Owen Courreges: Freret bus line sacrificed to prop up new Loyola Avenue streetcar numbers

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Owen Courreges

An interesting column appeared last month in the Winston-Salem Journal  entitled “About that Desire for Streetcars.”  Winston-Salem (famous for being the headquarters of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco) is moving forward with a contentious $179 million boondoggle to build a streetcar line through downtown.  And apparently New Orleans’ streetcar system is being cited as an exemplar.

The column, which was written by the aptly-named John Railey, takes the form of a parody of the Tennessee Williams masterpiece “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

“What we really need is a real streetcar line, like the one we had in New Orleans,” says the thickly satirized protagonist. “Such a streetcar line would be worth any cost. It’s just silly that some critics say we should first spruce up and expand the city bus lines. Silly taxpayers, being so pettily pessimistic about the streetcar line prospect.”

The piece is hardly subtle, but in its own ham-fisted way it speaks to the reasons why rail transit projects are so often ill-founded.  Instead of considering cost-effectiveness, proponents seem to go out of their way to ignore costs while trumping up highly questionable benefits.

Even worse, what is cost-effective is often difficult to discern because transit agencies routinely under-estimate the capital costs.

Case in point:  This past week New Orleans residents were treated to the wonderful story of exactly how awful the cost overruns were for the Loyola streetcar line, also known as the “streetcar to nowhere.”  WWL-TV’s David Hammer broke the news that the line cost over $60 million to construct, or a third higher than the original estimates made in 2010.  The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) was forced to dip into a pot of local bond and reserve money earmarked for future expansions.

The sad truth is that New Orleans got off easy.  Rail projects tend to go obscenely over-budget.  The original numbers are always rosy; the final numbers are usually appalling.

This pill would be easier to swallow if the Loyola line weren’t merely useless, but actually counterproductive.  The line was built almost exclusively to show off for the Superbowl.  It simply goes along a short section of street in downtown that would be better served (and was previously served) by longer bus lines.

RTA trumpets the fact that the Loyola line has not only met, but exceeded its original ridership expectations.  The problem is that those numbers weren’t very optimistic to begin with, and they failed to take account of overall ridership.

WWL-TV’s report notes that the Loyola line cut off two bus lines – the Freret bus and the Martin Luther King bus – forcing riders to transfer to the streetcar for the brief section of Loyola through downtown.  And those bus lines have lost 40% and 28% of their respective ridership, ostensibly because of the added hassle of an forced transfer to the streetcar.

The bottom line is that RTA guaranteed decent ridership figures for the Loyola line by decimating the convenience and functionality of two separate bus lines.  Consequently, there are fewer riders in the entire RTA network today because of the Loyola line.  It’s a drag on the system.

Again, New Orleans is hardly the first city to experience this phenomenon, and judging by Winston-Salem’s plans, it probably won’t be the last.

According to a report from the Wendell Cox Consultancy from 2000: “Most light rail riders (60 percent) are former bus riders. Often these riders have been forced to transfer because their bus routes have been truncated at light rail stations.”

The report further concluded that: “More affluent express bus service customers can also experience longer trip times as a result of a forced transfer to light rail,” and “[t]his can drive such passengers away[.]”

What Cox’s report describes is exactly what has happened with the Loyola streetcar line.  Those people who could avoid the bottleneck have done so, which is why the Freret and Martin Luther King bus lines have seen ridership plummet.  Those who tolerate the forced transfer to the streetcar are most likely those who have no reasonable alternative.  They live with it because they have to.

I fully appreciate the iconic status of the streetcar in New Orleans.  It is intimately connected to the cultural fabric, much as the historic cable car is in San Francisco.  However, the chief purpose of transit is to provide for general mobility, and the Loyola streetcar is defeating that.  A project that came with an unexpectedly large price tag is actually making us worse off.

That’s ridiculous, and regrettably for all us, it’s not satire.  New Orleans’ streetcars risk becoming less of a beloved cultural icon and more a symbol of waste and ill-planning.  That’s one narrative I’d like to see stopped dead in its tracks.

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.

