Giving Transit Riders a Voice


One of Foundation for Louisiana's first Equity Working Group's scores a major policy win: securing a voice for public transit riders within the Regional Transit Authority (RTA)

Residents at Ride New Orleans’ “Voices for Transportation Choices” forum try to plan a transit trip using available resources.

Getting New Orleans’ public transportation system back up to par has been a struggle ever since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the city. Students, senior citizens, non-driving residents, service workers and some environmentally conscious all rely on public transportation to handle important business.

Since 2013, Ride New Orleans has coordinated one of Foundation for Louisiana’s Transportation Working Groups to help system users advocate for themselves with the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA). Some of their activities have included a “Voices for Transportation Choices” public forum and the release of its “State of Transit” report.

The January 2015 “Voices for Transportation Choices” forum brought together riders, advocates, planners and decision makers for dialogue about how to improve the RTA transit system.

Ride’s tireless efforts have paid off: in February 2014, the RTA board of directors approved the creation of a Riders Advisory Committee (RAC). Some of their duties are to discuss and advise the RTA on service needs and improvements, and to establish goals and priorities for future transit expansion. In June 2015, the RTA appointed 22 community residents and civic leaders from a broad cross-section of neighborhoods, age, race, and gender to sit on the committee.

“Riders truly are the experts of understanding and navigating the transportation system and have an intimate knowledge of the intricacies of day-to-day operations,” says Rachel Heiligman, Ride New Orleans’ Executive Director. “It is this depth of everyday knowledge that can help inform the RTA about how transit service impacts our lives.”

One of the new committee members is Mary Johnson, president of the Faubourg Lafitte Tenants Association. She says, “I wanted to be a part of the Riders Advisory Committee because I’m concerned for our seniors. I recently witnessed an older woman crossing the street with her grocery bags trying to catch her bus, and it just pulled away and left her. And that’s just not right. The service we have isn’t enough. We need more frequent service, more buses on the line and more supportive services especially for our seniors.”

Ride is also making good on another goal of the working group: to develop a Transit Rider’s Bill of Rights. You can help by giving your input in a short survey. Click here to take it.

RIDE will continue to uplift community voices supporting the Coalition for Quality Transit, a dedicated group comprised of transit riders and community partners working together on grassroots advocacy campaigns in order to improve transportation services,” says Heiligman.

Coincidentally, both Rachel and Mary are graduates of Foundation for Louisiana’s first LEAD Program cohort. Click here to learn more about this resident leadership training program.

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