Tuesday, July 29, 2014

After three-hour meeting, City Council transportation committee moves Uber legislation forward without recommendation

Posted By on Tue, Jul 29, 2014 at 5:46 PM

A T-shirt in support of Uber in Louisiana, seen at the New Orleans City Council hearing on hail-a-car apps. - JEANIE RIESS
  • A T-shirt in support of Uber in Louisiana, seen at the New Orleans City Council hearing on hail-a-car apps.

The New Orleans City Council's Transportation and Airport Committee voted today to move forward legislation that would allow Uber and other hail-a-cab apps like it to the full council — but stopped short of making a recommendation. 

The three-hour long meeting was rife with tension between the taxi and limo lobbies and supporters of Uber, the San Francisco-based company that connects drivers to passengers through its smartphone platform. 

Uber advocates sported t-shirts with the words "Uber: I'm on board" typed inside a hollow outline of the state of Louisiana, while taxi lobbyists dressed in bright green T-shirts that read "Cab Drivers for Justice." The real heat, however, came from councilmembers concerned about the city's ability to regulate Uber Black, the company's proposed service and whatever Uber hopes to bring to New Orleans afterward — namely UberX, the company's ridesharing service that's a major competitor for traditional taxis in other cities.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Tuesday's City Council Uber vote canceled; no date for reschedule

Posted By on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 at 11:48 AM


The New Orleans City Council meeting to discuss hail-a-cab apps like Uber,  originally scheduled for July 22, was canceled this morning and no new date has been set. The Transportation and Airport Committee was supposed to take up legislation proposed at a meeting last month that would abolish a minimum time limit on for-hire vehicles and would also allow such transportation options to be arranged via smartphone. 

Councilmember Jared Brossett, who chairs the transportation committee, canceled the meeting today, July 21. His scheduling assistant Tanya Nettles-Evans said a new date hasn't been set, and if the councilmember does not decide on a new date, the Uber vote will likely be held at the next regularly scheduled meeting August 26. 

Uber's expansion in New Orleans has been hotly contested, and at the June 24 meeting the committee voted to defer a vote in light of a host of concerns raised by council members, the taxi lobby and limo and car operators in the city, most notably the fear that Uber would inevitably bring its UberX ridesharing platform into New Orleans illegally. 

Uber had been gearing up for Tuesday's meeting with its usual social media deluge, from inviting advocates of the platform to RSVP to the meeting in exchange for t-shirts and other "swag," to carting around ice cream on July 18 via the same technology one would use to hire an Uber vehicle. 

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Uber to deliver ice cream

Posted By on Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 9:46 AM


The hail-a-cab app Uber, which is currently doing its best to enter the New Orleans market on its own terms, will be delivering ice cream via its mobile platform from noon until 6 p.m. today, July 18.

Consumers will hail ice cream the same way they hail cabs on the app. They only need to download Uber, select "Ice Cream" and hit request. Cool treats are $20 for five.

Uber Black, the platform the company hopes to launch in New Orleans, works by using existing black cars and limos and effectively turning them into high end taxis available with a metered rate, to be hailed via smartphone. Uber Ice Cream works the same way, using existing ice cream trucks to deliver dessert - and also, presumably, to teach a city new to the app, and that might be getting the app in the near future, how to use it.

There's no question as to the timing of the ice cream delivery. The transportation committee is scheduled to meet July 22 to vote on legislation that would allow Uber and other hail-a-cab companies to operate in the city. Still, according to local general manager Thomas Hayes, New Orleans is one of 144 cities participating in Uber Ice Cream.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Vote on Uber legislation deferred till next month

Posted By on Tue, Jun 24, 2014 at 6:11 PM


The Transportation and Airport Committee agreed during a meeting today to defer a vote on an ordinance that would allow hail-a-car apps like Uber to operate in New Orleans.

Ryan Berni, an advisor to Mayor Mitch Landrieu and a key architect of the legislation, explained that the ordinance removes a three-hour reservation requirement for limos and hired cars. It also allows them to make trips to the airport and adjusts the rate structures so that those services would be able to charge per mile and minute, as opposed to a pre-arranged fee. In an effort to widen the gap between for-hire cars hailed through services like Uber and a traditional taxi, the ordinance would set a price floor for limos and sedans. Any ride in a sedan would have a minimum fee of $25, and any ride in a limo would have a minimum fee of $35. Trips to the airport would carry a $75 minimum for sedans and a $90 minimum for SUVs.

Berni said the city looked at other jurisdictions like Nashville to get a model for the legislation, then adjusted the framework to adhere to the New Orleans market. Director of local governmental affairs Eric Granderson reiterated that the proposed ordinances makes no changes to taxi regulations, and that services like Uber X, Lyft and Sidecar are not on the table for discussion.

But discuss them the council did.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

#NOLANeedsUber — or does it? Council to take up issue Tuesday

Posted By on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 at 3:44 PM

An image from an Uber launch party earlier this year in Cincinnati, where the service debuted in March. - CREATIVE COMMONS/5CHW4R7Z
  • An image from an Uber launch party earlier this year in Cincinnati, where the service debuted in March.

The kind of language used on social media by devotees of Uber, the smartphone app that connects riders to existing drivers, might make you think they were discussing something much more dire than the potential expansion of a luxury car service into the New Orleans transportation market.

“NOLA deserves Uber,” says Twitter user Joel Galatas, using the now-popular hashtag #NOLAneedsUber, introduced in an email blast by the company two weeks ago. In four minutes, eight more #NOLAneedsUber Tweets come in, all with similar urgent-sounding rhetoric.

“NOLA needs Uber as soon as possible, without price-fixing,” another reads, which is the tweet pre-composed and suggested in the email blast. All these Tweets are directed at members of the New Orleans City Council. It’s a social-media public relations maneuver Uber has used in many other cities, with success.

