New Orleans -- About 50,000 people in the New Orleans area use public transportation on a regular basis. This week, there's a major push to drive that number up as part of NOLA Transit Week.
Along St. Charles Avenue Sunday afternoon, people lined up at various streetcar stops, waiting to catch a ride downtown. While many were looking for a quick way to get to a Saints tailgate others say they utilize public transportation pretty frequently. "With the parking situation in the quarter you almost have to," said Rocky Sorrel.
Jeanette Ferrer adds, "I don't have a car and can get from point A to point B pretty easily and it's pretty cheap and it's good for the environment."
That is music to transportation advocates ears. Rachel Heiligman heads up the non-profit, Ride New Orleans. She says this week as part of Nola Transit Week, everyone is encouraged to try something new. Heiligman explains, "We want to get people out of their cars and try transit to see how easy it can be to get to the CBD, get to the French Quarter, get to your job."
Whether it be the streetcar, bus or ferry, there are new incentives in place for employers to help their employees get to work. "The federal government has a really great program basically any employer who subsidizes a transit pass for an employee can then deduct the amount of that transit pass from their payroll taxes so basically it's a net zero cost to employers to participate and it really benefits employees to give them other options to get around the city," said Heiligman.
According to the Regional Transit Authority, six or seven companies already participate in the program, including Harrah's. Of course, they'd like to see more.
To jumpstart interest in public transportation ridership this week, Ride New Orleans is doing everything from asking various celebrities to ride to using social media to give away incentives. Heiligman says, "We encourage anyone who is riding transit whether you're already doing it or you're trying it for the first time, to go head an use Instagram and Twitter is what we're looking for is @rideneworleans and we have a raffle that'll be going on to give away some great prizes including free transit passes to everyone that participates."