Thursday, April 30, 2015

Jefferson Parish says no to Uber

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2015 at 5:39 PM


The Jefferson Parish Council voted to reject the expansion of transportation company Uber during its April 29 meeting, but it’s hard to say whether the Parish rejected Uber or whether the company rejected the Parish. In an email statement the day before the vote, Uber representatives wrote: “Unfortunately, Councilmembers are now considering changes to the existing draft that would threaten our ability to bring uberX and the jobs it creates to Jefferson Parish.”

Neither the bill nor the amendments passed, but Councilmember and co-sponsor of the bill Ben Zahn told Gambit that Uber supporters have failed to mention two important “facts” regarding consumer safety. “Uber must comply with the same application process that is required of other transportation/ride services in Jefferson Parish,” Zahn said in an email, “which mandates ‘pre-employment’ drug screenings of its drivers. All transportation/ride services must submit to a complete background check through a ‘fingerprint’ database, as opposed to a private company screening service.”

“We had been working on this legislation because when you look at Uber for the last five years, they have completely transformed the transportation industry,” Councilmember Cynthia Lee-Sheng told Gambit. “They are adding new cities all the time. I thought we should be proactive about putting forth a regulative framework, while at the same time ensure the safety of our individuals. At end of the day, Uber wasn’t even backing the legislation.”

Uber’s local general manager Tom Hayes said in a statement that “Jefferson Parish deserves the same access to safe rides and greater opportunity that residents in neighboring Orleans Parish, Baton Rouge, and hundreds of cities around the world depend on. We look forward to continuing to work to bring ridesharing to Jefferson Parish.”

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

UberX launches after all

Posted By on Thu, Apr 16, 2015 at 3:53 PM

A packed chambers as the New Orleans City Council debated a ridesharing ordinance Thursday, April 9. - JEANIE RIESS
  • A packed chambers as the New Orleans City Council debated a ridesharing ordinance Thursday, April 9.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed a ridesharing ordinance into law yesterday, and today, San Francisco-based ridesharing app Uber began operating in the city of New Orleans. That's less an a week after local representatives of the company said it would not be able to operate under the ordinance's legal restrictions. 

Riders can now hail an UberX car by turning on the app and requesting rides. Last year, Uber introduced its black car service into New Orleans, Uber Black, but the rides were expensive and rarely available in the city. 

Uber's local general manager Tom Hayes told Gambit that the company has "determined that it was possible for us to launch uberX and begin providing ridesharing services through our platform, and we will continue to work closely with the Council and the Mayor's office as we move forward on this effort."

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bike to Work Week is now next week, thanks to the rain

Posted By on Tue, Apr 14, 2015 at 5:53 PM


Spring is a lovely season for Bike Easy's Bike to Work Week, but the rainy season comes with its own calendar busters. The annual event, which was also rescheduled last year due to rain, is taking another, literal raincheck this year (it was supposed to kick off tonight with a community forum on city cycling). Since the day was expanded to a whole week, the same schedule will apply.

Courtesy of
  • Courtesy of

On Tuesday, April 21 (that's next Tuesday), check out Let's Roll: Community Forum on the Future of Biking in New Orleans at Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center (2200 Lafitte Ave.) from 7:30-9 p.m.

Wednesday, April 22 is Bike to Work Day, and neighborhood groups will meet up at 7 a.m. to ride down to Lafayette Square for a free breakfast and giveaways at 7:30 a.m. The meet up locations are as follows:

Algiers: Algiers Ferry Landing
Broadmoor: Laurel Street Bakery, 2701 S. Broad St.
Gentilly: Daddy's Donuts, 2051 Caton St.
Mid-City: Orleans Avenue at Bayou St. John
Uptown: Whole Foods Market, 5600 Magazine St. 

The Bike to Work Week Happy Hour follows on Thursday at Grand Isle Restaurant (575 Convention Center Blvd.) from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The Bike to Work Week Commute Challenge, however, is still ON, starting this week and extending into next, which will give you plenty of time to rack up those miles. 

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

City Council passes ridesharing ordinance, but Uber and Lyft representatives still dissatisfied

Posted By on Thu, Apr 9, 2015 at 4:50 PM

Supporters of Uber and Lyft flooded the City Council chambers at City Hall today. - JEANIE RIESS
  • Supporters of Uber and Lyft flooded the City Council chambers at City Hall today.

