Popular transit: RTA lines see boost after April's service expansion _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- A rider steps on to an RTA bus at Canal Boulevard by Greenwood Cemetery Monday, August 17, 2015.

The Regional Transit Authority has plans to add service to 22 of its routes, including overnight service on several lines, more frequent pickups on those and other routes and a new express bus to Louis Armstrong International Airport.

The new services, which are expected to come online in March, will be discussed at a public hearing at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the RTA headquarters, 2817 Canal St.

Overall, the expansion will mean a 20 percent increase in weekend trips, said Justin Augustine, general manager of the RTA for Transdev, the company that manages the agency’s day-to-day operations.

“These service changes are intended to touch every part of the community,” Augustine said.

When combined with a previous service expansion, the RTA will have invested about $10 million in expanded service over the past two years, Augustine said. That money comes from improvements in the agency’s revenue stream, including a boost in the sales tax revenue that funds about two-thirds of its operations.

Nine routes would add overnight service under the proposed changes: No. 39 Tulane, No. 47 Canal-Cemeteries streetcar, No. 52 St. Bernard-Paris Avenue, No. 55 Elysian Fields, No. 63 New Orleans East Owl, No. 84 Galvez, No. 88 St. Claude, No. 94 Broad and No. 114 Gen. DeGaulle-Tullis.

Weekend service is to be increased or begun on other lines: No. 10 Tchoupitoulas, No. 27 Louisiana, No. 51 St. Bernard-St. Anthony, No. 57 Franklin, No. 60 Hayne and No. 102 Gen. Meyer.

Some lines will also get longer routes or changes to the route map.

Detailed information on the changes can be found at norta.com.

The transit system also plans to start an express bus to the airport. The bus, which will run 11 times a day starting at 5:10 a.m., will initially be targeted at airport workers or those involved in the construction of the new North Terminal, though Augustine said he expects it will eventually serve airline passengers as well.

Jacquelyn Dadakis, president of the transit-advocacy organization Ride New Orleans, said the proposed enhancements are a step in the right direction for a system that has been lagging, particularly when it comes to the frequency of trips and overnight service.

Greater frequency can make it more attractive for residents to use the system because they will not have to wait as long for buses or streetcars, she said, and service that goes throughout the night is crucial for a city with many who work late shifts.

“Our routes all need greater frequency,” Dadakis said. “Frequency on our bus routes is nowhere near where it was in 2004 (before Hurricane Katrina) and nowhere near where it should be compared to other cities.”

Critics of the higher fares and slightly later hours for on-street parking meters that took effect last week called on the city and the RTA to increase late-night and early-morning service to the French Quarter and Central Business District so that late-night workers at bars and restaurants would have an alternative to driving their cars to their jobs.

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.