59 thoughts on “Owen Courreges: Freret bus line sacrificed to prop up new Loyola Avenue streetcar numbers

  1. Agreed.

    It might make some sense it the ultimate goal was a longer line that extended through Uptown along Claiborne or LaSalle, but I don’t think that was ever the intention. Do you know how much we could improve bus routes with $65,000,000?!?

    There were ZERO reasons to cut those two bus lines short, and many riders have suffered the consequences. I ride the Cemeteries line everyday and the only people who board the Loyola line are tourists who jump off at Rampart, and a scant few riders who are forced to transfer to the Freret and MLK buses. So, in effect, those numbers are also propped up by the riders who only use the portion along Canal St.

    • RRod3,

      They are actually planning extensions, but the future of those is in serious doubt, in no small part because they had to dip into the fund reserved for future expansions to cover the budget overage for the initial construction. Also, I’m not sure those extensions are wise at this point. It’s clear that nobody is focused on the overall efficacy of the transit system.

      The only reason to cut the bus lines short was so that the Loyola streetcar wouldn’t miss RTA’s already-lackluster ridership targets. They care more about the appearance of success than actual success. As Cox’s report indicates, this is actually par for the course with rail projects. Bus service is always sacrificed to make rail appear successful, even though it usually is not.

    • I agree about the longer line. A line that went down LaSalle/Simon Bolivar all the way to Louisiana would have made sense. And the the future Rampart/St. Claude line could have been an extension of that line, making one long line connecting Central City/Uptown with the CBD, the Quarter, and the Bywater. But that makes too much sense for our town, I suppose.

  2. Consequently, there are fewer riders in the entire RTA network today because of the Loyola line. This seems like a stretch. Is ridership up or down on other RTA lines? Without that knowledge, connecting those dots seems.. well.. wrong.

    • Owen’s assertion about system ridership being down is incorrect. At least according to the WWL article he cites it is.

      “The Freret Number 12 bus lost 76,000 riders in 2013, a 40 percent decrease from the year before. The MLK Number 28 bus was down by about 5 percent, while overall RTA ridership was up 12 percent.”

      But his point about the Loyola line cannibalizing ridership from the Freret and MLK lines and inconveniencing users in the process is still on target.

  3. It is definitely deemed less important that residents be able to negotiate the transit system efficiently than it is that tourists see a larger network of New Orleans’s quaint streetcars. Those decisions are made at every turn: music venues in formerly residential neighborhoods; encountering another race you’d never heard about that blocks the route ahead. The problem is that, if the process of supporting tourists’ needs over residents’ needs continues unchecked, in the end you no longer have a culture; you have a caricature of one.

    • KarenNOLA,

      I’m also doubtful of the cost-effectiveness of installing streetcars primarily as a means to subsidize tourism. Does it really bring in more tourists? Enough to justify the price tag? It’s been an arguable point before, but I think the Loyola streetcar pushes it too far.

      • I’m cynical, but as far as the decision-makers go, I think installing another streetcar is viewed in the same light as installing a new ride at Disneyland. It’s a question of reality vs. image, and cost-effectiveness doesn’t enter into the discussion.

    • WRT caricature and the abandonment of authenticity: do the cars on the Loyola line have those cheesy fake skylights on top?

  4. It’s just another example of the same never-ending problem. New Orleans has decided that its whole purpose is to cater to and attract tourists. The locals can be damned, as far as our elected and business officials are concerned.

      • Unfortunately, Craig, it’s not just Mitch Landrieu. This Tourism Uber Alles attitude permeates the entire city, and most of the residents have bought into it. New Orleans used to have corporate headquarters, one of the two biggest ports in the nation, refineries, shipbuilding, a huge Navy presence, and tourism. Now we have tourism, tourism, and more tourism. Oh, and let’s not forget Conventions: as if that isn’t tourism! When the tourists get sick of plastic beads, Big Ass beers, and tacky Bourbon Street bars playing a cacophony of racket that has nothing to do with New Orleans, that will be the final nail in the coffin of a once-great city.

