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

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