Peter Barrett, a restaurant worker, said late-night bus rides from his workplace to his home in New Orleans East often last three hours, dropping him off as late as 3 a.m. if his shift ends around midnight. He and other workers said transit times began to drag when one bus recently started covering three nighttime routes to New Orleans East, tripling the load for that one bus.Barrett and a group of hospitality workers were addressing an RTA board meeting with their complaints. As one might expect, they weren't received well.
Sometimes, Barrett said, he hops off the bus early and walks the rest of the way. That might get him home quicker, Barrett said, but walking late at night while wearing a work uniform and carrying cash can be risky. Even the bus stop wait can prove daunting, he said.
With the meeting's public comment portion seemingly still a long way off, retired restaurant worker Gavrielle Gemma stood up and interrupted one person mid-speech at the podium. She was flanked by other workers who held banners from their seats.But when RTA says they'll "get to you in due course," that usually means you're gonna be waiting a while. So it's hard to see how that would be much comfort. Anyway it's not like they care. As we noted the other day, tourists outnumbered residents in New Orleans last year by about 25 to 1. So we're pretty much doomed to take a back seat. Or expect to walk.
"You knew that we were coming today to address the board," Gemma said. "So you're refusing to set aside time before restaurant workers have to go to work to address the concerns of the restaurant workers in this city, who hold up the whole city's economy and are not being served by the RTA."
She urged the board to give the workers 10 or 15 minutes to present their concerns to the board before some of them had to leave. Sharonda Williams, the board's chairwoman, chided Gemma for "disrupting a public meeting" and said the board "will get to you in due course."