Jun 172013
 

Owen Courreges

I’m beginning to think there’s a conspiracy to keep Uptowners out of the Marigny and Bywater.  At the very least, if certain plans materialize, there will be no decent arterial past the French Quarter.

Presently, if I want to drive to the Marigny and points further East, I usually take the Claiborne Expressway or South Rampart.  I could certainly go through the Quarter, but that’s generally a nightmare.  I could also go further north, but reaching a road north of the expressway would be a major detour.  The options are pretty well limited.

For some inexplicable reason, plans are being made to kill both the expressway and Rampart as useful thoroughfares for vehicular traffic.  First, plans were proposed a few years ago to remove the Claiborne Expressway entirely and relegate it to a surface street, complete with stop lights and the inevitable congestion that it causes.  A report prepared by Smart Mobility, Inc., and Waggonner & Ball Architects recommended removing the expressway and revamping various surface streets north of the expressway to redistribute traffic flow (none of which would provide a quick path from points near the river between uptown to downtown).

I was generally skeptical of this plan because the assumptions just seemed too rosy.  The trope was that the Claiborne Expressway was already badly in need of repair and the cost of removal would actually be less than the cost of maintenance.  However, the longer I listened the more complicated and expensive the plans started to sound. Interstate 610 would have to be redesigned, as would several surface roads.

Apparently, the proponents of the plans themselves have now sobered up and are now pitching more modest alternatives to the complete removal of the expressway, but they largely involve removing on-ramps and off-ramps, rendering the expressway next to useless to local traffic.  The Livable Claiborne Communities Study proposes three scenarios, two of which involve the removal of ramps.  Both of these “ramp-removing” scenarios would demolish the ramps at St. Phillip and Esplanade.  For my purposes, if you do that, you might as well tear the whole thing down.

Now, this might be tolerable if I could still cut through the CBD and go down Rampart Street / St. Claude.  However, as I discussed in a previous column, the planned Rampart/St. Claude Streetcar line may well end up rendering Rampart a two-lane road.

Rather than running in the neutral ground as the streetcar did historically, the Rampart streetcar will be placed in the traffic lanes on either side.  The city wants to restrict these lanes to streetcar traffic during morning and afternoon rush hours (already a major impediment to traffic) but argue that traffic studies cannot justify a permanent transit lane.  Transit advocates, on the other hand, want a dedicated transit lane and don’t seem to care one whit about impacts on vehicular traffic.

No matter who wins this debate, cars will lose.  The streetcar will slow down vehicular traffic either way; the results will simply be more catastrophic if the inner-lanes are closed off completely to cars.  Rail transit and cars have always been an uneasy mix in traffic.  Streetcars have poor stopping distance and can’t steer away to avoid blocking traffic in the event of a breakdown or accident.  Thus, Rampart and St. Claude will be less appealing as arterials.

Proponents of these changes highlight the benefits to surrounding neighborhoods.  All I hear is my 10-minute drive to the Marigny increasing to a half hour.

Since both of these issues are hitting at once, Uptowners need to make their voices heard.  These decisions involve major traffic routes and should be made by everyone.  After all, if every individual neighborhood association had its druthers, there would probably be no through streets at all.

We also need a great deal more introspection.  When people talk about planning roads these days, there tends to be a  halo effect whereby anything that slows down cars is good and anything that promotes them is bad.  Some people regurgitate this line of thinking even though, deep-down, they know that they usually drive and wouldn’t change that for all the bike lanes and streetcars in the world.  They might lie to themselves they they’ll still go to that show on Frenchman even if it takes twice as long to get there, but in the end it can and will impact their decision-making.

There’s also the question of the type of city we want.  Tourists use cabs and transit to travel long distances; locals generally use personal vehicles.  If you make it more difficult to drive, you’re keeping locals out, ostensibly with the hope that tourists will fill the void.  But do we want to be a city for residents, or a city for tourists?

I understand that traffic mobility isn’t a universal good.  Creating a pedestrian mall at Jackson Square hindered traffic, but it was a good idea.  We also dodged a bullet when we prevented the powers-that-be from slapping a freeway on Decatur through the French Quarter.  Nonetheless, the pendulum has now swung too far the other way.  We aren’t recognizing just how important vehicular mobility is, instead indulging the delusion that we can all walk or take transit in the hottest and most humid city in the history of heat and humidity.

Now that delusion is being laid bare.  What is being proposed is nothing short of a wall of traffic congestion separating uptown and downtown.  It’s poor planning and it needs to be stopped.

Owen Courrèges, a New Orleans attorney and resident of the Garden District, offers his opinions for UptownMessenger.com on Mondays. He has previously written for the Reason Public Policy Foundation.

  98 Responses to “Owen Courreges: The conspiracy to landlock Uptown”

  1. Getting to/from NOAC on N. Rampart from uptown every day has become a real nightmare, what with “Apes” shutting down Common St. access and Saenger renovations adding to the mess. Shudder to think what construction of the streetcar line may bring.

    • Cree,

      I hear you. That’s what people need to be considering — what if you start experiencing that type of delay on a regular basis due to the lack of an expressway? The idea that the expressway can be eliminated and a streetcar put down the only realistic parallel artery without causing major bottlenecks is, in my mind, simply naive. It just seems like nobody is really considering traffic flow between Uptown and the Marigny/Bywater area.

  2. The plan for the new Iberville projects calls for returning the street grid to the area between Claiborne and Basin, which should help cutting back and forth some, and detouring if there’s bad traffic on either street. This should be done first before any Claiborne/Rampart changes are made.

    • Profjim,

      That’s a good point, but I don’t think restoring the street grid there would have a huge impact given the volume of traffic on the expressway. I think you’d still be looking at some pretty major increases in congestion and travel times.

      I’m not sure why nobody isn’t proposing turning the Claiborne Expressway into some kind of hybrid road like Allen Parkway in Houston, designed to meld more into the surrounding neighborhood while still allowing for a high, fast volume of vehicular traffic. It would probably be expensive, but at least the project would be self-contained and we wouldn’t be thinking of how several other streets need to be revamped before proceeding.

      • The idea is for there to be street life and commerce. Obviously Allen Parkway is not built for that, it’s built to be a roadway cutting off the neighborhood from a park, so that drivers can pass quickly by and maybe notice the scenery.

        • San,

          That’s a valid point, but I still think the model is workable because access to nearby properties is still provided. Moreover, I think planners are hoping for apartments, condos, etc., to be built along North Claiborne which would be more like Allen Parkway.

          Nevertheless, you’re right, it isn’t a perfect fit – it’s a compromise solution at best.

          • Just for reference, this is Octavia Blvd in San Francisco, which was recently a freeway street: https://www.google.com/maps?ll=37.741399,-122.382889&spn=0.617917,0.926971&cbp=12,336.04,,1,-0.7&layer=c&panoid=iJ_2P_UraqLVV9cX0Mu1rw&cbll=37.773816,-122.423794&dg=opt&t=m&z=11

            This is precisely what Claiborne could be, although Claiborne could be 2 lanes wider, since it has such a big right of way. I agree that the South Claiborne model is not optimal. We should have a formal street with through lanes in the center and calm service streets on the side. Then, you wouldn’t even need a bike lane, since the side streets would be so calm. And you would get good residential and local commercial development, not auto-oriented fast food and strip malls like on South Claiborne.

          • San,

            The through lane idea is not bad. I’d still prefer an Allen Parkway model; similar but with express lanes (albeit more expensive). Certainly if our population growth continues to slow, the need for the expressway will be reduced. Right now, however, we really need to repave our streets before figuring out ways of redesigning them.

  3. I travel from my Uptown home to my rental properties in Bywater and to NOAC several times a week. The planet of the Apes filming is the only real upset I have encountered during the past few years. Removing the 610 will perhaps add a few minutes to my trips, but the reward of seeing a tree’d, restored Claiborne Avenue will distract me enough that I don’t mind and extra four or five minutes.

