Thursday, April 26, 2012

New Orleans: New Streetcar Lines Are not Enough People Said

Tourism industry happy with service, others say more buses need to be added

Many New Orleanians who rely on public transportation for their daily activities said they feel that the public transportation system has lost its momentum since Hurricane Katrina. In particular, many said they have to wait too long to catch a bus.

Seven years since Katrina, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority faces challenges offering adequate service to the bus riders, as it did before the storm.

Kelly Brotzman, the director of Service Learning at Loyola University, said the university has spent between nearly $5,000 in public transportation for this academic year to get the students to service learning sites in the city.

She said the students have a hard time catching buses to go to “underserved areas,” such as the 9th Ward, Bywater and New Orleans East.

“I would like to see frequency of the service increase dramatically,” Brotzman said, referring to the time students wait for buses.

Brotzman said the quality of buses has improved, but she would like to see an express line from Uptown to the 9th Ward and Bywater areas.

Donald Celestine, a New Orleans resident who relies on public transportation, said the public transportation has derailed since Katrina.

“Before Katrina things were running pretty, pretty good, but right now, it’s very slow,” Celestine said. Dominic Moncada, RTA marketing and communication specialist, said the RTA recognizes that there are needs for more buses, but as any public institution, the RTA is also affected by the city’s budget cuts.

“There are needs. There are individuals and needs in different neighborhoods that do request of us to increase our services,” Moncada said.

The RTA was recently awarded a $45 million grant by the U.S. Department of Transportation to build an additional 1.5 miles of streetcar tracks on Loyola Avenue to expand the streetcar service in the downtown area.

Photo by Wadner Pierre
According to the RTA website, the company lost the majority of its buses and streetcars during the 2005 storm and a lot of its employees dispersed or died.

The RTA may have a hard time providing satisfactory service to some neighborhoods, but people who work in the tourism industry have praised the RTA.

Kelly Schulz, the vice president of communication and public relations for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, complimented RTA for its service in the tourist areas, such as the French Quarter, Uptown and Bywater areas.

“You know, we feel like transportation is adequate in those areas. I know the RTA always wants to expand their reach,” Schulz said

The RTA continues to expand the streetcar service in the downtown area. Another 2.5 miles of track will be added to circle the French Quarter and Bywater neighborhoods. The new segment will run from Canal Street along Rampart Street to St. Claude Avenue. The line will extend the Riverfront streetcar line to Press Street in the Bywater. Another segment will join St Claude Avenue to the existing Riverfront line.

The RTA has been working on improving its service in many other ways, such as putting up more maps at stops to help people navigate, and using social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. The RTA also has a new mobile application called Mobile RTA that helps bus riders with smart phones to plan their trips by accessing all buses schedules on the company website.

Wadner Pierre is The Maroon and Wolf  Magazine at Loyola University New Orleans, he can be reached at

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Who Is Laurent Lamothe, and What Are his Chance to Be Haiti's Next PM?

Who is Laurent Lamothe, and What Are His Chances to be Prime Minister?
by Kim Ives
...Laurent Lamothe is Haitian President Michel Martelly’s brain, just as political strategist Karl Rove was to former U.S. President George W. Bush.
Lamothe was the guy who figured out how to finance Martelly’s presidential campaign, and who brought in the professional Spanish public relations firm Ostos & Sola to run it. Now he is President Martelly’s nominee to be Haiti’s next prime minister.
The man is a financial genius,” exclaimed musician Richard Morse, who manages Haiti’s famed Oloffson Hotel and is Martelly’s cousin and part of the president’s inner circle. “He knows how to take a little from over here, a little from over there, put it together with this over here, and make it all work out.
Lamothe’s prowess for financial wheeling and dealing stands out when one reviews his business history with Martelly over the past decade.
Lamothe, 39,  has been close to Martelly since 2002 when he recruited the former lewd konpa singer known as “Sweet Micky” to be a partner and the advertising front-man for NoPin Long Distance, a calling-card alternative service which became wildly popular in Haiti and spawned several imitators. In fact, according to Florida State corporate records, the original name of One World Telecom, Inc., the parent company of NoPin, was “Sweet Micky Long Distance Services, Inc.
Lamothe, along with fellow NoPin founders Patrice Baker and Gilbert Pasquet, were all directors with Martelly in another Florida corporation, Coco Grove Holdings, Inc., of which Martelly was made president in 2008. Coco Grove Holdings, in turn, was owned by a British Virgin Islands shell corporation, Lightfoot Ventures Limited, again directed solely by Lamothe and Martelly.
Lamothe learned his financial skills studying business management at Miami’s Barry University and later earning a Masters in the field at another Miami Catholic school, St. Thomas University. In Haiti, he went to high school at the College Bird.