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Shorter waits, extended hours, new RTA app: See changes coming to New Orleans public transit

An RTA bus at Duncan Plaza.
Carly Berlin
An RTA bus at Duncan Plaza.

In just a few weeks, bus routes across New Orleans are getting a big upgrade.

On Sept. 25, many routes will see significantly shorter wait times, as well as extended hours into the evenings and on weekends.

“This is the first major redesign of the transit network since Hurricane Katrina,” said New Orleans Rapid Transit Authority CEO Alex Wiggins in an interview with WWNO.

Think of the existing network as a hub and spoke system: to get between neighborhoods across the city, you would often need to make a transfer downtown. The new network will have more connections between neighborhoods, and into Jefferson and St. Bernard Parishes — and more transfer hubs throughout the region. Shorter headways on the updated routes will also mean shorter wait times between transfers.

Those transfer hubs will be:

  • The downtown hub, which will now be located at the Main Library at 219 Loyola Ave. 
  • The Gentilly Woods hub, located around the intersection of Chef Menteur Highway and Desire Parkway
  • The New Orleans East hub, located at Lake Forest and Read boulevards, near the New Orleans East Library and hospital
  • The West Bank hub, located at the Wilty Terminal in Gretna off the Westbank Expressway
  • The Cemeteries at Canal Boulevard

Some routes in the current system have headways upwards of 40 minutes, Wiggins said; some only come every hour. Now, several old lines will be scrapped and consolidated into new, higher frequency routes. Here’s a list of new routes that will run every 15 to 18 minutes along major corridors:

  • The number 3 bus will replace the 39, which runs down Tulane Avenue to Jefferson Highway. The current route ends near Causeway Boulevard, but the new route will extend all the way into Elmwood, terminating past Clearview Parkway near Walmart.
  • The number 8 bus will run along St. Claude Avenue through the Lower Ninth Ward into Arabi, replacing the 88. It also replaces the number 5, which currently runs every 45 minutes along Chartres Street in the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods.
  • The number 9 bus will connect Uptown to New Orleans East via Broad Street. It will run from the intersection of Napoleon Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street up to Broadmoor, along Broad Street through Mid-City, and along Gentilly Boulevard to Chef Menteur Highway. It will terminate at the New Orleans East hub.

The best place to learn how the route changes will impact your commute is on the RTA’s website. They have a route translation guide that walks through what routes you’ll likely use in the new system based on the routes you ride now. There’s also an interactive map of the new network.

The network overhaul is the result of a years-long planning project called New Links, which aimed to re-imagine how public transportation serves riders throughout Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes. More than 3,000 riders gave their input on priorities for the changes to the transit network, according to the RTA’s website.

“We wanted to do a better job connecting our passengers to employment centers, to shopping opportunities, et cetera, across the entire transit region,” Wiggins said.

Along with the new routes, the RTA is also introducing a new app, called Le Pass, which has a trip planner function and real-time information on wait times. It also lets riders live track Jefferson Transit buses, along with RTA vehicles. The RTA’s old app, GoMobile, was deactivated on Aug. 29.

In the coming weeks, the RTA will have ambassadors in purple shirts at stops along various routes to explain the changes. Riders can also text RTAUpdates to 41411 to get more information, or call the RTA’s Rideline at 504-248-3900.

Carly Berlin is the New Orleans Reporter for WWNO and WRKF. She focuses on housing, transportation, and city government. Previously, she was the Gulf Coast Correspondent for Southerly, where her work focused on disaster recovery across south Louisiana during two record-breaking hurricane seasons. Much of that reporting centered on the aftermath of Hurricanes Laura and Delta in Lake Charles, and was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.

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