Last week, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) introduced preliminary plans for a streetcar to link Canal Street to Elysian Fields Avenue along Rampart Street and St. Claude Avenue. Among the plans was the reveal that the car would not occupy space on the neutral ground nor its own dedicated transit lane. Instead, the streetcar will share the left lane with traffic — except during peak traffic hours, when it will be exclusively reserved for the streetcar. Many attendees at the meeting asked if it would run in its own lane when traffic is at its worst, then why not all the time?
New Orleans District C councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer and neighborhood groups had the same question at this afternoon's council transportation committee meeting. Palmer and District C councilman James Gray also challenged the RTA to include more than one bike lane — the current plan has only one bike lane, headed into the CBD.
"To me, that doesn't make any sense," said Carol Allen, president of the Vieux Carre Property Owners Association, adding that there likely is federal funding available for bike infrastructure. Palmer agreed.
Jefferson Parish Council Chairman Chris Roberts and Councilman-at-large Elton Lagasse have sent an open letter to state representatives, asking them to call off the special election in May that would have voters (again) determine the fate of the now-suspended tolls on the Crescent City Connection.
Roberts and Lagasse also announced that the council would act on a formal resolution requesting the state legislature to "save the cost of the election which would be incurred by the State of Louisiana."
Letter under the jump.
Last night, New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) officials and engineers revealed the first glimpse of the anticipated streetcar connecting the Central Business District to the French Quarter and Marigny. According to current plans, the new streetcar won’t run on the neutral ground but on a shared lane — which becomes streetcar-only during “peak” traffic. The transit corridor’s overhaul also will include a bike lane, though only heading from the Marigny into the CBD.
“We’ve tried to incorporate as many of your questions and concerns as possible over the last three years,” said Justin Augustine, RTA general manager and vice president of Veolia TransDev.
According to the project’s timeline, final construction documents are due by the end of June, with the construction bid finalized and awarded by early 2014, and construction wrapped by 2015. (Sixty percent of the design is complete.) The $75 million bond-financed project will run track from Canal Street to Elysian Fields Avenue, with six stops — at Conti, St. Ann and Ursulines streets, Esplanade Avenue, Pauger Street, and Elysian Fields. There, a double crossover (which will resemble an “X” at the intersection) will remove the travel lane closest to the neutral ground between Frenchmen Street and Elysian Fields for a “full-time dedicated” streetcar lane, according to project manager Bill Norquist. Also, “the travel lanes will be pushed to the outside to the cost of a parking lane for that block,” he said.
Each shelter stop will have lights, ADA accessibility, ticket machines, bike parking and seating. “We also wanted to be respectful of the historic vernacular of the neighborhoods we’re going through,” Norquist said. “We want neighborhoods to take ownership of these stops.”
The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority is holding a public meeting on the upcoming N. Rampart Street/St. Claude streetcar expansion project.
Announcement via Gambit editor Kevin Allman, who adds: "Am I insanely picky to note that a public transit meeting includes parking info (and free validation), but no info on which bus routes come near the meeting?"
Many drivers, concerned they'll miss out on tourism business if they're not able to get an inspection soon, say the city hasn't done enough to improve service at its inspection station in eastern New Orleans.
Just after 10 a.m. today, lines of cabs at the inspection station, stretching from the inspection building around a long curved driveway, all the way out to Old Gentilly Road. The station is open only four hours per day, three days per week for new inspections, five days if a driver has to return for re-inspection.
"If you don't have the inspection tags, you don't work," said Mohammad Ashraf. "Then you come and sit here all day."
A driver standing nearby, who declined to give his name, said he had been waiting since 3:20 a.m.
Ashraf said he was there for a re-inspection after failing an initial inspection because of his car's paint job. Along with the fares he's lost waiting for his inspection, he said he's spent between $1,600 and $1,700 so far to come into compliance with the new rules. For drivers who've had to replace cars older than the city-mandated maximum of 11 years, costs can run significantly higher than that.
“It’s a big investment for each car," Syed Kazmi said. “It’s about $15,000 per cab.”
(More after the jump)
Landrieu hailed the new line — 0.8-miles long, or 1.6 miles of track through the Central Business District — as a major economic win for the city.
"This streetcar line is not just a red box on a rail going to nowhere," he said, calling it a "pathway to prosperity."
The streetcar line was 85 percent financed by a $45 million TIGER grant issued in 2010. (The line, originally scheduled to open last year, ended up costing more than $52 million.) The grant was part of President Obama's American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009, also known as the economic stimulus bill.
In spite of ongoing debate about the effectiveness of the stimulus, LaHood said, it "worked when it comes to transportation."
The Loyola line, he said, "will create hundreds of jobs and will create the kind of economic opportunity and activity that is long overdue in New Orleans."
(After the jump, a short video of the inaugural ride, led by the St. Augustine High School marching band)
Fox 5 Atlanta has a story about last night's egging of a New Orleans Saints charter bus as it pulled out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. (We'd provide a link to the story, but is there anyone in New Orleans who doesn't know it by now?)
