A group of public transit advocates and riders on Tuesday cheered service enhancements launched this week by the Regional Transit Authority, even as the group pledged to continue pushing for more improvements with a new coalition aimed at gaining grass-roots and business support.
RIDE New Orleans rallied its supporters in the neutral ground on Elk Place, near one of the RTA’s major transfer points, to praise the service expansion, which includes adding 24-hour service on nine routes, increasing early morning trips and overall frequency of service on others and adding an express shuttle route to Louis Armstrong International Airport aimed at workers building the new North Terminal there.
RIDE has had an icy relationship with the RTA in the past, and it has been critical of shortcomings in the transit system. But while pledging to continue fighting for more improvements, in part through a newly formed Coalition for Quality Transit that will seek to keep riders’ concerns at the forefront, RIDE officials said the transit authority is headed in the right direction.
“Sunday saw a great step forward,” said Alex Posorske, the newly hired executive director of the nonprofit transit advocacy group.
The expansion, combined with a previous increase in service, represents about $10 million in new service added by the RTA in recent years. That money came from increased sales tax revenue as well as a better deal that the authority’s board cut with Transdev, the company that manages its operations, RTA board Chairman Sal Longoria said.
About 90 percent of households in the city now will be within three blocks of an RTA stop, he said.
The rally also served as the launching point for the Coalition for Quality Transit, a new effort that will push for further improvements. Top among its priorities is getting the time between all buses or streetcars down to 15 minutes.
That’s an ambitious goal, for few lines in the city have service that frequent and many have waits of more than 40 minutes, but transit advocates say it’s crucial. The rule of thumb they use to determine whether a route runs frequently enough is that riders don’t have to consult a schedule to know they can catch a bus or streetcar without waiting more than a few minutes.
Among the coalition’s other aims are further increasing the number of lines with early-morning and late-night service, providing more comfortable and shaded stops, and increasing community involvement in RTA decisions, such as the master planning process the agency is about to embark on.
“If you’re not speaking out, you’re not going to make progress,” Posorske said.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.