  5. An old guy like me can’t stand in the rain or the hot sun waiting over an HOUR for a bus. I am at the mercy of cabs that may or may not ever show up. The expense is annoying enough, but when I am ignored at the pleasure of tourists, ONLY, I get a little testy. For a long time I called and waited on a taxi, only to be stranded for hours while most of the drivers were out at the airport. I finally learned to just stand on a corner and hail a taxi. This is much more successful than calling. The only real problem lately is the occasional, but irritating, rudeness of some drivers, many who don’t even know the city and rely on a GPS system as they are actively driving. Many ignore my directions and take the worst route possible.
    I love the streetcars and take them whenever I have the need, but to put residents after tourism is not in the best interests of those who live here.

  6. jltnol,

    I meant that the RTA has fewer riders than it otherwise would, all things being equal, because of the Loyola line. Obviously, because of increasing population and other factors ridership may well be rising overall. Thus, I don’t know whether the Loyola line may have tanked the overall numbers or not, but it’s not the point — the point is that it’s a drag on ridership.

    • That the shortened lines aren’t helping the RTA I agree with… assuming your numbers are right… but without data about ridership overall, connecting those dots still seems dubious….

      • jltnol,

        I don’t think it’s dubious — the lines that feed the Loyola streetcar and provide most of its ridership have seen significant drops in ridership. I’ve since noticed that the article did state that overall ridership has increased significantly, by 12%, so these drops occurred in the context of an overall increase.

  7. Lets not overlook this key info about who owns property next to the line and who will benefit from the costly project. http://theadvocate.com/news/6596816-123/landrieu-family-property-abuts-in
    The Landrieu family owns 8 large parcels in the immediate area. (ninelandpartnership), all properties can be viewed on the Orleans Parish Assessor website.
    We stopped taking the Freret Jet aka “bus to no where” when it would dump us at the Amtrack station and we would wait for the 10 block transfer for an additional fee. The community that rides the Freret line are working class citizens and their needs were never a concern.
    I knew ridership was down…but 40% should impact the RTA in a manner that perhaps they will reconsider.

  8. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the only reason this project was ever proposed and advanced is because of the availability of federal dollars to connect various transit hubs. Here it was connecting Union Station with the Canal Street streetcar line. Important to get the federal $$$. You can see the future spurs anticipated going to Howard etc.

    • Fat Harry,

      The federal dollars are a huge driver here. It’s always been my impression that the feds are generous with these types of boondoggles but tight-fisted with the types of projects that might actually benefit our citizens. Here, the line has been pretty wasteful and the overages came out of our own pockets. Even with federal funds, I don’t think we’ve been made better off.

      • Remember, Owen, that “federal funds” are ALSO coming out of our own pockets. Why should money be wasted on taxpayer supported boondoggles, regardless of which bag-of-taxes the money’s being taken from?

      • Austin did something similar, using federal dollars for a fancy new “rapid” bus line catering to yuppies and tourists and drastically reducing service on the local route following roughly the same path. The rapid buses are double the size and rarely seem to have more than a handful of people, while the cheaper local buses are jammed even at off-peak times.

  9. If the ultimate intention is to extend the Loyola line up Rampart St., then perhaps it will make sense later. What would have made sense now is to extend the line down Howard over to Lee Circle and back, as a way to get to the St. Charles line easily and the WWII Museum. That might have helped locals and tourists alike.

  10. Owen, you are looking at the effects of street car lines too narrowly. The property values of upcoming projects on Loyola will be higher due to the lines. Also, economic development is spurred by these lines, simply because of the aesthetic appeal to developers. Five years from now Loyola will be a striving thoroughfare and it will be in large part due to this line. Buses transport people. Streetcars transport people, spur development, and hugely incentivize investing in that community. You cannot name one neighborhood that can be said to be better off by adding a bus line. Quite the opposite, Tulane avenue can be said to have gown down hill once the streetcar was removed and replaced with busses. I think the shortsightedness in your post is the mentality which we have to purge from New Orleans if we want to become a first rate metropolitan area. I usually agree with your posts, but I think you are allowing yourself to be pretty short sighted here. I definitely think a few minutes longer wait time and an expected over billion dollars in investment is worth 60 million. That is of course, unless you enjoy staring at parking lots and blight to keep buses running to prevent a few minutes longer wait lines and a peanuts investment compared to the long term benefits.

    • cmb6091,

      I’ve heard this trope before and it still sounds like snake oil. It turns transit into a real estate scam. Improving property values in a small area is not the goal of transit. It should never, ever be the goal of transit.

