Return tourist taxes to RTA
There is one-third the number of buses now than before Katrina. The city and RTA have spent millions on streetcars for tourists but not to provide proper transportation for residents. The big hoopla about RTA plans reveals one major fact: once again, the city has prioritized the rich, not the workers.
There is nothing in the Strategic Mobility Plan that aims to address the needs of working class New Orleanians. Gentrification—with its rising rents and home costs—has driven residents, especially Black residents, further away from jobs and shopping areas.
The new regional plan only links RTA with JET but still makes the trip expensive. So, you are forced to move further away only to pay more for transportation. The RTA survey done recently and at great expense was designed by highly paid professionals who are clueless. There seems to be no end to money available conduct to such studies.
Many neighborhoods are discriminated against in new regional plan.
Here’s a survey question to ask: If buses were free, ran every fifteen minutes 24/7 and stopped near your house, would you ride the bus?
Everyone knows that when you can’t count on transportation or wait in the rain with your kids after walking 10 blocks to the bus stop you’ll do anything but ride the bus. But when buses run often, conveniently, and bus stops are sheltered, when fares are free, people ride the bus.
It was also revealed that $31 million dollars in tourist tax money was given illegally to the Convention Center for tourist company profits that should have gone to RTA. The RTA is rightfully demanding it back and we support that. But if the money is returned what will be done with it?
A new 14 passenger mini bus costs about $65,000 after fitting for wheelchairs and bike racks. (Not every bus needs to be big) You can buy 100 for only $6.5 million dollars. Add 100 drivers to the payroll at the cost of $6.5 million a year, 20 mechanics cost $1.5 million a year, 20 cleaners, $1.5 million, plus gas and permits. And you still have money left from the $31 million.
The city should prioritize hiring local people and having great bus service instead of giving 63% of the city budget to cops and jails. The community, together with the bus drivers’ union, can run the system better and serve the needs of both.
You can barely find a job, the wages are too low, you can’t afford car insurance or there is no place to park and the bus is unreliable. This amounts to illegal racist economic segregation.
Does it sound unreasonable to demand free buses? The Los Angeles Bus Riders Union organized and won free fares for lower income folks. Time to get organized.