May 25th, 2023
For Immediate Release:
Ride New Orleans (RIDE) is thrilled to announce that our advocacy and research around zero fares for youth has paid off in a major way!
This morning, in a huge victory for New Orleans youth, City Council moved forward with allocating $2.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) for a one-year pilot program to offer free transit fares for youth and opportunity youth (OY) up to 24 years old. This one-year pilot program will provide valuable data to help the City and RTA evaluate how zero fares can benefit New Orleans youth, which we believe will make the case for the City to identify funding for a long-term program.
Now that funding has been secured, the real work begins! RIDE has made very clear throughout our research and advocacy that the RTA cannot be burdened with the cost of implementing zero fares, and we are pleased that the City Council has stepped up to make sure this one-year pilot can be funded without creating new financial burdens for RTA. However, this pilot initiative will require careful planning, capacity evaluation and continued collaboration among all stakeholders to be successful. Therefore, we ask that all involved commit to the following:
- Implementation of this pilot program should not be rushed. We strongly encourage the RTA, City and other partners to carefully consider the structure and timeline for this program, accounting for the RTA’s capacity to implement it successfully.
- The pilot should be tailored to meet the needs of transit-riding youth/OY, and the City and RTA should commit to robust youth outreach and engagement when rolling out the program.
- Funding zero fares long-term cannot be the responsibility of the RTA. If this program is to continue beyond the one-year pilot stage, the City must commit to finding sustainable funding for the program.
“Change is hard, but it is essential,” says Council Vice President Helena N. Moreno. “Creating this pilot program to provide equitable transit opportunities for our young people – whether it’s to get to school, to a job, or to take care of life’s essentials, we need to give our kids the best chance to succeed. And accessible transit is a critical component. I agree with these recommendations from RIDE to move forward responsibly and look forward to working with the advocates, RTA and other stakeholders to design a program that works for all.”
Working together to create a historic zero fares initiative for New Orleans youth/OY will result in a lasting legacy for all riders, and will lay the foundation for a more equitable, rider-focused transit system.
Media Contact: Shirani Jayasuriya / firstname.lastname@example.org / (504) 383-5069