Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Public Transit Tuesdays: St. Charles Avenue Shuttle

Posted by Google on Tue, May 8, 2012 at 7:03 PM

Remember how I said I wasn't going to blog anything on the St. Charles streetcar line because of the problems it poses for wheelchair-bound citizens? That's still the case, but thanks to preventative rail maintenance, I was able to ride for a few blocks on the St. Charles streetcar line, via the St. Charles streetcar shuttle. Too bad I only have a few more months to ride it...

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Unlike the St. Charles streetcar, you have to already be Uptown to ride the St. Charles streetcar shuttle—though it says "Canal St." on the marquee. To get to the beginning of the line at Carrollton and Claiborne, I had to catch the Broad to the Tulane, waiting for the Tulane bus at one of thee most...interesting...bus stops, Tulane and Broad.

Maybe it was the heat (what possessed me to start a public transit series right at the start of New Orleans' hell season, I'll never know), but I grew incredibly irritated with the spitting on the ground, loud music coming from MP3 players and smartphones, eating on the bus and satin bonnets being worn outside of the house. Anyway...

The St. Charles streetcar shuttle comes every ten minutes from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and according to the RTA website, is used only to supplement the St. Charles streetcar to "ensure prompt service" since "passengers can ride the entire streetcar line." Funny, in my personal time I've been on the streetcar and told to get off because we had reached the end of the line, only to see the streetcar keep going.

Another St. Charles streetcar shuttle oddity is that the line will continue to change as more rail maintenance is completed, leaving riders more confused since the actual schedule booklet won't change and since there are virtually no Stop ID signs marking the shuttle's route. According to an RTA employee, the rail maintenance won't be done for a few months and it's been going on for roughly a year. For all of these reasons, no one's really too thrilled about the shuttle: locals aren't sure where it goes and how to get on, tourists don't get a full streetcar ride and shopkeepers are losing business.

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My first stop on this super-short ride (Carrollton and Claiborne to St. Charles and Broadway) was to Rock Star (1000 S. Carrollton Ave., 861-3777; www.facebook.com/rockstarnola). Specializing in crust punk gear intrigued me—I pictured dog leashes, dreadlock supplies and maybe patchouli. Imagine my surprise when I saw New Orleans Saints art, KleanColor makeup and locally-made jewelry mixed in with fatigues, band shirts, LPs and skateboards. Owner Sandra Knight was happy to meet me and to be featured in Public Transit Tuesdays, since the St. Charles streetcar rail maintenance has greatly stifled business. "My last business was Curves Fitness Center, in this same location," Knight says, "and with the construction they were doing back then, further down Carrollton near Oak, I lost one-third of business from locals. Now with Rock Star, a primarily tourist-frequented business, no one even knows I'm here!" Rock Star carries local music, vintage and plus-size clothing and always offers complimentary wine.

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Since most of the stores in the Riverbend area advertise in Gambit or are already popular, it was hard to find places to go. I could've gone to my favorite cousin Chuck's auto shop, but that wouldn't have been fair. So I stopped at Super 10 (8207 Oak St., 861-7580) since I hadn't been there since 6th grade, the day before Valentine's Day. Ah, Valentine's Day 1997 at McDonogh #39. I picked out a special valentine for my crush of the year, Brent Balthazar, and stuffed it with jumbo Sweet Tart hearts, but not before saturating it with Mary Kay's Angelfire perfume. Of course, I was a big nerd and got too nervous to hand it to him—which was a good thing since the Sweet Tart hearts ended up tasting like Maw Maw perfume. Super 10 used to sell only products that were $10 and under, but now they sell flat screen televisions and other over $10 items. I still found a few funny things like a romance novel called A Sinful Safari and History Channel-licensed "AxMen" gloves. They also had cheap festival dresses and clothes for kids and babies.

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While walking back from Super 10 down to Carrollton and Claiborne to catch the Tulane, I thought about the good ol' Lusher days, sneaking to Popeyes and Cafe Nino, walking with my friends to their houses near Zimpel—"Zimpel!" I shouted, "The street that's misspelled!" On the street sign at Carrollton, it's spelled Z-I-M-P-E-L, but on the blue tiles on the sidewalk at Short, it's spelled Z-I-M-P-L-E. Since the street tiles are older, they're probably right, right? Wrong! It's spelled Z-I-M-P-E-L, named for Charles F. Zimpel who helped create the first survey of the town of Carrollton.
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Finally headed home, I saw that according to the GPS-enabled bus location monitor, the Tulane was coming in 20 minutes, time enough for me to cross the street so I'd be one of the first on the bus. Of course, the bus stop across the street doesn't have a bus location monitor, so I checked the mobile site...

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RTA's mobile site now has an estimated time of arrival/real-time map function! Way to go, RTA! The reliability of the RTA's rider tools are as follows:

Printed schedules: Fairly reliable, more so for frequent riders who are aware of rider alerts. Not reliable for popular lines during touristy events, since the RTA likes to cater to tourists. Difficult for non-residents.
GPS-enabled bus location monitors: Accurate for the most part. Good luck finding one and if you find one, I hope it's not broken.
Google Maps transit: Incredibly reliable, would be even better if it included the Jefferson Parish and St. Bernard Parish systems.
RTA's trip planner: Very reliable, but won't always suggest all the possible routes.
RTA's mobile ETA tool: Fairly reliable, but is still in the beta stage.

I hope you enjoyed our bus adventure! Let's do it again next Tuesday! Here are some outtakes from this bus adventure.

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