“That’s one of the really special things about the Uber technology,” says Tom Hayes, Uber’s general manager for New Orleans, referring to the fervor with which supporters of Uber have taken to social media.

Even before Uber had public plans to enter the New Orleans market, it was met with resistance from city officials. There was a now-infamous cease-and-desist letter from Taxi Bureau Chief Malachi Hull (sent to Uber before it even entered the market), and Mayor Mitch Landrieu was tight-lipped in expressing outright support for the service.

Eight months later, it’s a different story. The city is reassessing its existing transportation codes to accommodate the service. But the San Francisco-based company, which operates in more than 70 cities in the U.S. and 37 other countries around the world, including Saudi Arabia, and was recently valued at $18 billion, says it won’t be satisfied until it can operate by setting its own prices, and it’s encouraging its fans to demand the same.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The RTA hosts a meeting for paratransit riders Thursday

Posted By on Wed, May 14, 2014 at 5:53 PM

On Thursday, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) will host a meeting for paratransit consumers to voice any questions or concerns about bus and streetcar services in the city. Members of the RTA board, along with bus operators and other staffers will be on hand to answer questions, according to Patrice Bell Mercadel, a spokeswoman for the RTA.

The annual meeting will take place in the RTA board room at 2817 Canal St. at 4 p.m. As a reminder, all transit users are still invited to apply for one of 11 spots on the RTA's newly formed Riders Advisory Committee, which seeks input from a broad range of riders. The application is available here.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bike Easy organizes weekly bike trains

Posted By on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 10:17 AM


On the heels of its third annual Bike to Work Day earlier this month, the New Orleans bicycle advocacy group Bike Easy has powered up weekly bike trains to keep people self-propelled on their commutes.

Bike trains are groups of bikers who ride to work together, led by a volunteer conductor. The trains are for everyone, from experienced riders to new ones, and aim to not only help beginners negotiate routes, rules of the road, potholes and other obstacles, but also to encourage a solid biking community for commuters.

Two Mid-City routes leave Bayou St. John at Orleans Avenue each Thursday at 7:45 a.m. One train heads to UNO and the other ends in the CBD. A Friday Uptown ride leaves the St. Charles Avenue entrance of Audubon Park at 7:45 a.m. and ends in the CBD. That train will stop at St. Charles Avenue and Antonine Street at 8:15 a.m. to pick up more riders.

Bike Easy is considering additional routes, too. Visit the organization's website for more information and to see route maps of the weekly rides.

Thanks to efforts like these, the Alliance for Biking and Walking recently ranked New Orleans eighth in the nation for bike commuting for 2014. That's up two spots from 2013, when New Orleans ranked 10th.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ride New Orleans hosts "day of action," RTA hosts its own press conference

Posted By on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 12:59 PM


Ride New Orleans hosted its scheduled "day of action" yesterday evening to bring awareness to the lack of infrastructure at what the organization has dubbed the "CBD transit hub": the intersection of Elk Place and Canal Street stretching down toward Lasalle Street. Earlier that day, the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) announced that it would hold a press conference before Ride's day of action. It announced at that press conference that it's working with the city to advance plans for a consolidated transit hub in the CBD.

Rachel Heiligman, Ride's executive director, said the purpose of the day was "to start a coordinated dialogue between transit riders, community members, business leaders and public officials focused on solutions for improving this critical point in our transit system."

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Friday, February 28, 2014

RTA's new Riders' Advisory Committee seeks members

Posted By on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 10:50 AM

The RTA voted unanimously Tuesday to start a Riders' Advisory Committee. According to a Ride New Orleans blog postriders in the advisory committee should be able to have input on plans, schedules, routes and other RTA developments for buses, streetcars, ferries and paratransit services.

click image A man reads the paper on the St. Bernard bus. - MEGAN BRADEN-PERRY
  • A man reads the paper on the St. Bernard bus.

A celebration with coffee and pastries will be held Wednesday, March 12 from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at 4404 St. Peter St.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Algiers ferry rates begin this weekend

Posted By on Tue, Feb 18, 2014 at 5:23 PM


Veolia Transportation, which runs the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA), now controls the Algiers-Canal Street and Algiers-Chalmette ferry systems, which were handled by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD). With new managements comes a new fare structure.

The new (cash-only) fares kick in Sunday, Feb. 23. Here's what they look like:

Algiers-Canal Street (one-way): $2 per passenger; $1 for seniors (age 65 and older), and disabled and Medicaid patients (with ID); free to children under 2

Algiers-Chalmette (one-way): $2 per passenger and vehicle driver; $1 extra per additional passenger; $3 for trailers; $1 for seniors (age 65 and older), and disabled and Medicaid patients (with ID); free to children under 2

The ferry times are as follows:

Departures from Lower Algiers to Chalmette:
6:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. daily

Departures from Chalmette to Lower Algiers:
6:15 a.m.-8:45 p.m. daily

Departures from Algiers to Canal Street:
7:15 a.m.-6:45 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 7:15 a.m.- 7:45 p.m. Friday; 10:45 a.m.-7:45 p.m. Saturday; 10:45 a.m.-5:45 p.m. Sunday

Departures from Canal Street to Algiers:
7:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday

The ferries do not run on extended hours, which residents and groups requested Veolia, the RTA, the state and local authorities restore following drastic budget cuts (and the dismantling of funds from the built-in Crescent City Connection tolls). In July 2013, the ferries — which used to run until midnight, free of charge to pedestrians — stopped service at 8:15 p.m. on weekends and 6:45 p.m. weekdays.

In August 2013, the RTA board approved a new fare plan to keep the ferries afloat, but negotiations stalled any forward progress. Officials revealed the new fare plan today.

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