Wednesday, March 25, 2015

New Orleans City Council to vote April 9 on ride-app services like Lyft and Uber

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 5:26 PM

A Lyft car drives through San Francisco. The privately owned vehicles easily are recognizable due to the whimsical pink mustaches on the front bumpers. - CREATIVE COMMONS/RAIDO
  • A Lyft car drives through San Francisco. The privately owned vehicles easily are recognizable due to the whimsical pink mustaches on the front bumpers.

New Orleans might have ride-app services like Uber and Lyft in time for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, if City Councilmembers Jared Brossett and Susan Guidry get their way. Brossett (who is the chair of the council's Transportation and Airport Committee) and Guidry have set April 9 as the date when legislation will be proposed "to legalize transportation network services in the City of New Orleans."

That date, Brossett said in a statement, was in response to more than 50 proposed amendments to the legislation, which was introduced in early March. Those amendments came from "stakeholders" in the legislation, Brossett said, including ride-app companies and, presumably, the local taxi industry, which has objected to the ride-app services. As Gambit's Jeanie Riess wrote at the time:
The ordinance would create a new class of for-hire vehicles called "Transportation Network Companies" (TNCs). It also proposes a formal registry of drivers, a fee of $15,000 a year per company, and a mileage fee of 50 cents per pickup paid to the city. It would require drivers to have a Louisiana driver's license and undergo the same background checks and drug tests as cab drivers. 
The Transportation and Airport Committee will first discuss the ordinance and possible amendments at an April 1 meeting, before passing it to the full council at the council's regular meeting April 9. It's unclear which of those provisions would be affected by any proposed amendments.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Here's your list of Carnival transit changes

Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 5:35 PM


There's no such thing as two weeks of giant street parties without some necessary transit interruptions, so the Regional Transit Authority  (RTA) has put out a list of alternate routes, detours and schedule changes to get you going places on-time. 

From February 12-14, shuttle buses will replaces the Canal Street and Loyola Avenue streetcar lines. In general, streetcars will run up to two hours before and after parades, but check the link for a more detailed breakdown of time changes. 

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

This Saturday, help design the transit system you think New Orleans needs

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 at 5:37 PM

  • Courtesy RIDE New Orleans

On Saturday beginning at 8:30 a.m. at Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center, RIDE New Orleans will host the first opportunity post-Katrina for transit riders, community leaders and public officials to come together to discuss what a quality transportation system in New Orleans should look like.

RIDE, the New Orleans nonprofit that advocates for public transportation in the city on a policy and grassroots level, has worked over the past year to increase public input in decision-making processes at the Regional Transit Authority (RTA). Director Rachel Heiligman told Gambit she hopes to involve more transit riders in decision-making and planning, and to help transit riders understand how decisions about the infrastructure they use every day are made.

Heiligman just conducted a series of focus groups around the city, speaking with at least 60 transit users over the past month. “What I learned across the city is that our community is really the expert here,” she says. “These are riders that are using the system on a regular basis and most of the folks that we talked to…have been using the system for all their lives so they’ve seen the system evolve and change over time, and they have a lot of really great ideas.”

“And they’re not really expensive ideas to implement, either,” Heiligman adds. “Some of them are as simple as well, if that bus just continued a few blocks, it would get me to that dollar store, and then I wouldn’t have to take two buses in the other direction and go over the Industrial Canal to get to a shopping destination.”

The RTA will attend the meeting in full support with its CEO Justin Augustine to spell out exactly how the organization decides where to start and end bus routes, for example. A panel comprised of riders will fully unveil the results of RIDE’s focus groups and give community members a chance to reflect and respond on some of the wants and needs of the transit community.

A third panel will include representatives from Baton Rouge’s transit system, which in 2011 was in a state of disrepair but managed to start from scratch to create a system that better reflected the population’s needs.

The event is free and open to the public, with breakfast and lunch provided, though pre-registration is required. You can register here, or by calling (504) 249-8419. 

“Whether or not you’re using the transportation system regularly or you wish you could be using the transportation system regularly,” says Heiligman, “we think your voice matters and that you have ideas that the RTA, the City Council and the Mayor can all learn something from.”

