Mayor LaToya Cantrell has appointed two new members to serve on New Orleans Regional Transit Authority's (RTA's) Board of Commissioners.
The new appointees are Laura Bryan, who heads the new Mayor's Office of Transportation, and Fred Alford Neal Jr. of planning firm Villavaso and Associates. Neal was a founding member of transit advocacy group RIDE New Orleans, on whose board he currently serves.
Bryan and Neal replace Ashleigh Gardere and Barbara Waiters on the RTA's all-volunteer board, which typically includes five representatives appointed by the mayor of New Orleans and three by the president of Jefferson Parish.
[jump] Bryan specialized in transportation while getting a master's in urban planning from the University of New Orleans, and worked in Cantrell's New Orleans City Council office as her land use advisor. Neal has worked on planning and development projects in the city and across the state, in addition to his work with RIDE.
RTA's board makes decisions about its activities and is tasked with overseeing its finances and the work of management company Transdev, who is contracted to handle the day-to-day operations of RTA.
One seat on the board, vacated by board chair Sharonda Williams shortly before the beginning of the new administration, remains unfilled. Cantrell press secretary LaTonya Norton says there are plans to fill that seat soon.
With these developments, appointees selected by the new administration will be in position as the board begins the search for a new operator to contract with RTA when Transdev's agreement with RTA expires in August 2019. Existing board members have said they'd like to begin that search sooner, rather than later.
With their transit-related backgrounds, the new appointees also seem to respond to a criticism transit advocates, including RIDE executive director Alex Posorske, have previously made of the RTA's board, saying its members sometimes lack the transportation experience that would enable them to provide better oversight.
In a short conversation with Gambit about Neal's appointment, Posorske praised the decision, calling it indicative of a commitment to transit he hadn't seen from previous administrations.
"It's a great signal from the mayor's office that they're actually giving transit riders a seat on the board," he said. "[It's] a huge step forward."