      Sure. developers can make a better sales pitch, but it’s not based in any practical reality. If the streetcar doesn’t have utility in terms of improving mobility, it is a bad thing per se even if developers see it as a boon.

      Furthermore, the primary reason for new development in downtown can hardly be said to be the Loyola streetcar. There has was a considerable amount of redevelopment in the area prior to the streetcar, and it was accelerating due to new tax incentives.

      Developers asked for the streetcar to help sell their product. They felt that wealthy transplants moving to the South Market Development might view the Loyola streetcar as a cool perk and, in turn, they might be able to sell some overpriced condos that way. This dynamic isn’t creating value, and it certainly isn’t improving transit.

      The most that can be said of rail projects is that they help shift development around. Major projects that might have occurred elsewhere in the CBD and in nearby areas may instead found a focal point. However, it’s not credible to claim that developers came to the sudden decision to build high-end housing in New Orleans because a streetcar appeared. I find the notion absurd.

      • Jesus, you mad bro? First, it should never be the goal of transit to improve property values? says who, did you just make up that rule out of thin air? pretty sure any urban development professional would laugh you out of town. “If the streetcar doesn’t have utility in terms of improving mobility it is a bad thing per se”? you know how absurd and arbitrary that sounds. The dynamic of a streetcar line has increased value and has attracted more interest into the area, I would cite the multitude of future plans for the area due in large part to the loyola line, but apparently you will just dismiss them from the golden tower you live on where per se rules are created . And what are you talking about shifting developments around? did you sit down with developers and discover this, or is this another made up fantasy of yours? “Major projects that MIGHT have occurred elsewhere in the CBD and in nearby areas may instead have found a focal point.” I never took you as the type of person to replace facts with opinions or hypotheticals, but I guess that is who you really are.

        • Cmb6091,

          >>First, it should never be the goal of transit to improve property values? says who, did you just make up that rule out of thin air?<> The dynamic of a streetcar line has increased value and has attracted more interest into the area, I would cite the multitude of future plans for the area due in large part to the loyola line, but apparently you will just dismiss them.[.]<>And what are you talking about shifting developments around? did you sit down with developers and discover this, or is this another made up fantasy of yours?<>I never took you as the type of person to replace facts with opinions or hypotheticals, but I guess that is who you really are.<<

          I'm talking about common sense here. You seem to have been sold a bill of goods, and I'm asking you to think long and hard about these assumptions.

        • “First, it should never be the goal of transit to improve property values? says who”

          Makes sense to me. A publicly funded project (ie, all taxpayers) benefitting a very small (and often elite) minority doesn’t strike you as a poor goal to set?

        • What weight have you given to the time loss and inconvenience suffered by riders forced onto the Loyola Streetcar, who were fomerly able to ride a bus all the way to Canal?

    • Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. Cmb6091-
      I noticed you have 548 comments- so don’t think your with South Market Interests, yet as Cmb601 I’m not sure….
      What I am sure of is your arguments are dated, flawed, dead wrong, and in tune with
      You ask – “name one neighborhood that can be said to be better off by adding a bus line.”
      I say Freret St. 2014
      Well intended or not, this Loyola Street Car line has clipped the wings of the “Freret Jet”- with riders forced to pay transfer fees and a wait in line for a 19th century thrill ride.
      Sure all this $pent may attract some development, but what about the working class needed to build the service industry we cater to.?
      Sorry to be bitter- and I try to respect development efforts, but not when public funds are wasted putting http://www.southmarketdistrict.com/ above others-
      and if i’m stepping on toes- give us the Jet Back and I will be quite as Freret riders had no input on being tolled these extra fees, and transit times doubled or tripled for 10 blocks of ?
      Best from 5110 Freret St.
      Andy Brott.

  11. You may want to re-read that WWL article. The 28 line saw a 5% decrease in ridership. Not a 28% decrease. And that works out to about -8300 riders per year. Or -22 riders per day. The 15 lost 76,000 riders per year. That is roughly -200 riders per day. The Loyola streetcar line added 1,700 riders per day. 1,700 riders gained per day is larger than 222 lost per day.