    • Greg,

      It’s going to be a bit more than four or five minutes. Remember, the existing traffic will either remain on Claiborne or go to other surface streets, and Rampart is looking like less of an option. I’m thinking more along the lines of at least 10 to 15 minutes, and that’s a problem.

      Also, bear in mind that government can’t simply waive a wand and make a neighborhood good again, regardless of what it does with infrastructure. I think the surrounding neighborhood is probably better off without the overpass, but there will still be a huge road there with limited intersections surrounded by blight and decay.

      Finally, as I noted, it’s looking less like they’re going to tear down the elevated and more like they’re simply going to remove the on/off ramps that locals use. If that happens, Claiborne will still be just as ugly and your travel times will increase.

      • Life finds a way. 10 minutes is not the end of the world. New Orleans has next to no traffic outside of the freeway. The only thing that causes congestion in places is the freeway itself, since it blocks off local roads. See above post, San Francisco built a big road Octavia Blvd, that looks good, not like the WB Expressway in Westwego or South Claiborne. There are other ways. They’re called “multi-way boulevards”. You have the main road, then the smaller lanes on the outside separated by small medians, so you buffer the land use from the big road with trees, etc. Looks good!

        https://www.google.com/maps?ll=37.741399,-122.382889&spn=0.617917,0.926971&cbp=12,336.04,,1,-0.7&layer=c&panoid=iJ_2P_UraqLVV9cX0Mu1rw&cbll=37.773816,-122.423794&dg=opt&t=m&z=11

        http://www.sfbetterstreets.org/design-guidelines/street-types/multi-way-boulevards/

        • San,

          I actually support multi-lane boulevards where they will work, but I’m not sure that’s proper for Claiborne at this time and I think we’re talking about greater delays that you’re letting on, particularly if Rampart is altered. San Francisco just isn’t analogous here in the least; there, virtually every other related freeway was cancelled. Here, we’re talking about demolishing a crucial connector between freeways that were definitely not cancelled.

  4. Tear that big ugly mess down. San Fransisco did it and they have enjoyed a beautiful renaisance in the area that was once under their ugly waterfront expressway.

    • brad,
      Respectfully, we aren’t San Francisco. That freeway 1) had major earthquake damage; and, 2) was never completed in its original planned form. It was also located in a choice location in a dense, wealthy city. There are other differences, but suffice to say that simply citing San Francisco is incredibly weak sauce.
      Don’t get me wrong; I think the North Claiborne area would improve somewhat without the elevated expressway, but the idea that it would have some grand renaissance solely due to the removal strikes me as fantasy. More likely than not, it would just start to look more like South Claiborne just past the freeway, which isn’t completely awful but isn’t all that pretty either. In the end there would still be a large road there surrounded by some iffy neighborhoods. It would be an improvement as far as the immediate area is concerned, but let’s not oversell this.
      Moreover, it would have some serious fairly serious traffic impacts and require reworking 610, possibly widening it and encroaching on nearby neighborhoods. San Francisco actually did have to widen some sections of freeway and the move hurt other neighborhoods. Let’s not pretend we can just knock down a freeway and everything will be grand.

  5. I live in the Garden District and work at NOCCA in the bywater. In the last two years, I have taken to just getting through the French Quarter via Decatur. For some reason, Decatur St. running towards the Bywater/Marigny always has quicker moving traffic than Decatur traffic heading towards Canal. However, I still long for my impossible dream of large Venitian water taxis moving up and down the banks of the river, giving riders a nice view of the city with a stop at Poland, either side of the quarter, Jackson Ave, and upwards. Wouldn’t it be nice? Impossible, but nice.

    • You are right – I use to drive a student from McGehee to an afternoon program at NOCCA and we always cut through through on Decatur, but that really only works during daytime hours, I think.

  6. I misspelled Venetian in my previous post. I feel silly. If the moderator can correct it, I’d appreciate it!

  7. Or you could, you know, not drive and take (and advocate for) better public transit to make a two-mile trip.

    • JB,
      We don’t have the population density for really effective transit, which also means that transit is always going to be significantly slower than driving (it also requires you to walk to a transit stop, make connections and plan around a bus schedule). This is the reason why you have a lot of people who talk a big game about transit, but far fewer people who would actually entertain the idea of taking it even if we, say, doubled the funding.
      There’s also the issue of where the money would come from. With freeways, gasoline taxes pay the lion’s share of the costs, whereas transit’s farebox recovery is typically much lower. Thus, transit is more subsidized and when it is expanded, there needs to be an additional source of revenue.
      Finally, New Orleans is simply constrained with respect to improving transit between uptown and downtown. The most effective route is the St. Charles streetcar, but it can’t be changed because it is a designated historic landmark. Thus, while it could make sense to expand the line past the Quarter, either directly or through a spur, it simply can’t be done under the law.

      • Owen, you are desperately myopic, but I guess that’s the way of the “Reason” Foundation. The most effective route would be Magazine Street, except that it is not nearly as frequent as St Charles, due only to the fact that tourists like to ride streetcars. The Magazine line would obviously flourish with higher frequencies. Gas taxes don’t pay the “lion’s share” of costs for local streets, including Rampart. That’s why the City has to sell bonds to build streets, and the Federal Government has to borrow money from the Fed to pay for roads, and why half the bridges in the country are failing, and why a couple major bridges have collapsed in recent memory. Nothing is paid for.

        • San,

          It’s not a matter of being “myopic,” it’s a matter of looking at the facts rather than looking all googly-eyed at transit instead of at hard numbers. A lot of cities have invested insane amounts in transit for pathetic gains in ridership (as a percentage of commuters), and then patted themselves on the back later.

          I agree that the Magazine bus would flourish with higher frequencies, but you’d also want to expand bus stops to allow buses to pull over completely and allow traffic to pass while loading and unloading (which they usually don’t do now even if they have the room). In any case, Magazine is only useful for traffic within Uptown; it doesn’t go past Canal.

          You are correct that local road projects aren’t paid for by gasoline taxes, but the “road project” for Rampart is really a transit project, and those are never paid for. My point is that relative to freeways, gasoline taxes cover most of the cost. With transit, something else has to cover most of the cost. Transit has fewer internalized costs. This is why we should focus on repairing existing infrastructure rather than investing in new projects that would reduce road capacity with dubious promises of benefits.

          • My point is that New Orleans neighborhoods can support transit (you said that only St Charles is viable). Actually the Tulane bus and the Broad bus are extremely busy (successful) lines, so busy that RTA has to put articulated units just to handle crowding, since they don’t have money for more labor, and funding comes from different pots of money.

            A developed Claiborne could certainly support transit if the need arose, all the way from St Bernard through the medical district, to uptown and Ochsner Hospital.

            I call you myopic because in your article you dismiss all benefits and any potential to shift travel modes, and you say yourself that “all you hear” is 10 minutes added to your drive.

            “Proponents of these changes highlight the benefits to surrounding neighborhoods. All I hear is my 10-minute drive to the Marigny increasing to a half hour.”

            Considering that there are indeed those benefits, you come off sounding somewhat sociopathic. Do you not “hear” successful neighborhood development, increased real estate values, less blight, less traffic and asthma rates, more social life? Life doesn’t revolve around your Saturday night fun drive from Uptown to Three Muses. People live in Treme and Mid-City.

          • San,

            >>A developed Claiborne could certainly support transit if the need arose[.]<>Do you not “hear” successful neighborhood development, increased real estate values, less blight, less traffic and asthma rates, more social life? Life doesn’t revolve around your Saturday night fun drive from Uptown to Three Muses.<<

            You're massively overselling the benefits again. I think there will be some gains in real estate values and somewhat less blight, but it's not going to be a sea change. I don't think there will be any real impact on "asthma rates" (an elevated freeway separates people more from car exhaust than a massive, congested surface road with idling cars would) and I think that cutting the area off with congestion will actually have a negative effect on "social life."

