Improving Service Reliability

Over the past several years, RTA has been faced with a range of challenges that have adversely impacted the agency's ability to manage its aging fleet and, by extension, provide consistently reliable service to riders. While recent service changes have helped, it hasn't been enough.

As a result, RTA is taking decisive action to improve service reliability by reducing the size of the total active bus fleet and reducing bus frequency, starting on Jan. 14, 2024. This will not only focus our ability to prioritize maintenance given our current capacity but also will lead to a schedule that better matches what our buses can deliver.

As new buses are introduced in late 2024, we will reassess service levels systemwide.

See what routes will have changes

See the changes on each route coming in January.

How to engage

RTA leaders will be available to engage with riders about the fleet and service frequency reductions that will begin in January.

Submit questions

What would you like to know about the new schedules?




What to Expect in the Near Future


Starting January 14:

  • Service Frequency Reduction: On January 14, RTA will be reducing fixed-route bus service by an additional 20% to provide riders with the consistent, reliable service that they deserve and to create a healthier work environment for our team. This service frequency reduction will result in zero layoffs.
  • Fleet Reduction: Our maintenance team is reducing our fleet by retiring eight buses and temporarily removing 24 mechanically non-operable buses so that each mechanic can work on fewer buses and prioritize those that take less time to repair. 
  • Maintenance Innovation: RTA is also working on creative short-term strategies to fortify its maintenance workforce including traveling diesel mechanics (when available) to support maintenance.


Fall through Winter ‘24:

  • New Buses: RTA’s long-term strategy includes introducing 21 new buses to our fleet in late 2024 and another 8 that will enter production in early 2025.


Structural Fixes

RTA is also working strategically and creatively to provide improvements in infrastructure and maintenance to better serve our riders, which include:

  • Working to add 25 shelters over the next year to provide protection from heat and other weather events. RTA is committing $500,000 annually to expanding and improving bus shelters, and earlier in 2023 helped secure a $100,000 grant with the Committee for a Better New Orleans to create more climate resilient shelters.
  • Working to improve the process of ordering parts by establishing long-term parts contracts. 
  • Actively recruiting mechanics. 
  • Hiring traveling mechanics to help provide additional bandwidth and support for our hard-working mechanics. 
  • Providing refresher training to our mechanics to work on the fundamentals.  
  • Partnering with local institutions to create a pipeline for future mechanics.


Background

​​The agency’s current challenges are directly related to a combination of major events going back over fifteen years. After several years of negotiating federal recovery funds for the loss of RTA’s fleet in 2005, the agency received 104 buses for fixed-route service from 2008 to 2010. The standard useful life for buses per the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is twelve (12) years. Without such a system shock event, buses are typically purchased and replaced on an evenly distributed schedule. While the timeline for the replacement of these 104 buses was well known, no complete plan for their funding nor for smoothing out future replacement schedule was put in place by previous management. While an additional 31 buses were ordered in 2011-2013, these vehicles served to expanded fleet and service as population and jobs continued their recovery. However, no new buses were ordered for service from 2013 to 2018.

And so, 40% of RTA's fleet has reached the end of its FTA-determined useful life, and another 12% will be reaching the end of its useful life next year for a total of 52%.

​In the past 5 years, RTA has ordered and received 66 buses and as a result has retired 53 of those 2008-10 buses. Staff has also secured funding for complete replacement of the remaining aging fleet by 2025 with the bulk in 2024. Staff utilized a significant portion of one-time pandemic recovery funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act to fund 21 buses now on order. Staff also worked with the State of Louisiana Office of Community Development to identify leftover disaster-CDBG funds which will pay for another 8 buses on the heels of the previous order.

The remaining fleet will be replaced through a combination of smaller grants including one to pilot use of smaller 23’ buses in neighborhoods; the battery-electric bus pilot as part of the agency’s first Lo/No Vehicle Emission grant award; and through right sizing of the active fleet, discussed further in the next section. 

Also, during the last five years came the COVID-19 global pandemic, which completely disrupted global supply chains and entire labor forces. Bus parts and mechanics were significantly affected by these events and as a result, the entire transit industry has seen major delays in getting replacement parts and the availability of qualified staff to diagnose and repair bus fleets.

​During spring of 2023, it became evident that the aging fleet combined with maintenance challenges was not able to keep with the requirements of the scheduled service just recently transformed in September 2022 for the New Links plan implementation. As a result, staff reduced service by 10% for the June 4, 2023 schedule update in attempts to ease the burden. The result was a reduction of peak vehicles required for service during the weekday from 97 to 87 with most of the reduction in the highest frequency and lower ridership routes which had the most number of buses in order to minimize a disparate impact to overall riders and lower frequency routes with only a few buses.

 

While this approach worked well for a short while, a record drought and heat struck the region severely impacting vehicle maintenance and reliability already stretched thin. The result, as illustrated in the graph below, is that RTA has been unable to make the required 87 vehicles for peak pullout on a regular basis, sometimes by as much as 20%. For riders, this translates to unreliable arrivals, much longer waits, vehicles breaking down with no replacement available for relief, and other severe impacts to their travel to work and other destinations.