FOX 5's Aungelique Proctor spoke with veteran bus driver Clarence Lester, who was behind the wheel of the bus when it was hit. He says he's appalled by the incident.
"When we got ready to pull off, I hear this thump, and that's when the egg hit the bus," said Lester.
Lester says he has driven team buses that have been egged before, but it's never happened to him on an airport tarmac. Lester said he feels that the person responsible should be disciplined.
Dried egg remained on the bus on Thursday afternoon. Lester said he had tried to get it off but couldn't—but that he would need to get it off by Friday afternoon before he is scheduled to take the Georgia Bulldogs to Atlanta for the SEC Championship on Saturday.
Great. Now this nice bus driver has to waste his time scrubbing that crap off his bus.
The Saints take on the Atlanta Falcons tonight.
Ever have a day where your mind is clouded with memories, one triggering another? That's the kind of day I was having when I was on my St. Claude bus adventure for the final Public Transit Tuesday, before I take my new position as a general assignment reporter for The Times-Picayune.
The only way I could transcribe the memories in my mind that day would be to use stream of consciousness, which would end up looking about as messy as the legal pad I took on my adventure, where I jotted down notes including "The Mack, Charles, PTSD about Mom," "New Kids on the Box lunchbox from Eckerd's" and "Te-Te's cocaine and Cuban sandwiches?"
Since the St. Claude bus was pretty full, as is usually the case, I was able to keep from reminiscing so much by paying closer attention to the people on the bus with me.
When I made it to the end of the line in Arabi, I was tempted to catch my favorite bus, the St. Bernard Parish bus, but was too busy trying to listen to the boys freestyling and beatboxing in the back — not that they were good.
My hearing isn't the best so here are what I think are some excerpts from their verses:
"I met her on crack, f*ck the n*gga head up
Driver off the bus, went and had a heart attack."
"Make a n*gga feel the way my Uncle Terry feel."
"Dat boy said, dat boy said, dat boy said, 'MAMACITA!'"
"I think Wayne garbage though — and THAT'S that sh*t I don't like."
"Dat boy said, 'I'ont want no HIV, yes Lawd!"
"She sent me nekkid pictures — I LIKEDED DAT!"
It was a pretty day so I decided to walk down St. Claude, but not before stopping at a restaurant that's — get this — actually run by native New Orleanians...
I met a woman today who was (rightfully) suspicious when she saw me in the 7th Ward, digging under a house, snapping pictures and writing in my legal pad. After chatting for a while, she asked, "What are you going to write about? This article, what is it?" I said, "Well. I don't know. A little bit of everything, really. I can delete the pictures of you if you want." She looked at me for a little while, trying to see if I was legit, before saying, "Alright, sista, Imma let you have this one...But if you see what's going on and don't write about it, you're a part of the problem."
I agree. I've mentioned the issues that we were venting about (gentrification, euphemistic neighborhood names and discrimination) and others that would have come up in the conversation eventually (hate groups, homelessness, accessibility, the stigma in the black community associated with seeking mental health care, blight and the lack of love for New Orleans East), but I'll admit that I haven't really gone into detail as much as I can and should. She correctly guessed that I try to keep my power-fighting to a minimum because I don't want to ruffle feathers.
When I started this column, I was used to writing for CUE, our monthly fashion, home and beauty magazine. I love writing for CUE because I love glossy magazines; like CUE intern Angela Hernandez, I have stacks of glossy mags all over the house. (I know a girl who slipped on a magazine and broke her arm, though, so be careful and keep those stacks off of the floor.)
@angieworldorder @megandoesnola We are all going to end up on hoarders burried under stacks and stacks of magazines.
— Angela Hernandez(@AngieHrndz) September 10, 2012
I'm not linking the actual Twitter conversation because I know this person doesn't like to mix Twitter with his actual blog. I know that because I ended up getting really angry about his accusation later that night. Not because of him, but because I was venting to someone about the accusation who said that someone else said that my writing "sounded too much like ad copy" and that set me off. (The person who told me this was trying to be helpful, not gossipy.)
I didn't think the person who originally said my writing sounded like ad copy liked me anyway (well, I thought the person did at first but then I thought the person didn't), so I tried to brush it off, but I kept hearing it play in my mind: Ad copy. Ad copy?! I wondered to myself if the person had ever read a magazine; my CUE writing and glossy magazine writing are pretty damn parallel, which is a good thing.
I searched all over the Internet and found out who was behind the cartoon avatar on Twitter and was pretty happy to see that I wasn't the only journalist — not even the only Gambit writer — that he openly critiqued.
(Update: He liked the next installment, we follow each other on Twitter and he likes my Facebook journalist page and all of that good stuff. And I'm pretty cool with the person who didn't like me back then. We're not best buddies or anything, but we like and respect each other.)
Riding the bus today with Apptitude founder Chris Boyd, we discussed the importance of doing things for your community, even when they are often literally more trouble than they're worth. He said, "It's a good motivation when you remember that you're doing something for New Orleans."
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