            I you have become invested in the fantasy that the North Claiborne area declined primarily due to the freeway, when it fact it was already in decline and most of the blight would be there either way. Just look at South Claiborne just past the freeway, bordered by Central City. It's bad and doesn't really get better until you start getting closer to the universities, and then after Carrollton it declines again.

            Again, I actually agree that the expressway has some negative neighborhood impacts, but I don't think they're remotely as significant as you think, while the reduction in traffic volume is more concrete.

          • Great points San. I would just like to add that many people in this city cannot afford to drive around in an air conditioned car. Those of us lucky enough to do so, all too often, complain about minor traffic issues and forget about our fellow Nola residents that must rely on buses, streetcars, and bikes to get around.

        • Hi San,

          Thanks for pointing out the connection between the author and the “Reason” Foundation. This is very helpful in understanding the bias here.

          “The Reason Foundation is funded by Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, the American Petroleum Institute, Delta Airlines, the National Air Transportation Association and, of course, the Koch Family Foundation.”

          http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/openforum/article/The-great-high-speed-rail-lie-2336677.php

          • Yet another,

            I wrote for Reason years ago; I’m no longer affiliated with them. In any case, they are a libertarian organization, so it’s not surprising that many businesses and business groups support them financially.

            My role with reason was writing opinion pieces for the “Urban Futures Program” that dealt primarily with legal, political and policy issues surrounding transportation and land use. I had pieces published in Planetizen, the San Diego Union-Tribune, and the Houston Chronicle.

            Prior to that I wrote for my college paper, the Rice Thresher, and for the short-lived Houston Review.

          • “Libertarian” is a very vague term these days. They may be a “libertarian” organization, but it would be far more appropriate to call them what they are: a far right wing libertarian organization. That is why this collection of multinational conglomerates and the Koch brothers are throwing them money.

          • And it’s obviously easier to dismiss people based on labels you choose to apply to them than actually addressing the substance of their points.

      • It’s not a density thing. NOLA has the population density of Los Angeles yet it has an immeasurably crappier transit system (yes, that’s right, LA has a strong transit system).

        If the planners at NORTA were focused on actually moving people around the city instead of bringing tourists from Canal St hotels to sightseeing destinations, maybe we’d actually have a usable system.

        Also, Owen, the 91 bus will deliver you from your home/office to the corner of the Marigny, no transfers needed. It runs every 30 minutes but with decent funding 15-minute frequency is possible.

        • Roland,

          It’s definitely a density thing. If you don’t have the density, all you can do is waste money on transit upgrades that aren’t cost-effective. Only about 11% of residents in Los Angeles use transit, compared to about 7% in New Orleans, and Los Angeles is actually much denser in terms of population than New Orleans. Those are pretty poor results considering that they even resorted to building a blasted subway line.

          I agree that transit planning in New Orleans is poor and could be a lot better (less focused on tourists, more on residents), but it has to be cost-effective. No matter how much we spend, we’re not going to be more than about 10% of residents to take transit. The spread here is smaller than you’d think.

          As for the 91 bus, I’ve taken it a few times before. It runs very intermittently and shuts down early. It was a pain to use.

          • Owen,

            Just to clear the air, the 91 runs every 30 minutes between 5AM and 7PM then begins to run intermittently (every 2 hours, unfortunately.) Just as the Roland described. You could take it to the Marigny then take a cab back. Then you wouldn’t have to drive back loaded.

            Or a 20-minute bike trip in the cool of the night (to get all the way to Louisiana Ave and Prytania!) Or, you know, take a streetcar from the French Quarter. Like in the olden days.

          • San,

            The 91 also stops running after 11 p.m. It’s just not convenient unless you’re using it during business hours, although as I note, I have ridden in a few times (and had to take a cab back). Another option I’ve used is to take the Magazine bus for a connection with the Elysian Fields bus, but then you risk one or both buses running off schedule (or worse; once, I wait a half hour before finding out that the Elysian Fields bus basically just started skipping the Canal stop without notifying anyone).

            I would definitely ride transit more if it simply ran regularly at all times. In law school I rode the streetcar for a few semesters until just before Katrina (I had to stop because it was just too unreliable and made me late for class every so often even though I always left an large time buffer).

            As for bicycling, I’d do that more if not for the fact that bike theft is completely out of control.

    • Yes!!! I agree …. people rushing about in their cars and talking on their cell phones, being in a big important hurry are the bane of New Orleans these days … chill out dudes and dames, relax and enjoy ~ consider getting some some exercise and riding a bike to your destination instead – the city is flat! Remember? Ain’t that hard and it’s good for health (mental & physical) and the city’s environmental health too! I can get from my house near Jefferson Ave. to Bywater in 40 minutes on my bike – really Owen! Not nearly as bad as you might think – try it!

      • Hoodoo,

        40 minutes? In our climate? Look, maybe you have few sweat glands or something, but unless I’m willing to arrive somewhere looking like I took a shower in my own clothes, bicycling for long distances isn’t a great option for me.

    • Great point JB, Nola needs more advocates for better public transportation.

  8. I travel from the Garden District to Bywater frequently. I find that (except for “rush hour”) there is so little traffic on N. Rampart/St. Claude that cutting it down to one lane should have very little effect
    on travel time. The evenings are especially quiet, and sparse (of traffic). I still don’t get the “Apes” thing, though – why did it have to be downtown? From the way the set is oriented, there are NO tall buildings in the background. Looks to me like it could have been anywhere else in the city.

    • Joanne,
      I think you’re wrong on this. Cutting anything down to one lane in either direction will drastically slow down traffic. The difference on St. Charles once it goes down to two lanes is staggering. Moreover, you need to realize that this is cumulative; if they mess with the expressway, a lot of that traffic will try to come down Rampart. Everything will be more congested than before.

      • There are a dillion million more things on St. Charles to congest traffic when it goes down to one lane (restaurants, bars, 4 schools, etc) than there are on N . Rampart/St. Claude. Right now, the St. Bernard and some lower 9 traffic is on N. Robertson and/or N. Claiborne, and that wouldn t change. I would suspect that it makes more sense to stay on that route when they are coming off the expressway , to the Siebert
        Bridge, as those streets have been “streamlined” to carry that traffic (no parking on either side from Elysian Fields to Poland). Only when the Siebert bridge is out, which is seldom, do those people use Rampart/St. Claude. Frankly, that will make a lot of sense for me, coming from uptown to Bywater, as well. Since there is no off ramp from the expressway to Rampart/St. Claude, traffic from the westbank, from Metairie, uptown, etc. will still exit at Claiborne. Will there be more traffic? Surely. But right now, past Esplanade, there is practically NONE, so more than none, in my estimation, is still comfortable. Remember when the anti-Walmart people said Jackson Avenue was going to become a major congested thoroughfare if the Walmart was built on Tchop? It’s about as congested as St Claude, which is NOT. Streets with one lane one way are much safer with bike lanes than streets with two lanes, either one way or two ways, like Magazine. Already I have almost been hit more than once by drivers moving over into my lane to pass a bike. Driving on St. Claude now, other than rush hour (and I don’t really know about rush hour since I never do it then, I’m just stipulating to that!) is like driving in an English Country Village – unless, of course, you get behind a Sunday afternoon 2nd line.

        • Joanne,

          Rampart goes past the Quarter, and there are at least as many things to slow down traffic there as on St. Charles. And there are some things past Esplanade on St. Claude to slow down traffic as well; there are schools, restaurants, bars, etc. Eventually it does become more spread out, but that’s substantially further down — like past the railroad tracks. Before that, the analogy to St. Charles holds.

