Study: Transit system 'unsustainable' and 'inefficient'

A local non-profit group says the RTA is 'unsustainable' and 'inefficient.' The first comprehensive study of the transit system since Katrina has been released.

Waiting for a ride is something Myrtle Williams says, unfortunately, she's used to as a regular commuter on the Tchoupitoulas bus route.

"Just one more bus on the route, that would help us. Like one coming down, one should be going up," said Williams. "I really would appreciate it if they would put another bus on the line because sometimes it's unbearable waiting on that particular bus."

But how long do people wait?

"Sometimes, I wait over an hour so I end up having to catch the Magazine bus and walk over to Tchoupitoulas," added Williams.

According to a new study by the non-profit Ride New Orleans, nearly 20 percent of bus riders wait as long as Williams does. The study states all riders wait, on average, longer than they did pre-Katrina.

"We wanted to dive in and figure out, more than just anecdotally, how our public transportation system has changed and what we learned is striking," said Rachel Heiligman with Ride New Orleans.

The report states by 2012, while 77 percent of the streetcar routes had been restored, only 29 percent of weekly bus routes returned.

"It's in fact those neighborhoods that need transit the most that have seen the greatest reductions in transit service," added Heiligman. "Those that have low income communities, communities of color and those without access to a household vehicle. So we know that those populations are especially burdened by the lack of system restoration."

The report also states RTA's high cost and low revenue system jeopardizes the viability of the RTA; it's even projected to run a deficit of up to $20 million this year.

"The RTA does, indeed, have the lowest fares of those comparable agencies but they also have the highest operating costs," said Heiligman. "So any solution is going to need to both increase revenue for the RTA, but it's also going to need to contain costs."

The founder of Transit-Hub, an app that uses GPS data to track New Orleans streetcars and busses says for riders, it's the lack of schedule consistency that's the biggest problem for bus riders.

"It's difficult to ride and difficult to get to and from work or school - these very important things where it's not," said George Van Wormer, Transit Hub founder. "I guess I'm going to be late for an outing. I missed work today."

It's a frustration Myrtle Williams understands all too well.

"I usually call them and tell them. 'I'm on my way, it's ok… It's just the bus system'"

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