We don’t play favorites when it comes to bus or streetcar. We simply want what’s going to get New Orleans transit riders where they need to go quickly and comfortably.
But because of that, we were very concerned that the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) studied a streetcar extension on two small sections of St. Claude and Elysian Fields in 2017 and 2018. We believe this is a short-sighted way to use limited planning dollars. And we worry that continuing to move forward could harm forward progress on important improvements needed for bus and streetcar lines city-wide.
As of Fall 2018, the RTA board has said this idea is on hold until the completion of the New Links process so there is no immediate chance of this moving forward. But transit riders should watch this issue warily.
And while we can understand the attraction of the concept of a streetcar, community members should consider what they really want from this corridor before any move to unpause this study. If what is needed is fast, frequent, and reliable transit, a streetcar may not be the way to go, considering how poorly the streetcars perform in other parts of the city. There are many other ways to improve existing service and at the very least, there should be more discussion about how to ensure expensive transit investments don’t get caught in traffic like everything else.
And if economic development or neighborhood transformation is what is desired – often the true goal of any streetcar project – the community should have an open discussion on that topic before pushing to spend large amounts of RTA money for that purpose.