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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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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