Today, after months of debate and reconfiguring, the New Orleans City Council passed a ridesharing ordinance that would allow digitally-based transportation companies to start giving rides in the city. The vote was 4-2, with Councilmembers Nadine Ramsey and James Gray opposed. Council President Stacy Head was absent.

But both Uber and Lyft, ridesharing businesses that have been instrumental in getting the legislation off the ground, told Gambit they likely would be unable to operate due to 85 amendments made to the ordinance. 

Both Uber and Lyft are particularly dissatisfied with amendment 85, a provision that would prevent transportation network companies or TNCs (the newly minted, digitally-based, for hire companies the ordinance creates) from interfering with passenger or driver litigation. That amendment gives local passengers the right to litigate here in New Orleans as opposed to traveling out of state to litigate binding arbitration.

"The eleventh-hour changes make it very difficult to operate in the market," Michael Masserman, Lyft's director of government relations, told Gambit. "Not just for Lyft and Uber but for anyone in the ridesharing industry. There's potentially overly burdensome litigation costs and insurance measures that have been legislated ahead of or before the private sector." 

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Getting to and from French Quarter Festival

Posted By on Wed, Apr 8, 2015 at 3:46 PM


With four days of live music on 23 stages, French Quarter Festival will draw crowds Downtown. French Quarter traffic will be restricted during the festival, so attendees should figure out a plan beforehand. Public transportation, bike valets, pedicabs and driving services such as Be My Designated Driver area alternatives to finding parking near the festival. Here are some of the restrictions and options during the festival.

From noon Thursday to 9 p.m. Sunday, vehicle entrance to the French Quarter will be restricted to residents, employees, hotel guests and for-hire vehicles with permits. Individuals can pick up appropriate permits at the NOPD Eighth District Station at 334 Royal St.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ridesharing amendments passed on to full City Council without recommendation

Posted By on Wed, Apr 1, 2015 at 4:15 PM

Cab driver Dolores Montgomery tells the Transportation and Airport Committee that she knows financial hardship. "I'm in my cab seven days a week," she said. - JEANIE RIESS
  • Cab driver Dolores Montgomery tells the Transportation and Airport Committee that she knows financial hardship. "I'm in my cab seven days a week," she said.

Following presentations from Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration, Uber, the ridesharing platform Lyft and dozens of public comments, the New Orleans City Council Transportation and Airport Committee voted today to pass amendments to a ridesharing ordinance on to the full council without recommendation. 

The ordinance, to be decided by the full City Council on April 9, would create a special class of vehicles-for-hire for newly named Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). These would include app-based transportation companies like Uber and Lyft, both of which had representatives and Uber T-shirt-clad supporters at the meeting. Uber organized a small rally outside of City Hall the hour before it began, serving coffee and donuts to supporters, as it has done before nearly every Council meeting in which ridesharing has been discussed since last February. 

At the meeting, Uber held up plastic bins with 10,000 blue and white ping pong balls, which the company said represented the 10,000 signatures on a petition demanding the service in New Orleans. 

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bike to Work Day? Try Bike to Work Week

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 6:03 PM

Cyclists commute during Bike to Work Week 2014 - DANIEL PASCHALL
  • Cyclists commute during Bike to Work Week 2014

Bike to Work Day, now in its fourth year, has been a staple of the growing cyclist and alternative transportation movement that continues to find its legs in New Orleans. This year, from April 13-17, local cycling advocacy group Bike Easy is turning a single day into an entire work week, with cycling challenges, events, a happy hour and a community forum it hopes will continue to promote the ever-growing popularity of two-wheel motion. 

Anneka Olson, Bike Easy's Community Education Manager, says the decision came from the organization's ambition to make the event even bigger than it has been in years past. "We've been able to grow every year," she says. "Last year we had over 750 riders participate, and we wanted to think more strategically about how we could continue to grow those numbers in a dramatic way. We thought that having these other events would make it possible for more people to participate."

Fear not: Bike to Work Day still exists, and it's April 15. This year, like last, riders can meet up for free coffee at designated meet-ups (exact addresses below the jump) in Algiers, Broadmoor, Gentilly, Mid-City and Uptown at 7 a.m. All of the neighborhood meet up trains will make their way to Lafayette Square, where Bike Easy, with the help of Bike to Work week sponsor Entergy, will serve free coffee and breakfast to participants from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

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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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