          I agree that the anti-Walmart folks engaged in some hysterics, but they were being silly from the get-go — Jackson Avenue has four lanes, which is plenty of capacity for a north/south connector through Uptown. That’s not the case here; the number of east/west connectors is limited, and here we’re actually talking about reduced capacity, not merely a new destination for traffic. Worse, we’re talking about sending a great deal of new traffic down Rampart from the expressway. It’s a perfect storm for clogging the roadway.

          • No one is sending traffic anywhere. Traffic will equalize between the various options. Probably, Claiborne will not be quite as tortuous as the Chicken Littles are claiming, and could even be something pleasant. Anyway, life will find a way, although it will probably take a few minutes longer. And the City will succeed because of it. Lots of cities have lots of traffic. It means they are successful, it doesn’t hurt businesses. It’s not the 1960s anymore.

            Back in the day, the call was for a bridge down Napoleon Avenue and across the Mississippi. That was the second bridge. Eventually it got built next to the original CCC. That did not cost any neighborhood of Uptown any money. They even tried to shift the bridge to General Taylor and Peniston to satisfy white residents of Napoleon. But Uptown people didn’t want the bridge anywhere in Uptown. Guess it’s not a two-way street.

            “Race and class issues were inherent in the clash, as well as community welfare and preservation of the French Quarter’s culture and history. Mostly residents of either the white, middle class Napoleon Avenue or the black, low-income General Taylor Street, the protestors voiced concerns about the negative collateral damage of building an expressway through their neighborhoods that would result inevitably in uprooting of long-time residents of both areas. Originally the expressway was to pass only through Napoleon Avenue, but this was changed in a futile attempt to appease the white residents, who remained opposed to a bridge anywhere in the uptown area. Another group of opponents to the bridge joined the fray, also staunchly against the Vieux Carré and Riverfront Expressway proposals because of the large-scale displacement of residents and the neighborhood environmental deterioration that would occur in what remained of the neighborhoods.”

            http://library.uno.edu/specialcollections/inventories/123.htm

          • San,

            The problem here is that there aren’t many other options for an east/west trip in that area. The net effect is that if you tear down the expressway, you’re sending a massive amount of surface traffic down Rampart. And they’re talking about sending a streetcar down Rampart in the inner traffic lanes, which will reduce its overall traffic capacity.

            My point is that we do need to care about traffic, and drastically reducing capacity is not the way to go. Simply saying “traffic will find a way” is a blank check argument for ignoring mobility, at least when it comes to cars. Successful cities have traffic, but they manage their traffic and add capacity to deal with it. And we don’t have anywhere near the population density to simply shrug that off with a nod to mass transit.

      • It wouldn’t slow traffic “drastically”. The second lane of traffic provides about 50% greater capacity than the first one. Many novices see traffic as a liquid, but traffic engineers recognize that it acts more like a gas. Cars travel more closely together in one lane, whereas with two lanes they tend to simply spread out. Also, the weaving leads to dangerous traffic maneuvers, racing, speeding, overtaking, all ultimately resulting in a few deaths here and there. But as long as you can save 5-8 minutes on that trip to the Marigny, well I guess the Treme can just suck it up. You weren’t going there anyway.

        • San,

          I think it would be drastic. We’re not talking about reducing six lanes to four; we’re talking about a two-lane road. All it takes is one slow vehicle to bring traffic to a crawl, or one accident or breakdown to close down the entire street in one direction. I don’t think you can really underestimate the problems associated with that. Moreover, to the degree the lack of road capacity increases congestion, you run a higher risk of accidents by default. Smooth-running traffic is generally safer.

          And please can the sarcasm about how I don’t care about the Treme. The Treme isn’t suffering from having decent road capacity on Rampart anymore than I am from St. Charles being four lanes a block from my house. I see more accidents on Prytania.

          • Owen,

            Please. I’m talking about Claiborne, and the 6-lane elevated highway that bisects the neighborhood. Not the small arterial that runs alongside it. I guess this is what happens when we convolute issues. And you are suffering from St Charles being 4 lanes a block from your house. The Treme would be better with a calmer North Rampart Street that didn’t look like an automobile sewer.

            Also, I am a little surprised you take the I-10 expressway to the Marigny from Prytania, although I’m sure it’s pretty fast off-peak. I figured you lived off of South Claiborne.

  9. As someone from Baton Rouge I find it hard to understand when New Orleans residents complain about traffic. I live Uptown, and I’m able to access downtown, Mid-City, and Bywater in no time. This city has so many routes, roads, and options to choose from. In Baton Rouge you don’t. You either take a certain highway or you don’t go. It’s a nightmare and I don’t miss it at all. I never have to use the interstate, unlike in Baton Rouge. The grid pattern makes it easy to bypass and circumvent many things when traveling. I’d rather have a few minutes added to my commute if it means roads with less lanes, more trees, and more pedestrian access. The problem with many cities is that that build them to suite cars, and now hopefully we are reversing it to focus more on the pedestrian. Otherwise we are nothing but another traffic clogged Baton Rouge with 5 and 6 lane highways abounding.

    • Rexter,
      As I discussed, there simply aren’t man additional routes running east/west near the river, so your general experience simply doesn’t apply here. The paths are pretty limited and a major thoroughfare is needed for local traffic. Eliminating that will cause major bottlenecks.
      We’re also not just talking about adding a “few minutes” to a trip. If you start taking away traffic lanes left and right, it isn’t just going to be a matter of a few minutes. The capacity of our roads will be greatly limited and congestion will result, adding substantial delays.
      As for focus on the pedestrian rather than the car, that’s all well and good for short trips but lousy when you actually need to go more than a few blocks (or perhaps even a few blocks depending on the time of year). Moreover, taking out the Claiborne Expressway is actually going to be worse for pedestrians because lanes that were previously elevated to where you could just walk under them will now be at ground level. Crossing North Claiborne is much simpler than South Claiborne.

      • The traffic studies to date suggest about an 8-13 minute increase in travel times between New Orleans East and the Port, if traffic continues to take the Claiborne corridor. It’s not the end of of the world, and it could be improved through traffic engineering and better road design of the new North Claiborne.

        • San,

          I think the 8-13 minute increase is probably generous, but even then that’s not a small amount of time, twice per day. It also would become much worse if traffic volumes increase over time.

          You are correct that the problem can be mitigated by better traffic engineering and better road design. If we could redesign Claiborne so that it would still have a smaller number of accessible express lanes in the center, for example, I would definitely agree that the increase in travel times would be slight. However, I don’t think the discussion is focused along those lines right now. The proposals seem to be geared towards simply reinstalling the old, historic North Claiborne and improving various other east/west arterials (i.e., turning it into a massive, expensive project that will impact other roads and ignite other debates).

          • I agree, that we need a better vision of any freeway-less Claiborne. We could also use a better vision of the current freeway, and I think that will come out of the study. One positive is removing the Esplanade/St Philip Ramps, which would greatly help to connect streets in the neighborhood, and would only mean a longer trip on surface Claiborne for those destinations. I think people could live with that, and it would have great local benefits.

          • San,

            As I said in my piece, I definitely don’t support keeping the elevated but removing the on/off ramps. I want the expressway available for local traffic, particularly if we’re talking about slapping a streetcar down on Rampart. If we cut off the expressway and slow Rampart, local traffic is looking at some pretty significant increases in trip times. As long as the expressway is there, it should be available as a means to bypass the CBD and French Quarter (especially if we’re going to continue doing random construction projects and allow film productions to shut down major surface streets all the time). I also don’t think the ramps themselves are really all that detrimental to the neighborhood.

