Tuesday, April 24, 2018

RTA: Streetcar expansion to Press Street 'not a priority' at this time

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2018 at 1:37 PM


During a somewhat contentious exchange at New Orleans Regional Transit Authority's (RTA's) monthly Board of Commissioners meeting, officials pushed back on the notion that a St. Claude Avenue streetcar expansion to Press Street — a project currently under environmental study — is among the organization's top priorities.

Officials were responding to criticism from Alex Posorske, executive director of transit watchdog group Ride New Orleans, who noted that the study — once thought to be shelved — was back on. He pointed to community engagement activities and online materials that suggest a more prominent place for this project in RTA's long-term plans. If undertaken, the expansion could potentially fuel a long-running perception by transit advocates and some members of the riding public that RTA is more invested in streetcar development than revitalizing its bus system. 

But Adelee Le Grand, RTA management company Transdev's chief strategy officer and project manager for the study, rejected the idea that the streetcar expansion is somehow of special importance to the organization. She said early discussions with neighborhood stakeholders have used carefully crafted talking points to explain that this is just an environmental study, which assesses the impact on the built and natural environment, should the organization decide to move forward. It should not be used to interpret anything about RTA's plans, and she said they've been very upfront that this is "not a priority" for the group at this time.

"We understand that everyone will not be on the same page" about the project, she said, and asked for "honesty and transparency" in portraying RTA's ambitions.

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Uber, Lyft and the 'snake bill' in the Louisiana legislature

Posted By on Fri, Apr 20, 2018 at 2:41 PM


State Capitol denizens have a code name for bills that are truly awful. They call them “snakes.” It’s an apt moniker because such bills tend to slither quietly through the legislative process without the press and public taking notice … until it’s too late.

Last year, transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft pushed a notorious “snake” bill that would have given loads of protection to TNCs but virtually none to passengers. The bill cleared the House easily but died in a Senate committee — after it garnered media and public attention, which is the best way to kill a snake bill.

This year, the TNCs are back with another snake that’s just as dangerous. For starters, Uber and Lyft convinced House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, to author their bill. Barras is a powerful lawmaker and an honorable guy. It’s a shame his good name is attached to HB 749.

I have nothing against TNCs. I use Uber regularly, in fact, because I know that my city requires strict background checks of drivers and offers strong protections for passengers. Barras’ bill would remove those protections and instead protect Uber and Lyft — and bar local governments from imposing stricter protections for passengers.

That’s only part of what makes Barras’ bill a snake.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Bike to Work Day returns April 11

Posted By on Wed, Apr 4, 2018 at 2:48 PM


Cyclists, rejoice: Bike Easy's annual Bike to Work Day is scheduled for Wednesday, April 11.

Now part of a monthlong cycling challenge hosted by the cycling advocacy organization, Bike to Work Day is designed to encourage bike commuting from different neighborhoods throughout the city. On that morning, bike trains depart from sites in Algiers, Uptown, Gentilly, Bywater, Mid-City, Broadmoor and Metairie at 7:15 a.m. for a meetup in Duncan Plaza from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. (A list of bike train departure points is here; you also can arrive at the meetup on your own schedule.)

Free coffee, breakfast food and bike tune-ups will be available at Duncan Plaza.

Ahead of Bike to Work Day, there's also a free workshop where you can learn to adjust your brakes at Dashing Bicycles (1234 N. Broad St.) on Monday, April 9.

More information is available on Bike Easy's website.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Kids, don't throw away those fake IDs; proposal to let 19- and 20-year-olds drink in Louisiana has been spiked

Posted By and on Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 5:20 PM

State Rep. Eric LaFleur's bill that would allow 19- and 20-year-olds to drink after completing an alcohol education course was withdrawn today. - PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD
  • State Rep. Eric LaFleur's bill that would allow 19- and 20-year-olds to drink after completing an alcohol education course was withdrawn today.

Sen. Eric LaFleur on Tuesday withdrew one of the most talked-about bills of the legislative session — his proposal to allow 19- and 20-year-olds to drink legally — amid fears that the state could lose federal highway funds.

LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, said he thought his bill, which would have required parental consent and alcohol education courses, would have led to more responsible drinking.

But state officials and other lawmakers said the state risked losing up to $600 million in highway construction funds under federal laws meant to encourage safer driving.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Blue Bikes integration, push notifications offered with new RTA app

Posted By on Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 9:29 PM


In a short presentation at a public meeting Tuesday night, New Orleans Regional Transit Authority officials offered a look at some decidedly modern features of the forthcoming redesign of its GoMobile app.

In apps for iPhone and Android, transit riders will be able to watch buses approach in real time in an animated GPS interface that shows exactly where the bus is on the line — similar to the tracking interface offered in ride-hailing or delivery apps. If there's a serious incident on the route (such as a breakdown or traffic event), riders will receive notifications; they can also sign up for push notifications for service alerts on lines they regularly ride.

A trip planner function, the ability to view real-time arrival time for the next three buses at a stop and viewing of multiple route maps in the same screen are other key capabilities.

The app also features integration with the Blue Bikes bike rental system that was installed citywide late last year. Riders will be able to use the app to find Blue Bikes stations near any bus stop, and check how many bikes currently are available for use at that station.

