The Regional Transit Authority wants to build a massive transit hub in downtown New Orleans to ease the commute for thousands of public transportation riders. The announcement comes as a non-profit highlights the struggles that many riders face.
The five thousand to seven thousand bus riders who passed through or near the intersection of Tulane Avenue and Elk Place Tuesday were greeted with a welcome sight: 200 folding chairs lined various bus stops, courtesy of the non-profit Ride New Orleans.
Executive Director, Rachel Heiligman says, "The infrastructure here is lacking, there's barely any seats or cover from the elements."
Bus rider John Turner says, "You go, like, to Alexandria, Louisiana, and they've got a beautiful downtown terminal where they all go, sheltered. And we've got nothing like that here."
That may soon be coming. In response to criticism about public transportation in the city, the RTA on Tuesday announced plans for a major transit hub to be built near Canal and Basin Streets.
"It would be a structure where buses would go into the structure and you can transfer from inside the structure from bus to bus as opposed to having to walk corner to corner," explained Justin Augustine, vice president of Veolia Transportation.
The idea has been in the works for a couple of years, but no engineering studies or design work has been done. If the idea does become a reality, it likely won't be completed for three years.
In the meantime, riders say they need upgrades now. "They want people to go green, but if you want people to go green and not drive their cars, then you need to accommodate us a little bit better than what you're doing," says rider Jessica Jacques.
Augustine admits the system needs some changing but is quick to point out the improvements the RTA has made thus far. "We've placed down more shelters than the city has ever had. In the last year and a half, we've put down 320 shelters throughout the city, we've put down another 145 benches, we'll continue to put down more," said Augustine.
In fact, Augustine agreed to install 20 new benches at bus stops near Elk Place and Rampart, which should be up within the next few months. But the ultimate goal is that transit hub, which could make the commute for so many people much more bearable.
Because plans for the transit hub are still being worked out, Augustine couldn't say how much the project might cost.
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