          • Without those harmless ramps, Ursulines Avenue would connect all the way to the river. Dumaine Street would connect all the way to the river. That real estate (which is huge) would be useful as either development or a series of park. People crossing North Claiborne wouldn’t have to deal with I-10-entering accelerating traffic. People crossing Governor Nicholls wouldn’t have to deal with people zooming off the I-10 trying to merge across 3 lanes to make a left onto Elysian Fields. There is next to no congestion on North Claiborne (try it sometime. Hell, take a walk around the neighborhood sometime. Check out the makeup of the neighborhood). All that tearing down the ramps would mean is that you would use get down to ground level at Gravier Street and cruise Claiborne for a few blocks (in your air-conditioned throne, doors locked!) and then turn off at Esplanade. Meanwhile, people won’t have to take 4-block detours to get around the ramps.

          • San,

            I don’t think there’s a problem with a lack of north/south arterials in that area, so I don’t think there are significant gains from having Ursuline and Dumaine connect through to the diver. There are other traffic impacts, sure, but I don’t think they’re anywhere near as significant as the loss of use of the expressway for local traffic. A better compromise might be to only take out one set of on/off ramps, either for Orleans or Esplanade.

  10. I also live Uptown, but dispute Owen’s take on replacing urban elevated freeways. I was lucky enough to live in San Francisco when the freeway into Hayes Valley came down earlier this century. The city created a fast-moving expres-type boulevard with “calming” lanes paralleling that. The result was a great success. Property values immediately increased. And with a dirty, noisy overpass gone, infill apartment buildings replaced formerly derelict lots. Most importantly businesses thrived and hired people thus increasing the tax base for the entire city. I’m willing to put up with inconvenience if it speeds up the rebirth of other neighborhoods in the city: the Treme, Marigny and Bywater. So what if a renaissance makes things inconvenient for Uptowners? New Orleans, the city Uptown is part of, benefits hugely.

    • Andrew,
      That’s making a huge number of rosy assumptions about what removing the Claiborne Expressway would accomplish, especially given the fact that the traffic delays due to the capacity reductions are far more concrete. As I noted above, San Francisco’s situation is not ours, and there’s little reason to expect a grand renaissance along North Claiborne as opposed to it simply becoming more like South Claiborne (which is better, but not great).
      Finally, if our concern is the welfare of the whole city we should make it easy for locals to travel within it. It doesn’t just hurt Uptown when Uptowners have difficulty traveling to the Marigny; it hurts the Marigny too.

      • Should we be adding more freeways, then? Obviously we have not reached our full potential for automotive mobility. South Carrollton between Earhart and I-10 (Pontchartrain Expwy) is congested during rush hours, so it is practically begging for an elevated expressway! Certainly, you would agree?

        • San,

          I don’t think we need more freeways at this time. The population of the metropolitan area over time certainly doesn’t justify it. South Carrollton does get clogged during rush hour, but I’ve seen much worse and it really isn’t bad enough to justify an elevated freeway, IMO. I do think the design of South Carrollton could probably be improved, but I believe we need to repave and maintain our existing streets before we start radically changing them. As I noted in another comment, I’m not the one advocating dubious new projects and major redesigns here.

          • Good point. My question is whether you would support building the I-10 Expressway today over Claiborne, if it weren’t there today. Would we build an expressway over South Claiborne, even if all traffic analysis warranted it? I don’t know. I don’t think people have the stomach for it anymore, but a lot of people are content with the status quo, even if it is suppressing real estate success and health.

          • San,

            >>My question is whether you would support building the I-10 Expressway today over Claiborne, if it weren’t there today.<<

            Truthfully? Probably not. It would definitely be a point with some significant congestion, but given our massive decline in population since the 1960's/70's, the benefits from an elevated there probably wouldn't justify the costs involved, i.e. the capital costs of construction, the disruption and the harm to the immediate neighborhood. We're looking back right now with the benefit of hindsight, though, and we need to deal with the situation as it is, not how it could have been. Moreover, the potential benefits of tearing down the expressway are being vastly oversold.

  11. If they go the route of restoring North Claiborne to what it was, things could run retry smoothly. Look at South Claiborne as an example. You can traverse a long distance in a relatively short mount of time. The University area to Washington Ave is especially smooth sailing.

    • John,

      There’s a decent amount of congestion on South Claiborne, and it doesn’t have nearly the traffic volume of the Claiborne Expressway. The idea that we can expect things to go smoothly traffic-wise if we simply tear it out strikes me as a bit naive.

      In any case, please bear in mind that my article was not just about the proposal to tear down the Claiborne Expressway. It was about that proposal, which now appears to be shelved and largely subsumed by a smaller proposal to tear out the on/off ramps. This is occurring the same time as they’re proposing a new streetcar line on Rampart, a parallel traffic artery, which will run in traffic lanes and have exclusive use of them at least part of the time. The sum of all of this is that east/west traffic from uptown to downtown will be substantially slowed.

  12. I don’t necessarily like elevated roadways, but just being a devil’s advocate…. when we had the great flood from Katrina, one of the things that could have helped out dramatically was a raised roadway all through the city. From what I remember help was unable to get into parts of the city due to flooded railroad underpass around the cemeteries. If you have an elevated roadway with on ramps it sort of makes sense for a city that’s a bowl. Why they didn’t find a way to go over the train bridge… but instead build a huge pumping station that….went out in Katrina… I don’t know.

    • Gary’s comment is the only part of this page that I completely agree with (so far). The “good news” is that the elevated expressway and its ramps are going nowhere, notwithstanding the fancy dance and beaucoup bucks being spent on “studying the situation.” Seriously, you think this “conversation” will continue once Mitch is reelected? I think ::portofneworleans>> not!

  13. I live Uptown and since the Planet of the Apes began filming, I exclusively drive on I-10 to the North Claiborne exit if I want to go to Marigny/Bywater. It’s generally less congested than the Esplanade exit.

    I really only disagree with this statement: “There’s also the question of the type of city we want. Tourists use
    cabs and transit to travel long distances; locals generally use personal
    vehicles. If you make it more difficult to drive, you’re keeping
    locals out, ostensibly with the hope that tourists will fill the void.
    But do we want to be a city for residents, or a city for tourists?”

    I think that the issue isn’t so clear-cut. Locals do generally use their personal vehicles, but personally, I would drive less often if there was better public transportation and more taxicabs. When I’m going out and planning on drinking, it’s just as easy to take the 91 bus downtown, then take a taxi home. The only issue is, of course, sometimes taxis are in very short supply. Nothing ruins the end of the night like spending an hour or more trying to find a (responsible) ride home.

    (Also, of course, about a third of New Orleanians rely on public transit.)

  14. Hopefully your effort succeeds Owen, because I have a real problem driving my 4 children from Old Metairie to their Uptown private schools in my Hummer H2. If your ideas take root than maybe my desires to widen St. Charles, Magazine, Jefferson, Carrollton, Nashville, and Prytania to 6 lanes each will gain some creedence. Sitting in traffic is the bane of my existence. After all why shouldn’t the people Uptown have access to the same type of roads that the rest of us enjoy?

    • Chris,

      That doesn’t even resemble what I was arguing. I’m not proposing any new road projects to increase capacity; I’m urging that we not specifically reduce capacity. In general, Uptown actually has decent road capacity for its general makeup and needs. We shouldn’t pony up money we don’t have for projects we don’t need.

      • “It’s general makeup”. Can you explain this, because it doesn’t sound good. Is the makeup of Uptown somehow different from the makeup of Mid-City. I can think of a few ways it might be, but I’m not going to go there yet.

        Anyway, this is defense of the status quo, which is exactly what the study is looking at. The question is, should we or should we not have the dang thing up there. Your argument is that Uptowners (and outsiders) should have to drive slow through Uptown, but should get freeways through other people’s neighborhoods if they want to cross the City superfast in their cars.

