Over the last few weeks we’ve been busy talking with transit riders and other community members to get their thoughts on what’s most important for the New Links team to consider as they start to develop a formal proposal. That proposal is expected as early as September.
Today we released our formal recommendations and we wanted to share them with you.
Our most important recommendation is that the redesign needs to ensure many more thousands of low-income households are within a 10-minute walk of transit that comes every 15 minutes-or-less seven days a week. This is something that is very possible to get done, but it will require focus and determination from the New Links team and officials at the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and Jefferson Transit (JeT).
After over a year of community conversation, the New Links regional transit network redesign is nearing completion. Started in early 2019, New Links is an incredibly important process for the future of our transit system and was a key recommendation of the RTA’s 2017 Strategic Mobility Plan (SMP). The redesign is intended to make transit work better for today’s riders through changes to the regional transit network in the next few years.
RIDE’s New Links recommendations center on four “must-haves” for any formal proposal. While we want to see many things come out of the New Links process, these four items are non-negotiable for transit riders. Any proposal without these items, will fall well-short of what is needed.
The four ”must-haves” are:
1. Thousands more lower-income families must be within a 10-minute walk of frequent transit.
Buses that come every 15 minutes-or-less, seven days a week mean more flexibility and options for the riders who need it most. The New Links network redesign must, above all, prioritize increasing the number of lower-income households within a 10-minute walk of high frequency transit. New Links should try to do that while preserving existing bus stops, if possible.
2. Real regional transit
The region can’t provide equitable access via transit to jobs and services without real regional transit. To be considered a success, New Links at a minimum must bring real improvements to regional transit connectivity and coordination. The RTA and JeT must ratify and implement tangible new transit lines that connect important destinations in different parishes.
3. Big wins for West Bank and New Orleans East riders
New Orleans East and the West Bank have both growing transit needs and outdated and inefficient route designs. That means New Links could bring proportionally much bigger benefits for both regions. This is an opportunity our region cannot miss. Improvements to both areas will also mean corresponding improvements for riders everywhere else.
4. A tiered approach to the New Links redesign.
The COVID 19 emergency means that transit budgets – especially the RTA’s – might be smaller for the next few years. That means a tiered New Links proposal, with options for phased in improvements is necessary to ensure that we have a clear path for an improved transit system over the next few years.
Currently, the New Links team is reviewing community feedback from this winter and spring’s second phase of New Links. After the New Links team has evaluated all the various reactions to the different network concepts, they will begin building a final proposal. They will present a draft version to the community stakeholder advisory committee later this summer. After incorporating feedback from the advisory committee, they will release a formal proposal to the RTA and JeT, likely in September.
At that point, this phase of the New Links process will be over – but the network redesign process will be far from finished. The proposal will formally be in the hands of the RTA and JeT and the next steps will be their responsibility.
Officials at both agencies have expressed strong support for New Links so we expect to see a clear forward path. If things go smoothly, we’ll likely see another round of community outreach in the fall and into 2021, with a formal implementation no sooner than late summer 2021 and no later than 2022.
But it’s important to remember that there is no guarantee that any of the good ideas from New Links will be formally implemented. Riders will need to raise their voices to make it clear to officials how important better transit is.
We’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, please let us know if you have any questions, concerns, or comments.