Veolia Transportation

New Orleans, Louisiana —
Regional Transit Authority (RTA)

In the eleven years since Hurricane Katrina, the Regional Transit Authority of New Orleans has overcome enormous challenges and has established itself as a major force in the renewal of the city of New Orleans, and an innovative leader in public transit. The RTA in New Orleans is helping rebuild this beloved American city by improving mobility and economic access for all citizens.

In 2008, the RTA Board of Commissioners recognized that it needed assistance to not only rebuild and accelerate its renewal, but also to reestablish the New Orleans system as a world-class transit operation.  The Authority’s vehicles, facilities, and infrastructure had been lost or extensively damaged in the storm, and it had suffered a significant loss of its workforce that had relocated in other states.

Adding to its challenges, the Authority was facing very difficult financial circumstances because tourism and associated sales tax revenue dedicated to transit had declined dramatically following Katrina.  The RTA Board was under enormous pressure to increase service levels, repair facilities and infrastructure, improve operational performance, reduce costs, and deal with an underfunded pension plan.

With this motivation, the RTA entered into a “delegated management” contract with Transdev North America. This contractual relationship began in late 2008 and evolved from a management agreement into a full operational agreement in which Transdev operates all aspects of the agency under contract to the RTA Board of Commissioners.

The RTA Board of Commissioners has policy control over all areas, including service levels, fares and annual budgets, and maintains ownership of all assets, vehicles and facilities. All employees with the exception of one (Executive Assistant to the RTA Board of Commissioners) are on Transdev’s payroll.  Veolia assumes financial, safety and operational risk, and reports directly to the RTA Board of Commissioners. This arrangement is common in Europe and Asia, and is being pioneered by the RTA and Transdev in the U.S.

Key Achievements

Transdev has improved the quality of service and operational execution in every area. The contributions of both the RTA Board and Transdev, plus our productive working relationship, have enabled us to expedite our recovery and improve all aspects of operations, service quality and financial stability.  We have achieved measurable progress on our vision for transportation.  Some of the impressive improvements follow:

  • A Rail Modernization Grant from the federal government for $7 million was secured to replace all St. Charles Avenue Streetcar cross ties with stronger, more sustainable materials.
  • RTA Board/Transdev secured an additional $17 million in AARA stimulus funds for operating and capital expenditures, successfully competing with many other transit agencies.
  • The RTA issued a successful $75 million sales tax bond in 2010 to finance Phase Two of streetcar expansion project, the French Quarter Streetcar expansion.  Transdev will begin to manage construction on this 1.6 mile phase in first quarter 2014.
  • The RTA Board/Transdev worked together and secured a $45 million TIGER Grant from the U.S. DOT in 2009 to complete Phase One of its streetcar expansion program, the Loyola/Union Passenger Terminal line. This streetcar expansion project was carefully managed by Transdev over two years of construction and opened in early 2013.  This new streetcar line (.8 miles) has already generated over $2.7 billion dollars of private investment along the new streetcar route with 70 projects including new retail, condominiums, apartments, a new hotel, an entertainment complex, supermarket and more.
  • RTA Board/Transdev have held operating costs flat from 2009 to 2012 while passenger trips increased 68% and passenger miles increased 33%.  This means the operation is very efficient and the city is getting far more trips for less cost.
  • Began operating the agency in late 2009, under contract to RTA Board of Commissioners. 
  • Dramatically improved operational performance and service quality, creating a more efficient, quality-focused organization.
  • Improved safety: 53% reduction in accidents and 31% reduction in worker’s comp. claims.
  • Improved fleet performance from 2009 to 2014:
180%  increase in miles between breakdowns
  • Decreased customer complaints by 66%
  • Brought new innovation to the system by:
• Launched new Mobile Ticketing App in 2015.  
• Redesigned routes and executed two major expansions
  of the flagship streetcar system.
  • Ridership increased 61% from 2009 to 2015, while cost per service hour declined 26%, meaning efficiency is much higher.

The collaboration between the RTA Board of Commissioners and Transdev has been very productive. Ridership is up significantly and growing. Many ambitious future projects are being planned and executed. Transdev has contributed significant corporate and regional expertise in every operational area and department to support the local New Orleans team in making steady improvements. Thanks to the efforts of the RTA Board and Transdev, there is now a very solid operational infrastructure in New Orleans from which transit can continue to thrive, and many more important future goals can be accomplished.

Transdev North America is the largest private sector operator of multiple modes of transit in North America, providing bus, rail, paratransit, shuttle, sedan and taxi services. We manage over 200 transportation contracts for cities, transit authorities and airports, providing safe and sustainable mobility solutions. Our mission is to improve public transportation, to enhance quality of life and combat global warming.

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