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Rampart/St. Claude streetcar line is met with resistance at community meeting

Posted By on Wed, Jan 7, 2015 at 9:45 PM

Martin Pospisil answers a question from a community member. - JEANIE RIESS
  • Martin Pospisil answers a question from a community member.

The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and its international conglomerate Transdev, which oversees it, met a tough crowd tonight at Joseph A. Craig Charter School, where engineers and planners presented construction plans for the Rampart/St. Claude streetcar line that will stretch from Canal Street to Elysian Fields Avenue.

Construction on the line will start Jan. 12 and will be completed within 18 months, according to Martin Pospisil, a manager with Transdev, though many in the crowd of about 100 residents and business owners expressed skepticism of that timeline — including French Quarter resident and former mayoral candidate Leo Watermeier, who said he was "leery" of the projection based on how long it took Transdev to complete its Loyola Avenue track. Watermeier asked if there was a more realistic projection.

Pospisil explained, "Every project is different, and every project springs different issues as you start the project. So the schedule may change as different issues may come up. Certain things can happen and you have to make adjustments to your schedule."

A half dozen other residents and business owners joined Watermeier in protesting the RTA's claim that it had reached out to local stakeholders for community input. "I live, work and own three buildings on North Rampart, and I haven't been contacted," Watermeier said. 

Sal Sunseri of P and J Oyster Company, located on North Rampart Street, said he was not contacted either.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Washington, D.C. website draws all the remaining streetcar lines to scale

Posted By on Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 5:10 PM


It's a favorite topic of New Orleanians, so it doesn't need rehashing here: the city is not known for the quality or breadth of its public transportation (though it's getting better all the time). What might be overlooked, however, is the relative success of the New Orleans streetcar, which, despite its antiquity, still covers more track than it does in other cities. 

Today, Greater Greater Washington, a Washington, D.C.-based opinion website that publishes pieces about planning and infrastructure in the nation's capital, drew all of the remaining streetcar lines in America to scale, and New Orleans comes in second place for largest amount of track, right behind Philadelphia. It looks pretty cool mapped out.

What the article does not mention is that New Orleans is about to expand its streetcar even farther with the 2015 extension of a line down N. Rampart Street/St. Claude Avenue to Elysian Fields Avenue. The article does remind us, though, that the St. Charles streetcar line has been operating since 1835, and that many of the actual cars on that line were built in 1924 - which is really, really old. 

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Prospect 3 and Bike Easy offering guided bike tours

Posted By on Tue, Oct 21, 2014 at 11:03 AM


Prospect 3 will be all over the city starting this weekend, and to make it easier for patrons to travel from site to site, the annual art collaborative is partnering with Bike Easy to make installations accessible to all. Bike Easy will offer guided bicycle tours to exhibits and installations beginning October 25. The tours, aptly titled "P. 3 Rides," will be held every weekend until P3 closes January 25. 

The "Searching in the Center" tour will bring people to hubs like the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Contemporary Arts Center, while "Seeking in the Faubourgs" winds through various neighborhoods and visits sites in City Park and Dillard University. The tours last four to five hours and include a lunch break at a local restaurant.

All of the revenue from the tours goes right back to P. 3 and Bike Easy. The tours are $80 per person if you don't have a bike and include museum admission. If you bring your own bike, the tour is $55 a person. 

All of the tours leave from Confederacy of Cruisers (634 Elysian Fields Ave.). 

“We are thrilled to be able to offer P.3 visitors the opportunity to visit the biennial on bike via P.3 Rides–our partnership with Bike Easy," P. 3's executive director Brooke Davis Anderson said in a statement. "Cycling is the ideal way to navigate through the city in order to reach each site, and revenue from the tours supports both Prospect New Orleans and Bike Easy."

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Nonprofits pitch Vision Zero policy for cyclists and pedestrians

Posted By on Tue, Sep 30, 2014 at 5:43 PM


Two local non-profits have had it with unnecessary traffic deaths.

Rachel Heiligman, the executive director of the transportation advocacy nonprofit Ride New Orleans and Naomi Doerner, the executive director of the bicycle advocacy group Bike Easy, went before the New Orleans City Council's Transportation and Airport Committee today to propose a Vision Zero initiative for cyclist and pedestrian deaths for the city of New Orleans. 