    Overbudget? Without question. Frustrating for #15 riders? You bet. Worth it? Ask me again after we see how South Market development goes. “Useless” and “counterproductive”? Hardly.

    (Here are 2011 ridership numbers. http://www.norpc.org/assets/pdf-documents/studies-and-plans/NOLA_COA_Final_comp.pdf. These likely underestimate 2013 ridership.)

    • King Cake,

      That was my error; I grabbed the bus line number instead of the percentage for the MLK bus. And the Loyola line didn’t “add” 1,700 riders per day. It took up a route from multiple existing bus lines and cut their ridership (in the case of Freret, quite dramatically).

      As far as the South Market development, I am not about to say that its success is completely dependent on a stubby streetcar line. That’s a major leap of logic (the type that rail advocates are prone to making) and I simply don’t buy it. I think government tax credits are the biggest factor, and at best the streetcar might have helped motivate the use of the particular location, but not the entire decision by certain parties to invest in real estate in this city.

      And I stand by the use of the words “useless” and “counterproductive.” This was a terrible idea and it’s working out quite badly.

    • Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. King Cake Baby-
      Do you work for the South Market development? or have some skin in the game?
      I ask because you hide your real name- and I’m mad as heck our Freret Jet of a Bus of line was stolen, and given to tourists. And after looking at

      I wonder is the South Market development to blame?
      If not then who? and what can be done to get the Freret Jet back and make it transfer at Canal Street with other routes- not the New Orleans Mission.
      Please help.
      Angry from Freret Street,

      Andy Brott

      • Just a #16 bus rider and bicyclist here. And no affiliation with South Market. Or any development for that matter.

        My point was not meant as advocacy of any side, but rather that the numbers didn’t add up. The Jet re-route sucks for people who relied on it. That’s pretty well documented by the big drop in riders. But the weird thing is it has barely affected 28 ridership. Those passengers should be in the same boat as Jet riders.

        If RTA were serious about turning UPT into a big transfer hub they would have moved all the uptown and cross-river lines to it. They could have blown past rider projections by cannibalizing all of those lines. But they didn’t. That’s why I don’t see any nefarious plot. It looks more like they screwed up. Has anyone asked RTA about just restoring the Canal terminus to the 15?

        • Thanks for your input- I’m not sure if a formal request has been made to return the Jet, or how to go about it. But it needs to be done.
          I will look into it, but if any other readers know how, please post or contact me privately via brottworks.com

  12. Thank you Mr. C. -but a bigger 1 to Mr. Hammer WWL/The Advocate. for exposing how the Street Car to nowhere- has destroyed the Freret Jet bus line. 40% drop is generous, l’ll bet it’s more-
    I used to be able to walk out my front door catch the Jet- and be at Canal Street in 7 to 12 min. Now? 30+ min- and pay a transfer!!!!
    RTA claims they have it all timed with no wait, no way- the last time we tried- we waited 30 min and took a cab from Union Station to escape the panhandling from folks too drunk to stay at the Mission-
    This all reeks of the same out of town planning kumbyonic hippie bs- they sold post K. “Street Cars and light rail are great Bro…”
    Our Freret Jet was great and we get tinkled on economics of tourism first and us second.
    Mad as heck, and best from 5110 Freret,
    Andy Brott

  13. I think the notion that most if not all of our transit lines should stop at Canal Street is out-dated and should be revisited, Canal Street is not a destination, and as a transfer point it is too congested. I think places like the UPT should be used more for transfers.

  14. Jeffrey,

    As I noted before, I didn’t intent to make an assertion about overall ridership being down — only about ridership on these lines, thus making the Loyola line a drag on the system.

  15. The only way that Loyola spur will ever make sense is if the centralised bus stop at Canal between the Loews and Orpheum be relocated to UPT so that the city’s centralised intermodal transit facility be allowed to actually serve as a centralised intermodal transit facility.

    In that regard, the Loyola spur as a connecting line to main transit lines should be fare-free and run with cars at sufficient frequency to make its link not an obstacle but instead a convenience.

  16. A streetcar up Magazine, which I think there used to be, would be highly desirable. The street is really improving, but will hit a ceiling because of lack of parking. Notwithstanding the bus service, a tram would really connect it to the tourist dollars (and local dollars) which are downtown.

