History and Background
History and Background of the Route Changes
Why Do a Major Redesign of Bus Routes?
The redesign of bus routes improves riders’ access to jobs, services and major destinations, using existing resources.
The RTA transit network has not been meaningfully changed since 2004, but New Orleans has changed a lot since then, including:
- Where people live and price of housing near jobs
- Where people are trying to go - for example, the CBD is no longer the most important destination in the region
- How transit can offer equitable access to jobs, education and service - RTA and transit has generally fallen short in recent years.
Riders and rider advocates led the push for a major change to bus routes, or bus network redesign. They understood a transformed transit network could do more to serve New Orleans and lobbied for it. It is also best practice for transit agencies to review their bus networks regularly to look for places to improve – the RTA was long due for this kind of review. As a result, RTA added a bus network redesign to its Strategic Mobility Plan, adopted in 2018, as a critical and significant step to improve transit service for the community.
From the New Links Plan to Action
New Links began as a request from community stakeholders, and prioritized community input throughout the planning process. Public input gathered during the RTA and JP Transit Strategic Plans reinforced the importance of redesigning the RTA network via New Links. Starting in 2019, the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission (RPC) partnered with RTA, Jefferson Parish Transit Department (JP Transit) and St Bernard Urban Rapid Transit (SPURT) to fund and undertake a region-wide Comprehensive Operations Analysis (COA) and bus network redesign plan.
The New Links process included community outreach and public participation every step of the way. Rider and community feedback gathered during the New Links process was the most important consideration in developing the proposed changes to the RTA network. New Links also used RTA’s Strategic Mobility Plan, analysis of ridership and operations data, data on transit needs and travel patterns to guide the plan’s recommendations.
Some of the changes suggested in the New Links plan were integrated into the return of service following COVID cutbacks. Additional improvements to access were made during the network review period from January – June 2022, which culminated in the final network that will roll out on September 25th. Click here to review all the details of this plan.
The New Links Planning Process
The New Links Plan: Overview
New Links began as a year-long Comprehensive Operations Analysis (COA) in 2019 led by the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission (RPC) to study transit operations in Orleans, Jefferson, and St. Bernard Parishes and to develop recommendations for a redesigned bus and streetcar network that better connects residents to jobs, education and other services within existing budgets. The project is a collaboration between the Regional Transit Authority (RTA), Jefferson Parish Transit and St. Bernard Urban Rapid Transit (SBURT).
Following a year of study, community meetings, online and offline surveys, input from impacted stakeholders and analysis, the RPC released recommendations to improve access and travel times with reorganized bus routes and frequencies with a priority on access for populations in greatest need.
2017-2018 – RTA and Jefferson Parish Transit released strategic plans which both spoke to the need to deliver more value to riders
2019-2020 – RPC led planning, analysis, and community engagement process to learn from riders about trade-offs involved in improving transit networks
2021 – RPC released its final report of recommendations for a redesigned transit network focused on delivering widespread & far-reaching, high-frequency bus routes delivering travel times of 30 minutes or less to the region’s ridership
2021 – RTA, Jefferson Parish Transit, & St. Bernard Urban Rapid Transit formally adopted the RPC’s recommendations
2022 – New Links to be implemented across the New Orleans region
The New Links Plan: Outreach Overview
To understand riders’ priorities, the New Links planning process had four major outreach phases, from March 2019 to January 2021, which included:
The New Links Plan: Network Redesign Goals
The New Links network aims to reflect rider preferences, improve access to destinations, provide more equitable service, and improve the operating environment.
Each decision made about where and how frequently to provide transit service requires comes with a trade-off.
Because we have finite resources, we cannot run buses to all neighborhoods at high frequencies. Increasing service to one area means we may have to decrease service in a different area to keep within the limit. This is why understanding riders’ preferences is so important. The New Links plan reflects rider’s preferences in transit trade-offs, as expressed through the New Links community outreach process.
Using the same number of busses and operators, a balance has to be found between frequency and coverage. Frequent bus routes require service to be concentrated on key routes instead of spread throughout the city.