Fewer bus routes with more frequent service could be in the cards for the Regional Transit Authority under a plan being put together by consultants.
While still just a conceptual proposal, the plan from California-based Transportation Management and Design aims to lure more riders into the system without significantly increasing costs, trading off the inconvenience of having to walk, say, an extra quarter mile for the greater likelihood that a bus will be there soon after a passenger arrives at a stop.
“Frequency will dominate, and people will walk and people will use it if you provide service that is reasonably frequent,” said Norm Silverman, who works for TMD. “Not everyone can have a stop at their ultimate destination,” he added.
The RTA board of commissioners, which hired the consultants last year, heard a conceptual version of the plan at a meeting Tuesday. Still in its early stages, the proposal will have to be finalized and then subjected to scrutiny, by both the board and the general public, before any changes in routes are made, officials said.
“There may be some routes where you say it doesn’t make sense, but it might make sense to me,” Commissioner Barbara Major said, arguing that some areas might have physical obstacles that would prevent residents from easily accessing other routes.
Only a handful of routes now allow riders to catch a bus every 15 minutes during peak periods. Taken together, they form a zigzagging path from the Jefferson Parish line to Carrollton Avenue, down Tulane Avenue and across the city along North Rampart Street and St. Claude Avenue before making a loop in the Lower 9th Ward.
The plan laid out by TMD would bring several other routes to that level of service, adding more buses on Magazine Street, North Broad Street and parts of Chef Menteur Highway as well as on Elysian Fields Avenue from the river to the lake. Nearly all the other routes in the system, including the Algiers Loop, would also see improvements, with buses running every 15 minutes to 30 minutes rather than every half hour to hour.
The plan also calls for all streetcar lines to run at least every 15 minutes at all times of the day.
To make those improvements, the plan would drop several lines in the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods, Lakeview, near St. Bernard Avenue and the downriver part of Algiers and would make changes to some of the routes that would remain in place.
The routes that would be cut are near other, more heavily used lines that could have more frequent service if the changes were approved, Silverman said.
Improving service on the remaining routes could also make transit a more attractive option because riders would not have to worry about checking a schedule but could “spontaneously” decide to go to a stop knowing another bus would be coming soon, Silverman said. More riders would mean more fares, which could also help pay for the increased service, he said.
The consultants still have to put together a final report that would include more detailed information on ridership and costs. The proposal could be ready to be put into practice later this year.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.