  17. I thought this Loyola streetcar idea was stupid from day one. Streetcar aesthetics work in old lowrise neighborhoods like St. Charles Avenue. Loyola is all modern high-rise office buildings.
    But when did this city ever pass up a federal dollar ?

  18. The Loyola line was quite a boondoggle. However, the city could easily make the money back by installing a traffic camera over the section of Loyola just as it approaches Canal St., where all the drivers drive in the streetcar lane (it has yellow lines all over it, it’s obvious you’re not supposed to use it) and cause all kinds of congestion when they figure out it isn’t a lane any more when it intersects Canal St. Judging from the number of drivers I see doing that, the city could probably make $1,000/day at $75 a pop. Bad civil engineering and traffic cameras – profit!

  19. You may be right (probably are) that this particular streetcar line is an unnecessary boondoggle. But from a macro perspective, we’d be better off (everyone would) with more rail and fewer buses. Jindal turns down federal money for a BR-NOLA light rail system, which actually is getting close to essential (actually NOLA to Houston would be better) for anyone driving I-10 regularly. Streetcars of course are also environmentally superior. How many residents who have cars will ride the streetcar downtown, but would never ride a bus? A lot, so I disagree with the notion that streetcars don’t encourage new riders. This particular one may not, but others do and we’d be better off had we never pulled the track 50 years ago.

    • Thank you Overbrook. I will add the airport to your point. The NOLA-BR line would (or should) use existing rights-of-way to pass directly in front of MSY. Instead of the mass of taxis, crowded vans (a patronage arrangement from a previous Mayoral administration, if I recall correctly), and car renters all choking the works at both airport and downtown ends, visitors arriving by air could choose rail as an option.

      Yes, that would be one for the tourists, but few other cities have as rich an actual legacy of urban rail as New Orleans. Streetcars once served some 120 miles of the city. All that fell victim to the automobile industry’s lobbying effort trading short-term savings for quality of street life, presented as utopia at the 1939 and 1964 Worlds Fairs but realized as the traffic nightmares we have today.

      One needs only to visit New York, Amsterdam, Tokyo, or Paris to see how airport rail connected to city transit systems can work. Only here do we stop short, leaving the ends to languish in the shadow of bumper-to-bumper traffic (literally, on Loyola Avenue at Earhart). The Feds aren’t so far off the mark as our own short-sighted state administration, and that’s who I hold responsible for the boondoggle.

  20. Overbrook,

    I disagree that we’d be better off with more rail and fewer buses. While there are a few lines that work, especially heritage lines, in general buses are simply a more cost-effective means of providing public transit.

    The idea that there is some prejudice against buses is generally accurate, but we all forget that at one time there was a general prejudice against streetcars. That’s fad, not functionality. In the end, what matters most is what transports the most people at the lowest cost. Most of those who ride transit aren’t going to be affluent people; they’re going to be lower-income residents who just need to get from point A to point B and don’t care much whether it’s a train or a bus that gets them there. Buses tend to work better for that, at least in most instances.

    Having commuter trains between cities is an entirely different issue, though, and it’s something I’d address more on a case-by-case basis.

  21. …which would mean the Loyola line wasn’t a great idea to begin with. I don’t think they’re interested in providing free fares for a streetcar line that cost over $60 million to build.

  22. J.E.McC,

    A narrow street like Magazine is better served by buses, although they do need to increase frequency and provide more room for buses to pull over to the curb.

  23. “How many residents who have cars will ride the streetcar downtown, but would never ride a bus? A lot, so I disagree with the notion that streetcars don’t encourage new riders.”
    Mr. Mrs. or Ms. Overbrook-
    What about our work force without a car that relies on public transit?
    IT’S 2014 not 1954!!!- the tracks are gone!!!!
    and it’s those that can afford the least, that have the most to loose. They got screwed, while our car raised non bus ridding selective City yelled Go Cup-Go-Cup, noise ordinances, and gentrify!!!!! blah blah blah!!!!
    Mencken was right we “get the Government we deserve”- by allowing stuff like this-
    To go unnoticed or apposed.
    Sorry for the rant- I’m angry and want the Freret Jet back.