        • San,

          >>Anyway, this is defense of the status quo, which is exactly what the study is looking at.<<

          The status quo is what expectations are built on. Current traffic and development patterns work around the status quo. The burden should be on those advocating change that would upset these things with considerable disruption and expense.

          As for the rest of what you're arguing, even assuming that radical change is on an equal footing with the status quo, it still strikes me as a red herring. To my knowledge, no traffic engineering study has supported the idea that additional freeways are needed through Uptown, and none were (to my knowledge) ever proposed. There are no doubt good reasons for this; Uptown is situated differently from a simple geographic standpoint.

          Ultimately, if the situation changed and there was an obvious need for express lanes through a section of Uptown, it would be smart to discuss that, but that's not where we are now and it's not what we're dealing with here.

          • Owen,

            An expressway to a Mississippi River Bridge was proposed on Napoleon Avenue. When white residents complained, it was proposed for General Taylor and Peniston Streets. It would have been a continuous expressway from Earhart Expressway through to Napoleon Avenue.

            But Uptown people didn’t want that. Can you believe? Think about the mobility! No longer would Uptown be cruelly landlocked from the Westbank by the traffic engineering conspirators. But no, they decided to keep their wretched streets just the way they were. And in the process destroyed that mobility for all the regional drivers who would most definitely be travelling that route today. Instead we have to all the way to the CBD and cross a bridge, no doubt adding plenty of travel time and hurting the city’s economy.

            I apologize for the sarcasm, but the truth is that nobody really wants or deserves an expressway in their neighborhood. It would have killed Uptown, I think we can all agree. It was a bad idea. It would also be a great blog post with a little research.

            http://library.uno.edu/specialcollections/inventories/123.htm

          • San,

            Fair enough; expressways through Uptown were considered. I think some people were expecting New Orleans to continue growing greatly in population and were planning ahead for road capacity, which I tend to think is wrong-headed (we should respond to existing transportation needs, not feign clairvoyance). If New Orleans were a city of five million right now, perhaps we would have needed more freeways, including through Uptown. However, that didn’t happen.

            I’ll also say that if planners had predicted the population decline in New Orleans, they might not have built the Claiborne expressway at all. In hindsight, it was arguably not cost-effective. However, what is done is done and we won’t fix old mistakes by making new ones.

      • Decent road capacity? You have got to be kidding me! Have you ever tried to get from Prytania and Jackson to Fountainblue at 2:30 on a school day?! The battery on Skylar’s iPad mini can barely make the trip, and where would I be if he couldn’t play angry birds in the H2? The only solution is widening the streets in Uptown, if you could even call them “streets.”

    • Nice one Chris, good to see some actual wit in this discussion!

  15. The truly delusional part of this debate is the idea that because the building of the expressway is seen as having led to the ‘death’ of that neighbourhood, that taking it down will lead to its rebirth.

    That may be true only if you are one of those who consider rebuilding New Orleans and neighbourhood ‘rebirth’ to mean making it cheap and ready to forced gentrification by unwashed hipsters from the Northeast who vocally shed the rules of society but wouldn’t shed their daddy’s credit card in their wallet for anything.

    That neighbourhood won’t come back until the biggest problem of our city gets fixed: we MUST pass a valid living wage law!

    There’s no other thing worth worrying about. Until every worker in this city makes enough money to live a happy and productive life, everything else we do is little more than another coat of paint on a formosan termite infested house.

    This proposed reworking of the roads is just that. It’s spinning our wheels whilst collectively standing around refusing to acknowledge the one and only solution.

    Owen’s right, this road is a necessary connection for Uptown. Our area generally gets ignored in everything except for the city’s willingness to collect its majority of property taxes from us for use elsewhere. Are we really to expect people driving between Uptown and points east (including the northshore and the Gulf Coast) to drive first miles west to Metairie and then take a bypass loop to I-10?? Even worse, what do these ‘planners’ expect to happen to all those thousands of cars each day coming off the Westbank Expy and heading east of I-10? I suppose those guys get to drive almost to Kenner as well?

    Asinine as always, and as has been the case with the entire Landrieu administration and his army of non-local staff and department heads, intended totally for the benefit of tourists and out-of-towners who are I suppose meant to supplant all Louisianians to create a fully carpet-bagger filled new New Orleans!

    By the way, how on earth did we elect anyone to office here who thinks it’s a good idea or even the slightest bit acceptable to shut down major city streets in the centre of the business district for months at a time so that someone can shoot a movie?!?!?

    A LOT of people need to lose their jobs around here!

    • Drew,

      >>That neighbourhood won’t come back until the biggest problem of our city gets fixed: we MUST pass a valid living wage law!<<

      Two things: 1) We can't get around state law; New Orleans passed a living wage law a while back and the law was struck by the Louisiana Supreme Court; and, 2) setting aside whether a living wage law is a good idea or not, it certainly won't make the city wealthy or substantially improve our economy. We need to make New Orleans an easy place to create and transact business to grow the economy, and simply increasing the base cost of labor won't accomplish that.

      On the other hand, for the wealthy and middle class who want a smaller city and hold out no hope for meaningful recovery, a strategy of paring down our infrastructure and squeezing out the poor is an attractive one. I've come to realize that many people in this city really don't care about growing our economy as much as managing our decline. Teasing out those types of motivations was not the purpose of this piece (and indeed would be counterproductive) but that is an aspect of all of this.

    • All the way to Kenner, huh? You would probably still use Claiborne, but the worst that you could do is use a new ramp that would still be in New Orleans. Not in Metairie. Cool the jets.

      I agree the expressway didn’t quite kill a successful Claiborne business corridor. The corridor was hurt badly by desegregation, which mean that a lot of local customers could shop at ritzier previously white-only establishments downtown, e.g. department stores on Canal Street.

      The same thing happened to OC Haley, which was once a mostly black shopping district.

  16. The comparisons between us and SF are a nice way of thinking, but not really valid here.

    One thing that you guys are ignoring is that at various times, some or all of South Louisiana may have to very suddenly evacuate and head north and do so in a very short period of time.

    In a few years, that portion of I-10 that is being targeted won’t just be carrying its current I-10 traffic, but shall also be carrying that of I-49.

    I-10 & I-49 will merge right there at the Superdome.

    Exactly how is getting rid of the north-bound connection out of the metro area going to increase evacuation efficiency??

    I am all for mass transit on all levels, and think far more money should be going into rebuilding our stolen train network than building highways, but, as Owen has pointed out, until then, we are unfortunately a car-based area. So long as cars are the primary means of transportation, we have to have somewhere for them to go.

    Over 20 years ago my dad was the first person to do contraflow (although it didn’t have a name then). With Hurricane Andrew bearing down on Lafayette, he ordered every State Policeman and sheriff’s deputy along I-49 to block all the entrances and exits and turned the entire interstate into a single non-stop 4-lane highway going north from Lafayette to Alexandria. They wanted to fire him for it at the time, but in an otherwise untenable time frame, he managed to facilitate over 2 million people evacuating South Louisiana with their families, pets, belongings, and cars.

    These days we have contraflow as a standard part of evacuation plans and we know that even with that we still need more ways up, over, and out when storms are coming. Doing anything that could impede that process is just silly and shows that promoters of such a project are supporting something like demolition from the context of a dreamland.

  17. This project isn’t a conspiracy against uptown as it is against the Bywater, L9, Chalmette and particularly N.O. east. And keeping them from accessing their jobs downtown . Proposed by people who never go anywhere, who haven’t figured out that trucks bring the booze to the bar. Replete with thinking that magic oaks will spring up and restore what decades of HANO mismanagement destroyed.

    The questions left off the table in this discussion

    That ramp removal removes access to and from the area that use the interstate to access their jobs in other parts of the city.

    That expressway removal will dump probably 50,000 cars on ground level Claiborne which will do nothing to help people trying to cross it.