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Sen. John Neely Kennedy introduces his 'WOOFF Act,' and online commenters get snarky

Posted By on Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 3:42 PM

Woof indeed.
  • Woof indeed.

When a puppy died on a United airlines flight on Monday, Sen. John Neely Kennedy sprang into action, producing the cutely acronymed Welfare of Our Furry Friends (WOOFF) Act with Nevada Sen. Cortez Masto.
This did not go over well with a number of folks on social media, who noted Kennedy had yet to propose any legislation after a gunman killed 17 students at a Florida high school one month ago. A sampling of the blowback:

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

RTA's revamped mobile app is almost finished

Posted By on Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 5:12 PM


A revamped version of New Orleans Regional Transit Authority's (RTA's) GoMobile app could be released as soon as April, Transdev vice president Justin Augustine III said this morning.

The redesigned app, which is pending approval by RTA's Board of Commissioners, currently is in internal beta testing at the organization. Though the product is not yet finished, Augustine says the app should allow riders on the city's buses, streetcars and ferries to buy scannable single-ride fare tickets through their smartphones, which they'll be able to keep on their phones for up to 12 months. (The current app only offers the more expensive "Jazzy Pass" and monthly tickets, and stores purchases for just two weeks.)

Riders will be able to receive real-time updates to schedules and view the exact location of the bus or streetcar they're waiting for. There's also a feature that maps stops and routes near the user's current location. The new app connects to a modernized GPS system called CAD-AVL now being used by RTA.

The app has been in the works for almost a year and will be fully accessible for people with disabilities.

Augustine shared details about the app at a presentation about "The Future of Public Transit in New Orleans" hosted by New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau and attended by business leaders from the hospitality and tourism industries.

At the meeting, he presented an abridged version of the RTA's 20-year Strategic Mobility Plan and took questions from attendees about the possibility of light rail in New Orleans (in the immediate future, odds are slim, Augustine said).  He also discussed the challenges of helping employees at downtown businesses — particularly in the 24/7 hospitality industry — get to work on time, which he said is a top priority for the transit organization.

"We have to understand what's important to you. We have to understand what your employees need and want," he said. "The future of public transportation will be driven by you."

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Testy Algiers residents express doubts about pedestrian bridge project

Posted By on Mon, Feb 19, 2018 at 10:18 PM

New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) released this rendering of the new ferry terminal in December.
  • New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) released this rendering of the new ferry terminal in December.

A Feb. 19 meeting about a forthcoming pedestrian bridge over the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad tracks turned testy as Algiers residents peppered a lead architect with questions about the project's design.

The bridge, which intends to help ferry riders cross the tracks without long delays behind trains, was proposed after plans for a new terminal that did not include a bridge drew criticism from Algiers residents and other people who take the ferry. But the prevailing sense at Algiers Auditorium Monday was that too little had been done to incorporate rider input, leaving a terminal design and bridge location riders fear will expose them to the rain and heat as they move between the bridge, the ticket station and along gangways.

"Our extreme concern for shelter is over all of this. No one wants to get soaking wet," Connie Burks, an Algiers resident, said. "The idea of the unimpeded cone took more precedence."

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

RTA's list of Carnival and parade detours is posted

Posted By on Wed, Jan 24, 2018 at 3:00 PM


Carnival, that most delightful yet maddening time to live in New Orleans, is upon us. With it come all the usual hassles: nonexistent parking spaces, flat bike tires, barricades you have to walk 37 blocks to get past — plus big changes to public transit over the next three weekends.

New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) publishes an annual guide to its detours and route changes during the thick of parade season. Here's the link, which has sections for routes in Uptown, on the West Bank and in the French Quarter, as well as during Endymion and on Fat Tuesday.

In general, some advice and highlights:

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Bike Easy is looking for some 'ambassadors' to advocate for cyclists and pedestrians

Posted By on Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Bike Easy members gather at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
  • Bike Easy members gather at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Transit advocacy group Bike Easy has put out a call for applications for its Complete Streets Ambassador program, which trains community members to advocate for cyclists, pedestrians and people who take public transit. The three-month, relatively low-commitment program accepts applications through Feb. 2.

After taking part in a weekend training, Complete Streets Ambassador participants will spend about three hours each week working on neighborhood projects, telling their transportation story at community meetings and collaborating on Bike Easy initiatives. It'd probably be a good way to dip a toe in community organizing and to learn about grassroots activism.

Ambassadorship applicants should regularly walk, bike or ride the bus in the greater metropolitan area and have an interest in developing neighborhood groups. People of color and people with low incomes are especially encouraged to apply; a few small ($400) stipends are available.

Previous Complete Streets Ambassadors built a pop-up protected bikeway on St. Bernard Avenue and lobbied for protected bike lanes in Kenner neighborhoods.

The program is part of Bike Easy's greater Complete Streets initiative, which encourages more equitable transit in New Orleans neighborhoods. "Complete streets" are designed with the safety and well-being of every kind of transit user in mind, including pedestrians, people on bikes and motorists.

An application for the program is available online. Applications also can be submitted to or to Bike Easy's offices at 2100 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.

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