  24. In theory, that sounds great. But you neglect the fact that in practice, the streetcars here are slower and less reliable than buses. Even Canal St. with it’s “dedicated” ROW and minimal tourist load still manages to be slower than riding a bicycle. It’s not the hardware’s fault, it’s the street design and how they are operated.

    Every block or so there’s a unsignalized intersection or a U-turn where cars can cross the tracks. The streetcar is constantly slowing/stopping for cars in it’s path. Even at major signalized intersections, cars stop in the middle of the intersection across the tracks and the streetcar has to wait. They technically have right of way, but there must be some severe disciplining for the operators who are involved in an accident. So as a result, the streetcars are operated at a much lower speed and operators are extremely tentative at every single road crossing. They’ll even do a rolling stop on a green light.

    When they run buses on Canal St, I get downtown 10 minutes faster. If there is an accident on the tracks, guess what’s out of commision? Buses keep up with traffic while streetcars watch it go by. You can see this in action during big events when they supplement streetcar lines with bus service. Guess which one I’m getting on?

    Streetcars are NOT an L-train/subway or even light rail. Those are different animals that are completely grade separated or at least have only highly signalized and controlled crossings. They also have fewer stops and most don’t accept cash which really speeds things up. That is real rail transit that adds true value. Otherwise, stick with the buses.

    • RRod3,

      It should also be noted that some light rail is not grade-separated, but those systems tend to increase the incidents of major collisions and interfere greatly with traffic flow. The reason why streetcars work to the degree they do is because they actually have to interact with the traffic around them, which other types of rail transit do not.

      I agree that the streetcar also tends to be slower than buses. Although its frequency is usually better than most bus lines (and people tend to spend more time waiting than travelling anyway) it definitely has the disadvantage of being a rail transit vehicle trying to negotiate dense urban surface streets, which usually makes it slower than buses. That’s why streetcars typically won’t win a cost-benefit analysis with buses.

  25. Are these developments not going to hire tons of the very same “public”, are police and fire not funded by property taxes which will benefit from multi-structure stacked, multi-million dollar condos? Are children in Orleans Parish not going to benefit from increased funding, via allocation of taxes to schools, NORA, Nola for Life? It is not just one group benefiting, and keep in mind they only benefit after they successfully construct, sell, and maintain the property, which is a huge risk to begin with. We have two consent decrees to pay for, under funded fire-fighter pension fund, and a huge problem with funding an adequate police force, we need every project we can get, and the only thing this streetcar does is cause an inconvenience of having to transfer. I cannot speak about the cancellation of other lines, but as far as dismissing an entire stimulus project due to longer wait times is unacceptable.

  26. look I ride the #16 every other day to save money on parking downtown. If you told me I had to transfer due to the RTA constructing a streetcar line on Claiborne to help allocate investment from Louisiana to the overpass I would be okay with it. I cannot and will not place an inconvenience to a few on the same level of importance as helping to stimulate projects which will pay for 2 consent decrees, police salaries, pay the firefighter pension fund, pay for NOLA for life, ect. It is upsetting that the same people who complain about not having enough police to catch perpetrators who commit rapes, murders, and armed robberies, are so against projects which help fund the solutions to their complaints.

  27. so if the JET was given back, you would be okay, “give us the Jet Back and I will be quite”. Pretty narcissistic and self involved of yourself to place your increased wait time and transfer fee on or above the level of the need to increase the tax roles of an entire city. I mean seriously, what bubble do you live in where you are only able to care about the minimum hardship you have to go through in order to help address the multitude of problems facing this city. Unless you support using transportation funds to patch the holes of our police, fire, parks, ect. Lobby to get your JET back, but do not attack a project which is going to help resolve huge city funding issues, employ a boat load of people both in construction and permanent placement, add to the population of the city, and help move the entire city forward, just because you have longer wait times and a transfer.

  28. And please save us the “what about the working class needed to build the service industry we cater to”, Andy Brott is worried about Andy Brott, if you cared about the service industry as a whole you would be welcoming the 100’s of service industry jobs this project will bring, and hopefully further increase pressure to raise the minimum wage in the city. Furthermore, sorry if I am not as bold and intelligent as you for not using my real name and posting my address on a public forum, but some of us worry about the safety of our loved ones and not just our own.