    The massive new interchange in Lakeview , cause you literally can’t get from here to there.

    That no one who travels Rampart on their commute would ever think of making it one lane and I guess when it gets backed up people will just take Burgundy and Dauphine.

    How in a city that floods in a strong rain it might be a good thing to have an elevated expressway from the historic high ground (esplanade ridge) to points out of the flood zone and I-10 to CCC is the ONLY one that doesn’t go ground level for miles.

    How the “planning process” was designed to suppress opinions from the users of the expressway by pretending early on to be all about just Claiborne and not about the interstate. And how using parts of the same planning team that insisted interstate removal remain in the “master plan” prejudged the entire endeavour.

    Its a sad state of affairs for a city built on transportation. And this current tendency to look at the last 100 years of automobile usage as a fluke, through the current mania towards lane amputation, will only hinder the city’s growth in the future. And we are clearly a city that needs a lot more growth.

    • Anthony,

      >>This project isn’t a conspiracy against uptown as it is against the Bywater, L9, Chalmette and particularly N.O. east. And keeping them from accessing their jobs downtown.<<

      I agree that these impacts on neighborhoods further out are generally ignored. I was writing about Uptown because I try to link issues to Uptown whenever possible, but the impacts on, say, New Orleans East will be far more pronounced.

      The rest of what you point out is very true and I haven't seen many credible answers to these problems.

      • Well, downtown urban expressways anywhere are “conspiracies” against the urban population, specifically the ones that they are cutting through. They are simply a way to promote suburban development by buiding firehoses into cities’ CBDs, at the cost of inner-city neighborhoods, which were undervalued at the time. So we sacrificed Treme for New Orleans East and St Tammany Parish. It wasn’t done to shuttle lawyers from the Lower Garden District to Marigny, I can assure you. Or even for Bywater and L9 folks. It was done as part of the Eastern expressway, which you’ll remember goes to NO East and Slidell.

  18. How much of the traffic is there because of the expressway? Traffic bunches up around rush hour coming west largely because of people heading to the Westbank, not Uptown. Were the Claiborne expressway not there, that traffic would come from a different direction. Broad Street, by comparison, is relatively free and open. I think it’s arguable that traffic which would more naturally traverse Broad finds itself on the freeway.

    • Darrell,

      It’s arguable, but I don’t think Broad or other east/west arterials have anything resembling the capacity to take a substantial portion of traffic from the expressway.

      • I’m not sure we have to do whatever we can to support people driving from Slidell to the Westbank every day. They’re only doing that because they have an expressway. In 20 years, these patterns can change. (There are actually a significant people travelling between St Tammany and Jefferson Parishes, and it has grown in recent years creating the Westbound AM Traffic issues).

        • This is an oft-overlooked point: it’s not always local traffic which is creating the congestion, and there may be a need for another bridge going to the Westbank. The CCC and Huey Long are the only major bridges going across the river. Hell, my home town of Green Bay metro has four bridges going across the Fox River, and Green Bay is not a major city, nor is the Fox River particularly wide. Why not a bridge going from Paris Road in Chalmette to the Westbank? That would benefit both parties, as it would reduce the travel time for people coming from the North Shore to the Westbank and reduce congestion for New Orleans, and it would frankly eliminate the need for the Claiborne Expressway entirely.

  19. This entire article and most of the comment thread is problematic because it has been written with the bias of a car-centric, privileged person. The future of urban transportation has very little to do with cars. I simply can’t believe that the basis of this rant is about 20 extra minutes in a car. New Orleans is one of the most bikeable and walkable cities in the country because of its’ flatness, the climate, and the population density over a small area.

    “Transit advocates, on the other hand, want a dedicated transit lane and don’t seem to care one whit about impacts on vehicular traffic.” -well, if you make transit more accessible, and fuel prices keep spiraling up, more and more people will ditch the cars, so maybe you got that part right, Richie Rich.

    Also, you followed that with “No matter who wins this debate, cars will lose.”. That’s kind of the idea, sweetheart. Do you really think that with the rise of population and scarcity of natural resources that independent travel (cars) are a sustainable way of transporting people 20, 30, or 40 years from now? What privileged bubble do you live in? It must be opaque. (Although, honestly, I’m sure the MOST privileged will still manage it somehow 40 years in the future, sitting obesely behind the wheel of whatever vehicle they’re driving while the rest of America gets healthier.)

    “All I hear is my 10-minute drive to the Marigny increasing to a half hour.”. Boo Hoo. I know this is an incredible tragedy, but why the hell are you coming downtown anyway? Is it to save a life or perform vital surgery? Are you in a rush to hurry down here and help inner city children in a mentoring program, or do you just want to go to the new douchey cool restaurant with $10 french fries and artisinal cocktails and can’t spend the extra 20 MINUTES to get there. (I know, I know, you probably bill hundreds per hour, so it must hurt you more than me to have patience so that cities can be livable. It does seem like a horrible sacrifice to make. What if those fries are cold when you get there?!?!?! THE HORROR!!!!)

    ” Some people regurgitate this line of thinking even though, deep-down, they know that they usually drive and wouldn’t change that for all the bike lanes and streetcars in the world.” – Can you back this up statistically? I’m from New Orleans and I’ve seen the explosion in bike use. Maybe the windows on your Mercedes are tinted a bit too dark to notice these things.

    “Tourists use cabs and transit to travel long distances; locals generally use personal vehicles.” – Have you ever met a poor person? Baseless comments like this make me want to make you walk.

    “We aren’t recognizing just how important vehicular mobility is, instead indulging the delusion that we can all walk or take transit in the hottest and most humid city in the history of heat and humidity.” – yeah, yeah, yeah. Poor people can all walk or take transit in the hottest and most humid city in the history of heat and humidity, because THEY HAVE TO.

    In closing, take your blinders off. You speak from a position of unrecognized and unaware privilege and it’s disgusting.

    You should be ashamed of yourself.

    • “In closing, take your blinders off. You speak from a position of unrecognized and unaware privilege and it’s disgusting.”

      Totally agree. Unfortunately the author has a serious problem recognizing this, and pretends as if he is the unbiased voice of reason. It has been an ongoing thread in his recent columns.

      The best thing that can be said about his columns is that his delusional rantings inspire the more thoughtful residents of our community to speak out. Don’t expect a meaningful reply from the author–he seems to be incapable of self-reflection and understanding the issues you have raised–but thanks for helping put this into real perspective.

      • Yet another,

        …And yet you keep trolling me. Look, you don’t know me and stop pretending that you do. It’s kind of creepy.

        • That’s funny. Last week you suggested I was a self hating white man and then compared me to a mass murderer for criticizing you. But yeah, I’m the troll.

          • Yet another,

            I never compared you to a mass murderer (you keep going through ridiculous leaps of logic to claim that I am — if I don’t specifically draw an equivalence, you don’t get to assume one), and I criticized you for repeatedly launching an ad hominem attack (bizarrely based on a race and gender you share with me).

            The bottom line is that you don’t respect me or my opinions, and yet you gleefully write provocative comments to my columns. You are the very definition of a troll.

    • LilMsPoBoy,

      >>This entire article and most of the comment thread is problematic because it has been written with the bias of a car-centric, privileged person.<> The future of urban transportation has very little to do with cars.<>Do you really think that with the rise of population and scarcity of natural resources that independent travel (cars) are a sustainable way of transporting people 20, 30, or 40 years from now?<>I know this is an incredible tragedy, but why the hell are you coming downtown anyway?<>Can you back this up statistically? I’m from New Orleans and I’ve seen the explosion in bike use.<>Poor people can all walk or take transit in the hottest and most humid city in the history of heat and humidity, because THEY HAVE TO.<>You should be ashamed of yourself.<<

      Hey, I'm not the one who can't discuss an issue of public import without resorting to personal attacks. That's all on you.

