RTA scouting location for downtown transportation hub

The RTA is looking at a one stop hub for transfers, and four locations have been targeted.

NEW ORLEANS -- The RTA says nearly 7,000 people transfer buses downtown every day.

Now they are looking at a one stop hub for transfers, and four locations have been targeted.

Right now RTA transfers happen at a series of bus stops scattered among several blocks, and during summer in New Orleans, that's brutal.

"A shelter like that would create hope in hell, because as you well know the heat, the humidity in New Orleans takes its toll on our people here," said Dr. Rick Italiano who rides the bus every day.

The RTA said the idea is to provide a single location that's on the bus route and near the streetcar lines to provide a single location for transfers.

The agency has targeted four locations: Basin Street near Canal Street, the Canal Street neutral ground between Baronne and Rampart streets, a plot of land at Duncan Plaza across from City Hall, and South Rampart Street between Canal and Tulane Avenue.

Riders say an actual building will also provide safety.

"I got robbed sitting at the bus stop," said one rider. "Police can't be everywhere, but the police could be inside that facility, and they have cameras inside of that. So it would be much safer."

The idea was born last year when Ride New Orleans, a nonprofit transportation watchdog, petitioned the RTA for better overall conditions for people waiting to catch a bus or streetcar, and the agency agreed to fund the research.

Rachel Heiligman, executive director for Ride New Orleans, said the facility can take a variety of shapes and forms.

"I encourage everyone here to get involved in the conversation about envisioning what we want for a transit center in our downtown area," she said.

RTA spokesperson Patrice Bell-Mercadel said officials are taking the first step in what will be a lengthy process.

"We are moving very aggressively to get the feedback from the community," Mercadel said. Plans call for presenting a rough outline of the project to the board sometime in 2015.

"(Then) we can move onto the next step to apply for funding to actually build a center," she said.

If the RTA gets the funding, the project could be completed by 2018.

The RTA posted an online survey to help them decide what features the center should have.


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