The next phase of the New Links regional transit network redesign process will start next month!
New Links could make real changes to where bus lines go and how often buses come.
It’s exciting because it’s the only comprehensive way to make sure the buses come on time, more frequently, and later in the evening than they do now. Even more important, it’s the best chance for a big jump on regional transit connections in the next few years.
New Links background, status, and next steps
New Links is the year-long study and public discussion that will finish with a proposal to change where New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and Jefferson Transit (JeT) bus lines go to make them work better for transit riders. The proposal is led by the Regional Planning Commission in coordination with both RTA and JeT.
RIDE is very supportive of the process because we think there needs to be big changes to our regional transit system.
Why are changes needed? Right now, riders have to deal with a lot:
- RTA buses only come on-time three quarters of the time or less (and its much worse on many routes, especially those serving New Orleans East and Algiers).
- Bus lines that used to come every 15 minute or less before Katrina now only come every 30, 45, or 60 minutes meaning riders have to wait – a lot!
- Evening and weekend service is even less frequent and that’s a big problem in a city with many hospitality industry workers.
- It takes way too long to get to important places like job opportunities, school, or the doctor’s office – especially if you’re crossing parish lines.
New Links is a way to make a bunch of changes that can help immediately and also plan for more specific service improvements in the next few years. New Links unfolds in three phases:
- A now-completed first phase, introducing the project and gathering community input. This phase lasted from April to August and included a number of community meetings and conversations.
- A second phase in the first few months of 2020, asking the community to weigh in on more specific transit network concepts.
- A third phase later in 2020 when a final proposal will be released and the RTA and Jefferson Transit determine whether to adopt it.
Updated transit network “concepts”
Over the next few months the New Links team will present three different concepts of what an updated regional transit network could look like and gather ideas and feedback. The concepts will not be full proposals, but more like snapshots of potential network changes to help guide the discussion and lead to the ultimate proposal.
Each concept will show where routes could go, with frequency levels and hours of service. With each concept the New Links team will show how the changes would affect access to jobs, access to frequent transit lines, and on-time performance. Riders will be able to see what might work well for them, and also what might not.
Those concepts will be based on public feedback from the first phase, recent travel data gathered by the RTA and JeT, and the RTA and Jefferson Transit strategic visions releases over the last few years.
The concepts are still being developed, but New Links planners have already established the parameters of each concept:
- Concept A: This concept will look the most similar to the current network, but with tweaks to increase connectivity and improve on-time performance
- Concept B: This concept will show a network reoriented around multiple bus lines that come every 15 minutes-or-less
- Concept C: This will be the most far-reaching concept, designed to really overhaul the RTA and JeT network to speed riders between several different regional hubs, with a redesigned local network serving each hub.
What happens now?
The New Links team will start a concentrated period of outreach likely in February and March. There will be a series of New Links open houses in neighborhoods throughout New Orleans and Jefferson parishes and at least three “pop ups” a week at busy transfer points, where New Links team members will set up tables to directly speak with transit riders.
The New Links team will also be stopping by regular meetings of neighborhood organizations and other membership groups to briefly present the concepts and gather feedback. If you are part of a group with a scheduled meeting and would like to invite a New Links team member to present, please let us know so we can pass that information along!
After this outreach, the New Links team will incorporate public feedback into a final proposal for a redesigned transit network. At that point, it will be up to each transit agency’s respective leadership to implement or edit the proposal. That discussion is expected to take place in the summer of 2020, into fall 2020. The likely earliest point that any changes could be formally implemented would be January 2021.
We’ll keep you posted on progress as we move into January. If you’d like to receive more regular updates, sign up for our New Links newsletter!