New Loyola streetcar leads to calls for Masterplan
5th February 2013 · 0 Comments
By Christopher Tidmore,
Flanked by the Marching 100 of St. Augustine High School, two streetcars piled down the new Loyola Ave. route on the Monday before the Super Bowl. Defying worries that the CBD would still be mired in a ripped up streets and uncompleted tracks, the RTA managed to have the new Amtrak to Canal Street route open in time to carry tourists to the Superdome.
The first ride of the new red trolleys raised hopes that money will be found to extend the route down Rampart St. and St. Claude avenues and eventually as far as Poland Ave. The first new streetcar line in New Orleans in more than a decade should mark the rebirth of the historic, yet strangely modern form of Public Transport, ex?plained Kristen Palmer, Coun?cilwoman for District B. But, she added, “We won’t reach that potential until we have a master plan for streetcars…And, a masterplan for public transport in general.”
Palmer, the Councilwoman for the French Quarter, Treme, Marig?ny, St Roch, and Algiers, told The Louisiana Weekly in an interview just minutes after the Loyola Route embarked its first passengers that the new Loyola route should not just lead to an extension down Rampart onto St. Claude Ave. and the Bywater, but should be the trigger for light rail projects around the city and the region.
More importantly, perhaps, it should be an indication that New Orleans needs an integrative transportation strategy that includes ferry services and bike paths to create an easier intermodal quality of life for drivers and non-drivers alike.
New Orleanians attitudes to?wards streetcars is schizophrenic, Councilwoman Palmer agreed. “It is. Most people like them, but they think they are for tourists. Eighty percent of the ridership are locals.”
Study after study has confirmed that young professionals and urban pioneers are more likely to invest in homes in neighborhoods where streetcars are within walking proximity.
It is a reality to Palmer, who prior to her election to the Council C seat, worked for the Preservation Resource Center’s efforts to rehabilitate Tremé and St Roch.
Concern for lifelong residents as well as new investment made the preservationist expert begin to see streetcars as a means to serve poor communities and draw in new investment. It began a campaign on her part to expand streetcars around the region, and in particular, in her district.
“That’s why we need a masterplan…We need to have a vision of where there is the most need, and how to serve it,” she explained. Right now, development of streetcar lines is a somewhat haphazard process. Currently expanding the Loyola line into a “Streetcar Named Desire” that would initially run down Rampart to Elysian Fields Ave, and eventually to Poland Ave. and beyond and a potential line down Convention Center Blvd. are the only ones on the drawing board.
Others have spoken of expanding the Loyola line down Martin Luther King to Claiborne Ave and down into Jefferson Parish, as well as other lines. “There is just no plan on paper,” Palmer grieved. “I’ll tell you one thing, though. I’m going to extend the Loyola Line into the Ninth Ward or die trying!”
This article was originally published in the February 4, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper