CATS) – was on the brink of ending bus service. Their grassroots efforts resulted in winning new, dedicated revenues for CATS while simultaneously holding their transportation leaders accountable for delivering promised reforms and new services.
Throughout the day, Ride New Orleans posed the question – “What do quality transportation services look like?” to attendees. One participant summed it up nicely, saying: “Quality transportation services take everyone to their destination reliably, affordably, efficiently, sustainably, and courteously.”
Thanks to all who attended Voices for Transportation Choices!
Thanks to the following community partners for helping us to plan the convening!