On Saturday beginning at 8:30 a.m. at Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center
, RIDE New Orleans
will host the first opportunity post-Katrina for transit riders, community leaders and public officials to come together to discuss what a quality transportation system in New Orleans should look like.
RIDE, the New Orleans nonprofit that advocates for public transportation in the city on a policy and grassroots level, has worked over the past year to increase public input in decision-making processes at the Regional Transit Authority (RTA)
. Director Rachel Heiligman told Gambit
she hopes to involve more transit riders in decision-making and planning, and to help transit riders understand how decisions about the infrastructure they use every day are made.
Heiligman just conducted a series of focus groups around the city, speaking with at least 60 transit users over the past month. “What I learned across the city is that our community is really the expert here,” she says. “These are riders that are using the system on a regular basis and most of the folks that we talked to…have been using the system for all their lives so they’ve seen the system evolve and change over time, and they have a lot of really great ideas.”
“And they’re not really expensive ideas to implement, either,” Heiligman adds. “Some of them are as simple as well, if that bus just continued a few blocks, it would get me to that dollar store, and then I wouldn’t have to take two buses in the other direction and go over the Industrial Canal to get to a shopping destination.”
The RTA will attend the meeting in full support with its CEO Justin Augustine to spell out exactly how the organization decides where to start and end bus routes, for example. A panel comprised of riders will fully unveil the results of RIDE’s focus groups and give community members a chance to reflect and respond on some of the wants and needs of the transit community.
A third panel will include representatives from Baton Rouge’s transit system, which in 2011 was in a state of disrepair but managed to start from scratch to create a system that better reflected the population’s needs.
The event is free and open to the public, with breakfast and lunch provided, though pre-registration is required. You can register here
, or by calling (504) 249-8419.
“Whether or not you’re using the transportation system regularly or you wish you could be using the transportation system regularly,” says Heiligman, “we think your voice matters and that you have ideas that the RTA, the City Council and the Mayor can all learn something from.”