New Orleans riders react to new plan

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New Orleans riders react to new plan
Posted by daveklepper on Saturday, September 16, 2017 11:29 PM


Here's what riders had to say at public meetings about RTA's future


POSTED BY Kay Stromquist 


on Friday, September 15, 2017 -- 5:04 p.m. 




At two public workshops held at New Orleans Public Library branches this week, New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) riders were alternately enthusiastic and skeptical about elements that could be incorporated into the Strategic Mobility Plan set to roll out at the end of this year




The workshops were part of a five-part series attended by over 100 people in New Orleans and Kenner, where participants took part in two exercises demonstrating the moving parts of a functional transit system. In one exercise, participants used pushpins to highlight routes among 13 potential "premium transit corridors" that could see expanded service. In another, they joined breakout groups to work to spend an imagined budget of $100 on different system enhancements, such as faster, more frequent service; retooled fare plans; modernized shelters at stops; park-and-ride areas and other options. 




"Ideally, we'd have the best transit system in the world. Unfortunately, we only have so much money," Alex Miller, an urban planner with the Asakura Robinson team consulting on the Strategic Mobility Plan, explained. 




During the budgeting exercise, participants at the Sept. 11 and Sept. 14 afternoon events were very supportive of some potential plan elements. In a breakout at each of those meetings, one of the biggest points of consensus was the need to increase the frequency of buses on existing or expanded routes to better service riders in different parts of the city.


"I might spend two or three hours on the bus, waiting for the bus, transferring the bus. It's a huge chunk of my day," Lynne Serpe, a 7th Ward resident and frequent RTA patron, said. "I need more frequent bus service so I can get where I need to go."




Some participants rejected other ideas, including one suggestion that RTA might partner with a ride-hailing service such as Uber or Lyft to cut down on inefficiencies and retool routes with low ridership. Several people noted that public transportation in New Orleans should account for the needs of people who may not have access to or want to use a smartphone, such as the elderly and people experiencing homelessness or poverty. 




"Are we thinking about equity all the way around? ... Are we really serving those folks with an app?" University of New Orleans Planning and Urban Studies professor Michelle Thompson asked. 


Conversations at the meetings shed light on some of the challenges RTA faces as it formulates its plan. The organization, which is managed by international transportation group Transdev, is tasked with modernizing public transportation in a city that i5 uniquely unequal and has very particular constituencies who depend on the transit system.




For example, the artist and 8th grade teacher Devin DeWulf pointed out that school-age children rely heavily on the bus system here, particularly since many New Orleans kids don't attend school in their own neighborhoods.




"I really want to ensure that residents are prioritized over tourists," he said. He was especially critical of the new Rampart Street streetcar line, which transit advocates have said interferes with some local workers/ bus commutes.




At these meetings, it also was apparent that RTA has a few issues with community goodwill. Some participants were critical of the structure of the meetings and doubtful that their feedback would be taken into account. "It seems like a lot of this is just for show, so you can tell the feds 'we had public involvement,'" Irvin Foret, a retired RTA driver and New Orleans East resident, said. (According to an RTA spokesperson, all feedback will be analyzed and incorporated into the plan beginning in early October.)




However, others were heartened by the discussions. Ride New Orleans senior organizer and policy analyst Matthew Hendrickson was encouraged by what he saw at the Sept. 14 event. 




"It's holding the RTA accountable to the public. ... I'm really excited to have the opportunity to make sure that riders are represented," he said. "[With these exercises] it's really great for folks to understand the tradeoffs."




Miller, the consultant, said this series was probably the last discussion opportunity for riders during the creation of the plan. For people who didn't attend the meetings, there's a chance to take part in the budgeting exercise when a digital version of it goes online on RTA's website next week. But Miller said they'll pay special attention to feedback from different areas of the city collected at the sessions. 




"If we get really different ideas from all the different neighborhoods, that's going to tell us something," she told Gambit. 


[end text]




Edward B. Havens

Tucson, Ariz

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, September 18, 2017 2:30 AM

Photo with the above article:

Image result for new orleans streetcar

  • Member since
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Posted by Paul of Covington on Tuesday, September 19, 2017 3:13 PM

"I really want to ensure that residents are prioritized over tourists," he said. He was especially critical of the new Rampart Street streetcar line, which transit advocates have said interferes with some local workers/ bus commutes..

   Since you posted this I've been trying to organize my thoughts on the matter.   Having spent my teens in New Orleans in the '50's, I remember what a great public transit system could be.   As much as I love the streetcars, I'm a strong believer that a transit system should first and foremost provide the best possible transportation for everyone.   Your post on Nashville emphasized this idea.   The notion that streetcars promote development is in my mind completely bogus--that's not the mission of a transit authority.   Streetcars should be built in only the most heavily traveled corridors where they can be fed by bus lines.

   The Rampart line mentioned above is in my mind a great boondoggle.   It parallels an existing five-mile bus line for about 1.4 miles, so anyone going farther will take the bus rather than transfer at the end of the line, and there is not much prospect for extending it since it would have to cross NS tracks, and in the past they have been unable to strike a deal with them.

   There is another streetcar line in New Orleans that's a complete waste--North Carrolton.   It was never a streetcar line in the past and the bus that ran there was a rare and poorly patronized one.   It was put in about 20 years ago for the sole purpose of taking tourists from Canal Street to the N. O. Museum Of Art in City Park.   It's got to be the loneliest streetcar line in the world.

   There is one project they are currently working on that is worthwhile and should have been done long ago.   Until now, the Canal line ended about 500 feet short of the hub where several bus lines converged, and passengers had to cross six lanes of heavy traffic to transfer to the buses.   RTA has been trying to build this extension for many years, but has met with intense nimby opposition, and have had to scale back the plans.   Who they are, I have no idea, since except for a few businesses, the area is completely surrounded by graveyards.

   Anyway, enough rambling for now.


   "A stranger is just a friend you ain't met yet."  ___ Dave Gardner

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