According to a study by the Center for Planning Excellence and the Louisiana Public Health Institute, Louisiana has the fifth highest pedestrian death rate in the country. New Orleans takes the lead in the state, with 1,500 pedestrians involved in vehicle crashes between 2008 and 2012.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Uber's up and running in New Orleans

Posted By on Fri, Sep 19, 2014 at 1:54 PM

The New Orleans Saints' Cam Jordan was Uber's first rider in the New Orleans market. - COURTESY UBER
  • The New Orleans Saints' Cam Jordan was Uber's first rider in the New Orleans market.

The car-sharing service Uber, which has spent more than a year attempting to enter the New Orleans market, began taking its first customers today, according to an email from the company. The first rider: New Orleans Saints defensive end Cam Jordan.

It's been a long process for the controversial car-sharing company, which was slapped with a cease-and-desist order from then-Taxicab Bureau Director Malachi Hull in October 2013 — before Uber had given a single ride in the city. After months of delay and discussion by the New Orleans City Council, Uber was finally given the go-ahead to operate in New Orleans at a Sept. 8 council meeting. The vote was 4-3, with several provisos: Uber is allowed only to use its Uber Black and Uber SUV services (not the popular UberX, which competes with traditional taxis), and there's a $15 minimum floor on all rides. The company has said it will keep working to change those restrictions.

As of 1:45 pm. today, a check of the Uber app showed four vehicles for hire — three of which were in the downtown area and one of which was Uptown. 


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Thursday, September 4, 2014

New Orleans City Council opens the door for Uber

Posted By on Thu, Sep 4, 2014 at 5:20 PM

Michael Brinks of American Luxury Limousines speaks in opposition to today's proposed changes to the city's transportation code. "Uber X is here," he said. - JEANIE RIESS
  • Michael Brinks of American Luxury Limousines speaks in opposition to today's proposed changes to the city's transportation code. "Uber X is here," he said.

After months of heated debate, the New Orleans City Council finally passed an ordinance on a 4-3 vote to modify the city's existing for-hire vehicle code to allow for hail-a-car app technology, like the San Francisco-based transportation app Uber, to operate within the city. 

Under the ordinance passed today, luxury sedans and limousines will be able to connect with riders using app-based technology on their smartphones. Drivers also will be able to charge customers according to time and mile, much like a cab, but with a minimum fare of $15 for sedans, $25 for luxury SUVs and $45 for all other limousines. 

Those prices, says Uber's New Orleans general manager Tom Hayes, will make New Orleans one of the most expensive Uber markets in the country. Hayes told Gambit he's happy for the win, but he adds that the company would like to reduce those minimum fares. 

"We're glad we've taken these steps forward today," Hayes said. "The minimums that they've implemented will still put us on par with some of the most expensive markets in the country, so we still are disappointed in that approach. We're definitely looking to continue the conversations with the city to continue to more comprehensively reform transportation and provide consumers with the best alternatives."

Members of New Orleans' existing taxicab and limousine industry, which has fought Uber at every council hearing, reacted with disappointment and anger, saying that they have complied with city standards for cabs, while Uber and services like it would receive an unfair advantage in the market.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Uber vote deferred again at City Council, this time till Sept. 4

Posted By on Thu, Aug 14, 2014 at 2:38 PM

Members of the taxi lobby wore t-shirts that read "CAB DRIVERS FOR JUSTICE" to today's meeting of the New Orleans City Council. A vote on ride-sharing apps like Uber was once again deferred. - JEANIE RIESS
  • Members of the taxi lobby wore t-shirts that read "CAB DRIVERS FOR JUSTICE" to today's meeting of the New Orleans City Council. A vote on ride-sharing apps like Uber was once again deferred.

The chambers of the New Orleans City Council were as bustling as ever for yet another installment of the vehicle for-hire debate today, with taxicab industry lobbyists dressed in bright green t-shirts and Uber advocates sporting black.

Both sides waited, filling out time cards and chatting about which direction a vote on the proposed legislation — which would allow limousines and luxury cars to charge according to time and distance, and also decreases their minimum fares — would go.

A few minutes into the meeting, however, the council decided to defer a vote on the legislation until its next meeting on Sept. 4.

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