During the same week ground was broken on the new $40 million Rampart Street streetcar line (which will run from Canal Street to Elysian Fields Avenue), Ride New Orleans, the nonprofit that advocates for public transportation on policy and grassroots levels, planned a community meeting Jan. 24 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 Executive Director Rachel Heiligman recently conducted a series of focus groups around the city, speaking with more than 60 transit users.
"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.
"They have a lot of really great ideas. ... 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.'"
Representatives from the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) were scheduled to attend the meeting (which was set to occur after Gambit went to press). The agenda included representatives from Baton Rouge's transit system, which in 2011 was in a state of disrepair but since has been restructured to better reflect the population's needs.