New Orleans Regional Transit Authority CEO Alex Wiggins said publicly at two separate recent RTA meetings that the RTA would budget at least $500,000 each year in local money in the coming years for new bus stop shelters.
After years of talk about new bus stop shelters, but no sustained commitment of funding this is a huge step forward!
For years transit riders and Ride New Orleans have repeatedly asked the RTA to make a commitment to their comfort and dignity through amenities and a clear plan around implementation. As of last fall, only 349 of the more than 2,200 transit stops in the RTA system even had shelters.
The RTA has always responded with talk about how the bus stop shelters were a priority. But let’s be honest – talk is cheap. That talk was not backed up by any commitment to sustained funding – only the occasional one-off purchase of bus stop shelters.
But over the last few weeks, thanks to a pressure campaign launched by transit riders and Ride New Orleans that appears to have changed! The RTA has finally made that investment into riders dignity by committing $500,000 annually in general funds as well as intending to pursue federal funding for additional shelters.
This is a huge win for transit riders!
This commitment and creative thinking on the part of the RTA staff has us hopeful but the work doesn’t stop here. We may have a commitment around funds but we also need to keep pushing. To make sure the campaign for bus stop shelter implementation is truly a priority, the RTA needs to complete a five-year strategic bus stop shelter implementation plan. Such a plan would at the very least state:
- A clear numerical shelter goal for each year, with both a bottom line number that could be paid for with local funds and a higher number of shelters that could be installed if outside funding is found
- An updated matrix on how bus stops without shelters currently will be prioritized for shelter placement over the next five years, and a clear metric for shelter placement, whether that’s the Strategic Mobility Plan’s goal of every stop with 15 or more daily boardings or something different.
- An inclusive planning process that gives riders a chance to weigh in at several important points while this plan is being developed
- A clear accounting of the barriers that the RTA’s shelter program still faces – including coordination issues with the City and specifics on deficient infrastructure at stop locations that would make it impossible to install a shelter without enhancements.
RTA staff said that they first must finish an “inventory” of existing bus stop shelters before this plan can be completed. We believe this inventory confirms which stops have existing amenities like shelters and benches and which stops need additional infrastructure upgrades like level sidewalks of at least a certain width (an ADA requirement) before a shelter can be legally placed at the stop.
We’re a little concerned that RTA doesn’t already know all of this information, but are willing to take them at their word for now when they say this “inventory” will be completed by the end of the year.
We’ll keep you posted on this issue. And keep an eye out for the installation of the 16 new shelters bought with the 2021 budget. Those shelters should start to be installed in December or January.