Thursday, September 03, 2015

Moving tourists slowly through downtown

RTA Priority 1:
Prior to the Loyola streetcar opening, the Freret and Martin Luther King bus lines were among the most direct lines running from Uptown to Canal Street. Now, however, the line stops at the Union Passenger Terminal just past the Pontchartrain Expressway, and riders who wish to continue on must wait for the streetcar to arrive, then pay 25 cents to transfer.

Consequently, ridership has decreased on the Freret bus line 42 percent “immediately,” said Rachel Heiligman of RIDE New Orleans, at last weekend’s Rising Tide conference. Some of those riders may now be going to the Claiborne line, she said.

The bus is just no longer as useful to riders as it used to be,” Heiligman said.

The change, Heiligman said, reflects the widening gap between streetcar and bus-line recovery in the city where 19 percent of residents don’t have access to a car. In terms of daily public-transportation trips, the city has only restored 45 percent of service since Hurricane Katrina. But streetcar service has grown to 103 percent of its former trips, while bus service has decreased to 35 percent of its former status.

“Streetcar expansion has certainly emerged as the big transit priority for the Regional Transit Authority,” Heiligman said, noting that a new North Rampart line is now under construction. “We have more streetcar trips being offered today than we did pre-Katrina, but we have just about a third of our bus trips.”

Amanda Soprano, a resident who described herself as dependent on public transportation, said she feels that the reduction in the two bus lines was specifically to boost ridership of the new streetcar, in spite of its inconvenience for riders.
See also, this David Hammer report from last year about how Mitch's push to get the Loyola streetcar up and running in time for the Superbowl led to cost overruns.  Heiligman makes the same point about how they killed the Freret bus in order to juice the Loyola ridership numbers.
But Rachel Heiligman of Ride New Orleans, a nonprofit public transit advocacy group, said that because the RTA cut off the downtown segments of the Freret and Martin Luther King buses at the Union Passenger Terminal, those bus riders now must transfer to the Loyola streetcar if they want to get to Canal Street.

'What we're doing is really just shifting the ridership from one mode the bus to the streetcar,' Heiligman said.

After those bus routes were cut off at the UPT, the RTA's ridership data show both lost riders, suggesting that customers unwilling to transfer to the Loyola streetcar stopped riding altogether.

The Freret Number 12 bus lost 76,000 riders in 2013, a 40 percent decrease from the year before. The MLK Number 28 bus was down by about 5 percent, while overall RTA ridership was up 12 percent.
Here's the rest of the Rising Tide X discussion on transit issues, in case you missed it Saturday.

Rising Tide X - Transportation Panel from Jason Berry on Vimeo.

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