      • Owen,

        It is you who has presented no evidence, no numbers, nothing except your own travel pattern, which does actually disgust some of your this blog’s readers. (Them bein’ the thinkin’ sort).

        Transit use in 1990 in New Orleans was 16.9 percent. So I guess it does rise above 10-12% in some places.

        http://www.census.gov/hhes/commuting/files/1990/city.txt

        And 9.1% used “other means”, i.e. walked or biked in 1990 (without bike lanes!). So I guess anything is possible.

        No one is asking people to drop cars en masse. A reasonably designed North Claiborne could handle a large percentage of today’s expressway traffic. We would likely see fewer trips on the corridor (i.e. to the Westbank or to South Claiborne)if it were less convenient. That only makes sense right?

        Absolutely agree with you regarding the Rampart project. It should have been dedicated bus/bike lanes (and of course taking a driving lane away during peak hours). I’m glad you’re arguing for that now.

        • San,

          That Census data is only for workers 16 or older, and as you note, the data is old. Here are more current figures:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._cities_with_high_transit_ridership

          Based on this, I admit I overstated matters (I am working partially from memory here). The real cut off is more like 25%, and before that only a small number of cities have significantly higher transit usage. The cities with high transit usage also have high population density. By the time you get to the bottom of the 50 cities with the highest transit usage, you’re well into the single digits.

          My bottom line remains the same. We could spend a great deal more money on transit and we would be unlikely to see dramatically increased usage. I do think there are cost-effective bus improvements we could make to boost our numbers, but we need to recognize that transit is about residents and transporting the most people for the least amount of money, not having showcase streetcar lines for tourists.

          I’m not sure a dedicated lane for the Rampart bus is necessary, but I certainly would prefer that to installing a streetcar in terms of enhancing overall mobility (at least if the streetcar cannot be placed in the neutral ground). As for the rest, I think we’re beating a dead horse at this point. I simply don’t see tearing down the expressway as a worthy project due to the costs and traffic impacts.

      • Owen,

        You drive a Mercedes? I had no idea you were such a baller.

  20. Haters said that NYC’s DOT plan to reduce traffic congestion in Midtown Manhattan via the closing of two sections of Broadway to vehicles, from 47th to 42nd Streets and 35th to 33rd Streets–one of the U.S.’s most densely populated areas–was crazy and would be the death of NYC. Well, I was there when it went down and guess what? That didn’t come to pass. In fact, by doing this–along with “Green Lighting” (tinkering with the counter-flow signalization), transit only lanes, adding a major public plaza as well as bike lanes–traffic was calmed, the air quality in the area has improved, businesses in the area are doing better than ever before and just about everyone agrees that Times Square is now an infinitely more civil and pleasant place to be. I use this extreme example to illustrate that when all users’ needs are properly balanced–the overall effect is positive. Now, I understand we aren’t talking about Times Square. N. Rampart is not that in any way. The point is: There is no “Ped/Bike/Transit” conspiracy to shut off yours or anyone else’s access to any part of the city. In fact, the plans for transit expansion on N. Rampart and throughout the city, and the rethinking of an elevated structure that separates communities and has contributed to major social and public health inequities in New Orleans, are actually steps to creating greater connectivity for more New Orleanians. So the question becomes: Does better neighborhood livability, connectivity and overall economic viability through improvements to our city’s transportation network in the long-term justify the possibility of a (very) slight increase–if any–in vehicular travel time to get to a show on Frenchman Street in the Marigny or the Bywater? Yes, it sure does. But, you know, haters gonna hate.

    • ND,

      As I’ve said before, we’re not New York. New York has achieved such massive density that favoring a pedestrian zone for the most clogged areas may make sense. I even said as much with respect to the roads surrounding Jackson Square; sure, autos took a hit, but pedestrian traffic was a greater concern and autos had to yield to that.

      As you acknowledge, we aren’t faced with that situation here, but you still argue that the analogy holds. It just doesn’t. Here, there is no countervailing pressure from another form of traffic, and the impact isn’t restricted to a few blocks. We’re talking about an entire elevated expressway that has been in place for several decades and is well-integrated into our road network. Moreover, because you’re talking about tearing a roadway that separates auto traffic, you would actually be making matters worse for cyclists and pedestrians who would then have to contend with that traffic.

      As I’ve stated before, the suggested benefits from removing the expressway are being vastly oversold. Taking out road capacity is not an “improvement” to the network, and while there might be some improvement in the vitality of the immediate neighborhood, I see no reason to expect a sea change. That’s not hating, that’s just facing reality.

      • You acknowledged that I acknowledged we are not in NYC. Glad we’re clear there. The parallel I was making, which seems to have been lost on you, is that there is always going to be a vocal minority who will oppose changes to the “Commons” no matter how many benefits that change will create for the vast majority if/when the minority perceives that they are (or this case “might be”) personally inconvenienced. It’s an age old dilemma. The thing about our commons is that these resources, in this case our public spaces/streets/transportation network, are to be shared by all. However, over the last century, our city, and many other cities, based urban planning, design and engineering decisions on vehicles, favoring one user over the others. But it is time that we learn from these lessons, rethinking our processes, and begin creating healthier, more equitable and balanced public spaces/streets/transportation networks in New Orleans and beyond. Doing does create sea change. Street change. City change. Fact.

        • ND,

          That’s not the narrative I see here. I see a loss of the general welfare if we spend a great deal of money to tear out an existing expressway in vain hope of creating vast change. I see a refusal to accept that, regardless of whether mistakes were made, we need to look at the present situation objectively.

  21. I don’t understand this article at all. Does the 610 not exist? Does Hwy 90 / Broad st not exist? How could you ignore the state highway that goes through the city in this article?

    I know we New Orleanians (and, in my experience, white New Orleanians in particular) are very parochial and very particular when it comes to neighborhoods and routes, but I promise you can drive through black neighborhoods.

    The “wall” between downtown and uptown is the I-10 / Pontchartrain expressway.

    The train yard has ever been a “wall” isolating bywater, which you can avoid via Robertson or Galvez, or 610 to Louisa.

    The Lower 9 would seem to be much more isolated than Uptown…

    “Landlock” Uptown? in my experience, Uptown would rather that others stay out. If there is traffic isolation happening Uptown, no doubt that is from its history as a garden suburb and the history of “urban renewal” strategies. Traffic uptown is unholy as a result of streets designed for horses holding well over their limit of modern SUVs.

    I live in Mid City. It is faster to bike to Tulane University than it is to drive there. I imagine it’s the same for the Bridge Lounge. So I posit your traffic woes have more to do with street grid above Canal st than below it.

    I grew up in Lakeview. Is the end of the 43 and 44 lines, post Katrina, a “conspiracy” to isolate Lakeview from downtown? if it is, it’s a conspiracy of the civic association, which fought the mere presence of a Bus depot next to the Bulldog.

    I ‘m neutral on the 1-10 removal. the removal of on and off ramps sounds like a good compromise–the Port really just wants truck traffic to highways and Poland. Those on and off ramps to the elevated roadway are so dangerous that I avoid driving on the elevated I-10 completely, unless i’m travelling longer distances.

    • Scott,

      >>I don’t understand this article at all. Does the 610 not exist? <>I know we New Orleanians (and, in my experience, white New Orleanians in particular) are very parochial and very particular when it comes to neighborhoods and routes, but I promise you can drive through black neighborhoods.<>”Landlock” Uptown? in my experience, Uptown would rather that others stay out.<>Those on and off ramps to the elevated roadway are so dangerous that I avoid driving on the elevated I-10 completely, unless i’m travelling longer distances.<<

      I don't find them dangerous, and they're very useful for local traffic. I don't think a cost/benefit analysis would justify removing the ramps.

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