Navigating the big easy
After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, most of the residents of the city’s Lower Ninth Ward relocated, leaving too few to justify running buses on fixed routes through the neighborhood. Residents who needed public transportation service had to walk at least one mile to major routes and endure long waits.
On Jan. 26, 2009, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA) and its private sector partner Veolia Transportation, launched The Lil’ Easy, a flexible-route service featuring three 14-passenger vehicles that circulate through neighborhoods in the Lower Ninth Ward. Residents call for pick-up and are directed to the closest of 24 flexible stops. The Lil’ Easy buses stop at each of three fixed destinations at scheduled times, including the post office and a grocery store, but they only go to the 24 flexible stops if someone has made a reservation and is waiting there or if a passenger requests to get off the bus at one of the stops.
When The Lil’ Easy launched, the first rider told transportation executives that she previously took a $17 cab ride to and from her job at the Convention Center every day because she had no transit options. On The Lil’ Easy, her daily ride costs $1.25 each way. Additionally, residents who may have spent up to two hours getting to the grocery store using traditional fixed route buses now can get there in 20 minutes. Demand for the service is growing. In May, there were 850 rides on The Lil’ Easy. In June 2009, The Lil’ Easy service was expanded to include the Gentilly and Lakeview neighborhoods.
In October 2008, the city’s transit authority contracted with Veolia Transportation to manage the city’s public transportation service. All employees report to the company’s management team, which reports to the transit authority’s Board of Commissioners.
Project: On-demand public transportation service
Jurisdiction: New Orleans
Agency: New Orleans Regional Transit Authority
Vendor: Chicago-based Veolia Transportation
Start date: January 2009