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Message from the RTA Chairwoman 01-13

Message from the Chairwoman of the RTA


2012 has been a great year for the RTA. We moved over 50,000 citizens every weekday -- over 80 percent citizens of color, 65 percent with an annual income of less than $25,000 per year, 55 percent female and 58 percent with no access to a car. Over 90 percent were local residents. In 2012 we moved 19,000 disabled and elderly citizens per month -- a number that will increase by 20 percent in 2013.

As an engine for economic development, we provided millions of dollars in investment in the city’s infrastructure. The Loyola Avenue/UPT Streetcar Expansion Project put $52 million in the local economy – an investment that is expected to yield a $2.7 billion return in terms of retail and commercial development, infrastructure enhancements and job creation. We realize that the investment of dollars in the streetcar line was more than matched by the investment of time that was added to the daily commute of the citizens navigating downtown New Orleans. But traffic congestion, street closures, and route changes notwithstanding, the Loyola Avenue Streetcar Expansion project is the fastest rail project being constructed in the United States and we will be serving the citizens and visitors of New Orleans in January.

In 2012 we were safer, averaging only 10 accidents per 100,000 miles – one of 15 transit agencies recognized by the federal Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) for receiving the highest rating on the Baseline Assessment for Security Enhancement (BASE) program. We launched our award winning Live Outside the Lines rail safety campaign and realized a significant decrease in streetcar accidents -- down from 18 accidents per 100,000 miles to only 8 accidents per 100,000 miles.

We helped to grow the New Orleans economy this year. We launched our small business program to provide economic opportunity for small businesses in the region – regardless of race or gender. In 2012 we committed over $17 million dollars in spending to Disadvantaged Businesses Enterprises (DBEs) and spent over $11 million with DBEs before year’s end. We implemented an innovative workforce training program to give unemployed and underemployed residents of New Orleans and the region access to marketable skills. We partnered with Job1 and provided a summer internship for ten local college students. We spent over $35 million to pay our employees a fair wage for a fair day’s work.

In 2012 we made certain that the system-wide service standards were designed to provide an equal level of service to all citizens in all neighborhoods. The service availability in the city, the ratio of passengers to seats, the time intervals between buses, the on-time performance per route – were all measures that we used to ensure that every citizen of New Orleans had access to the best, safest and most efficient transit services that we can provide. In 2013 we’re planning to provide more and better service to our riders and increase the service system-wide.

In 2012 we were committed to making investments in infrastructure and amenities that are equitable, and as a result 228 bus shelters were installed throughout the city to better ensure the comfort and safety of our riders. In 2013 there is more to come and more technology will be added alerting riders to the arrival time of their buses. In 2012 we saw our riders leaning into the street – sometimes walking out into the street looking for us. We want them to see us coming safely – the technology is available, and in 2013 we’ll make the investment.

We’ve conducted our business in full view of the community – with the input and feedback of citizens and stakeholders – in a manner that is fair and transparent. We have been not only the bridge between the agency and the community but also the advocates of public transit users in the region. We’ve engaged the community not just in the Board room, but in the neighborhoods with an open mind. We’ve accommodated every request from the citizens that the budget would allow. At times we’ve left the community with a full heart after hearing the needs and knowing the lack of resources to meet those needs.

In 2012 we provided a lot of service to a lot of citizens in every neighborhood of this city to meet every need that we could. And yet with everything we did, we know that we served only a fraction of the need. Yes, all neighborhoods are served, but too many are underserved. Yes, we carried 50,000 citizens every weekday to school and work, but too many were standing; too many didn’t have a seat. Yes, we provided the best on-time service that we could, but too often we saw our riders looking down the street wondering when we would come to get them; too many were missing their connections. We’re seven years into rebuilding and the city continues to grow and change. In 2013 it is our hope that we will continue to grow and change with it.

 

Barbara C. Major

Chairwoman

Regional Transit Authority Board of Commissioners

 

Reprinted from letter for Tribune, December 2012

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