New Orleans RTA hosts first annual State of RTA

March 7, 2022
In 2022, RTA plans to continue the momentum of its 2021 accomplishments with the implementation of the New Links network redesign which will work to improve connectivity in New Orleans and surrounding parishes.

The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) hosted its first annual State of the RTA webinar to highlight 2021 accomplishments and to preview the roadmap for transit in 2022 and beyond.  

The event was moderated by RTA Board Chair Flozell Daniels, Jr., and RTA CEO Alex Z. Wiggins. Speakers included national, regional and local officials. 

“The RTA Board of Commissioners is proud of the work that the RTA has made in the last year,” said Daniels. “We will continue this pace as we look to the future of transit equity in the city and in the region. We are appreciative of our partners at the local, state and federal levels that continue to support RTA's vision in advancing transit for our millions of riders yearly. Today we acknowledge how far we have come and look ahead toward changing the face of mobility in New Orleans.”     

The total 2021 operating revenue of $90 million fell within one percent of RTA’s budgeted revenue despite the unplanned financial impacts of Hurricane Ida and the COVID-19 variants. Passenger fares of $7.2 million were 25 percent below projections for 2021 but were five percent greater than the prior year.  

Total operating expenses of $98 million were below the projected expenses of $110 Million by 11.5 percent, or $12 million. As a result of the RTA’s federal advocacy efforts, the agency was able to utilize $20 million in CARES Act/ARP revenue and expenditures utilized to offset fare revenue for operation 2021. The RTA generated $25.1 million from competitive federal grants. The 2021 year-end operating reserve projection is $14 million.   

U.S. Rep. Troy Carter (D-LA-2) expressed his support of RTA’s proposed redevelopment of the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal to serve as a multi-modal transit center that connects New Orleans East and the West Bank to the Central Business District and the New Orleans airport with bus rapid transit and expanded regional connections. This proposed project will also serve as a catalyst for transit-oriented community and economic development and increased workforce housing.  

As the RTA continues to make strides towards delivering a world class transit system, Wiggins reported the agency added 43 new fixed-route buses to its fleet. With an updated purple and grey design, the new buses have significantly improved the rider's experience in terms of comfort and cleanliness, while increasing on-time performance. The agency also introduced reduced transit fares to improve transit accessibility for seniors and youth.  

The RTA has leveraged technology innovations to improve transit delivery and the rider experience. In 2021, the RTA was awarded an $18.1 million federal grant to improve fare technology, update the agency's mobile application, and provide seamless regional transfers. Innovation also extends to the bus fleet as the RTA received a $5.5 million grant to begin introducing electric buses and charging stations.  

The RTA says its board and its leadership have delivered on their commitment to building an equitable transit system. In addition to adopting the New Links Transit redesign recommendations, the RTA instituted a race and social justice toolkit to ensure that equity is at the forefront of transit policy and operational decisions. The RTA’s commitment to equity extends beyond transit to the greater New Orleans economy by contracting more than $7.3 million with DBE and businesses in 2021, or 37 percent—which exceeds the 35 percent agency goal. The RTA also introduced its second public art bus, honoring New Orleans Freedom Riders who led the early movement of transit equity and desegregation. 

Since bringing RTA administration and operations in-house in 2019 and 2020 respectively, the RTA says it has committed itself to participating in regional workforce development efforts. As the RTA continues to grow its local workforce, the agency says it is demonstrating its commitment to restorative justice by forming a partnership with JOB1 to hire graduates from the Louisiana State Penitentiary’s auto mechanic training program upon release.  

“Despite the continued challenges posed by the pandemic compounded by Hurricane Ida, the RTA staff and operators consistently delivered transit service for New Orleanians while simultaneously working to improve the transit infrastructure for decades to come,” said Wiggins. “In 2022, the RTA plans to expand these efforts by actively pursuing significant infrastructure enhancements including the Downtown Bus Hub, transit-oriented development at the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal, East New Orleans and the West Bank as well as advancing bus rapid transit.”    

In 2022, RTA plans to continue the momentum of its 2021 accomplishments with the implementation of the New Links network redesign which will work to improve connectivity in New Orleans and surrounding parishes. The agency is pursuing additional grant funding to build a downtown transit hub in the median of Canal and Basin, which will be a connection point for all modes. The agency will also work to make advancements in fare technology by upgrading current systems to improve the rider experience.   

“Society depends on the ability of people to get to school, work and recreation,” said Rep. Carter. “Through my work in Congress and on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, I am so proud to support efforts to expand, grow and increase efficiency within our public transit system. The bipartisan Infrastructure Law that we just passed in Congress will allocate millions of dollars to New Orleans transit projects, and the future of RTA is brighter than ever before.”