REOPENED STREETCAR LINE BRINGS BOOST IN
More choose it for Canal Transit
The Times Picayune, 08/16/04
By Kimberly Melton
Adam Tracey's ride to
work is about 30 minutes longer these days, but it is also significantly
cheaper. Tracey has been riding the Canal Street streetcar to work since the
line opened in late April.
"It costs $175 to park
across the street from our office in the Central Business District," said
Tracey, who works at Peter A. Mayer Advertising. "I used to park in the
French Quarter and pay $135 and walk, but the streetcar is only $55 per
He now parks his car
for free near Jefferson Davis Parkway and hops on the streetcar for the trip
downtown, flashing his monthly pass.
It also doesn't hurt
that his company pays for RTA passes. "This is working," Tracey said. "Why
spend the extra money?"
Tracey is one of many
new riders that the streetcar has seen since reopening the line April 18. In
May, June and July, the streetcar and the two express buses that serve Canal
Street had about 260,000 more riders than the buses had during the same time
Gerald Robichaux, the
RTA's deputy general manager for operations, said he expected an increase in
riders with the addition of the bright red cars to the fleet, but not to
"For a transit
industry to have increased ridership in this day and time is a tremendous
boost to what we do," Robichaux said. "The streetcar is an integral part in
helping us make that leap."
Robichaux said he
expected that some people would abandon their cars and hop on the streetcar
to get to work. "I think in the long term we are looking at possibly moving
our terminal at the cemeteries to Canal Boulevard or some other location
that would offer more parking," Robichaux said.
Though the streetcar
has been getting high marks from many of its riders, the line has had its
share of delays and problems in keeping a consistent schedule, accommodating
disabled riders and making dollar bills fit into the fare machines.
The RTA has changed
its schedule a couple of times to one that Robichaux said is more realistic,
considering issues such as wheelchair access and slow fare machines.
Still, Carol Anderson
said she was happier on the bus. "It is faster, and it holds more people,"
Anderson said. "I have to leave my house about 20 minutes earlier than I
Robichaux said riders
shouldn't expect the streetcar to be as fast or keep the same schedule as
the bus that previously served Canal Street. Riders can get down Canal
faster riding the West End or the Canal Boulevard express buses during peak
hours. Robichaux said he is looking at ways to reduce the long lines that
often form as people try to fit their bills into the fare machine.
"We are looking at
installing a vending machine that can actually read the bill when it comes
into box instead of just accepting it," he said. "We are also looking at
installing more machines that would sell tokens to riders."
Jamie Smith said that
riding the streetcar has been a more pleasant experience overall than riding
the bus down to her riverfront office. "Apart from the first week, I have
not noticed any major problems," Smith said. "The streetcar is certainly
Katy Medders' car
broke down about a month ago, but she said she is in no rush to get it
fixed. Instead of driving, Medders has been riding the Canal streetcar to
work each day.
"I used to drive and
park, but this is 10 times cheaper," she said. "I can even put on my makeup
on the way to work, but I draw the line at nail polish."
Robichaux said the
streetcar's benefits go far beyond the obvious impacts on riders. "It has
also helped with the ambiance of the street and to enhance our downtown,"
Robichaux said. "The downtowns that have recently come alive again, most of
them have some rail or streetcar system that complements the downtown area."
Tracey said more
streetcars in New Orleans would be a welcome sight. "I think this city needs
more streetcars," he said. "I have never seen an empty streetcar on this
Once school begins,
the RTA also plans to print new schedules to accommodate students.