    • I can’t speak for Andy, but as for myself, I’m fine with the South Market project. I just don’t see how it’s the same thing as the Loyola streetcar. I think we can have economic development without subsidizing it with highly dubious rail transit lines. They’re already getting major tax incentives; did we really need to put in a “streetcar-to-nowhere” on top of that? Was that really the responsible thing to do?

      As for the minimum wage, it’s a moot point. We can’t raise it. It’s against state law and the Louisiana Supreme Court has upheld that law. In any event, I don’t see how a development project would change the political calculus vis-a-vis the minimum wage.

      Finally, are you really worried about the safety of yourself and your family from expressing personal viewpoints in comments sections? If you want to remain anonymous, that’s perfectly acceptable (sometimes I wish I were anonymous when somebody mocks and attacks me for expressing a view because of my race and gender, which has occurred to much applause in this very forum). However, let’s not go overboard…

      • Owen, I see your point on the minimum wage, I guess I was referring to adding more voices to the call to raise the wage. I do not indisputably know the influence of the line in swaying developers to invest in this area, but news articles, including WWLTV which you sighted, said it had a role to play. The issue of contention here is exactly how much of a role did it play? and unless we ask the investors directly we will never know. I am obviously of the opinion it played a major role. Regardless, I give you this, there is no reason for a project to go this far over budget; especially when all the issues that caused delays could have been foreseen. As for safety, people are crazy Owen and identity theft is no joke. I enjoy your columns, even though you seem to be 1/2 ginger .

    • Please do not take my input as a personal attack, and I’m sorry you feel the need to use an alias.
      My “give us the Jet back” remark- was not my best to write a wrong-
      I know little about the South Market Project- am glad to see it, I’m not opposed.
      But do know “if you don’t stand for something, you fall for anything” + and believe strongly in a Jane Jacobs approach that “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
      So I will stand up, sign my name, take the online personal attacks, to strive for solutions on what holds our City back-
      Contrary to your opinion, Public Transit funds should not be used to spur real estate development-
      an example why is this Street Car to nowhere, yes I’m sure it was well intended- but it grows the cycle of poverty more than builds a diverse tax base and generates revenue. It costs more to operate, than it brings in, with huge ridership losses as reported.
      And the bigger picture…
      Yes tourism = jobs, hotel taxes, and revenue, but it’s a single industry, and the pay is low.
      What happens when another 9/11 hits- or folks go elsewhere? Tourism alone does not “help move the entire city forward”- far from it, it helps keep our poverty cycled in low paying menial jobs, and risks us all with all our eggs in one basket. Remember the housing market when oil left in the 1980s?…

      + “T” is not for all- I have lived here 20+ years and been through 4 (?) SuperBowls- and know they are not Super for all, and many business’s normally would do great with a typical convention loose big when we host. Not saying Dr. Ryan’s #’s are wrong, but “economic impact” can be interpreted in many ways.
      What would be super is to diversify, recruit, and build an educated work force that grows new higher paying jobs. I hope the South Market Project does that.
      As for you to call me narcissistic-
      I say – guilty and HELL YES I AM!!! http://brottworks.com/
      and also proudly financially and emotionally tied to Freret http://thenewfreret.com/
      But your wrong to say “please save us the working class….”
      YES SAVE THEM!!!- they are hurt most by “longer wait times and a transfer”-
      They need the Jet most.

  29. Alas for the famous “Freret Jet.” When the line was electric busses, and not light rail, it was beloved by all, especially by the working classes and the Tulane/Newcomb student bodies, who used its speedy, quiet service to get quickly uptown to its destination on Broadway and thence to the river road. After it was converted to a noxious diesel-powered bus, it was still efficient, but not nearly as much as its electric predecessor, which permitted transfers to the Tulane Avenue electric transit, which speedily and quietly brought commuters around that side of the city to their jobs and homes. New Orleans Public Service, Inc., (then casually known as NOPSI) had a monopoly on mass transit, as it was the power company for the entire city. NOPSI caved to the blandishments of General Motors, as did other transit companies nationwide, including those of Los Angeles, whose famous Red Car lines also disappeared into the maw of the freeway-building real estate apparatus of the day.

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