New Orleans Bus Service, Devastated by Katrina, Starts to Rebound

Members of Ride New Orleans rallied to support badly needed transit service increases yesterday. Photo: Ride New Orleans
Members of Ride New Orleans rallied to support badly needed transit service increases Tuesday. Photo: Ride New Orleans

Bus service in New Orleans never quite recovered from Hurricane Katrina. As of 2015, a full 10 years after the devastating floods, only 35 percent of bus service had been restored, according to the transit advocacy group Ride New Orleans — even though 86 percent of the city’s population had returned.

On Sunday, residents of The Big Easy got a much-needed transit boost, when expanded bus service went into effect. The regional transit agency increased service along 22 routes — 21 bus routes and one streetcar route — including restoration of late night service on nine routes. Overall, that represents an 11 percent increase in service, according to RTA. The funding to provide more bus runs came from an unexpected increase in sales tax revenues to the agency.

Ride New Orleans had been critical of the city’s rush to restore streetcar service — the more tourist-oriented mode — at the expense of the bus system that carries more riders and local residents. In 2015, New Orleans streetcar service was actually 3 percent higher than before the storm, Ride New Orleans reported.

On Tuesday the group held a rally to support the changes, but much more still needs to be done to get bus service back to where it should be.

“It’s just a really solid step in the right direction,” said Ride New Orleans’ Alex Posorske. “They were hearing from advocates and from us and from other advocates that there is a need to restore service and they were hearing that loud and clear.”

Ten years after Katrina, New Orleans bus service was still nowhere near its former levels. Now that’s starting to change. Map: Ride New Orleans

Cedric Thompson, a New Orleans resident who takes transit to school, said he hopes this will make life easier.

“At times it can get very hard going back and forth between the West Bank, the Central Business District, and Gentilly,” he told Streetsblog in an email. “I’m hopeful that these new changes are a step in the right direction.”