Public Transit Tuesdays: Veterans

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After cursing out RTA's automated phone service, suffering through a city tour-esque streetcar ride and crossing that super-scary Canal Street-Canal Boulevard-City Park Avenue intersection to get from the Canal streetcar to the Veterans bus, I was looking forward to a relaxing ride down Veterans Boulevard; I figured I'd find a few cool stores, grab something yummy to eat and be on my way back home to the 7th Ward by 4 p.m. After all, everything is in Metairie on Veterans Boulevard—right?

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Find out why this bus ride was so frustrating after the jump.

Before I get into my Jefferson Transit experience, please let me vent about today's RTA issues:

Why are stop ID signs not at all major stops and why are so many of the new bus location monitors already broken or out of sync? I live near St. Bernard and Broad, a major RTA destination.There's a stop ID sign at the St. Bernard bus stop, but not across the street at the Broad bus stop; there are bus location monitors at both stops, but the one at the St. Bernard stop has been broken longer than it worked and the one at the Broad bus stop was first out of sync, now frozen—a joke among riders. I called RTA's automated line to get stop times for the Broad bus, but had to dial "0" for the operator since there was no stop ID sign. Dialed "0," was disconnected. Tried again, same thing. Called back, said "zero," rang, was disconnected. Tried again, same thing. Called back, cursed at the automated system instead of saying "zero," was looked at like a psycho, but felt better. Realized I left my camera's memory card in my laptop at home. D'oh! I must admit, the RTA is getting better (schedules and rider alerts on buses, online trip planner, mobile site, high-capacity accordion buses) and hopefully now that they've joined the Google Transit Partner Program, they'll continue doing so.

The Canal streetcar is a fun way to get around, but some streetcar operators like to try out their tour guide skills on the job, driving super slowly, frustrating the locals. Being an unofficial tour guide is an unwritten requirement for many New Orleans jobs, but the locals should come first. This is why my fellow RTA riders and I dread riding during touristy events. The Canal streetcar and buses are always packed, moving slowly to cater to the tourists; when we locals go out of town, other transit authorities don't cater to us—and they shouldn't! Planning beforehand isn't hard, neither is asking locals for directions.

(on the bus)

I learned today that having a productive Veterans bus adventure is all about which bus you ride. The Veterans bus I boarded in the beginning of my trip (above) had an advertisement covering it's windows, so I couldn't see much: nothing on side streets and only big places on Vets. The bus was very clean—even with upholstered seats.

My boss was sweet enough to let me borrow her memory card since I had forgotten mine, but it kept filling up, even after deleting most of the pictures. So my first stop was to Best Buy (6205 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 780-0172; www.bestbuy.com.) I learned that my dinosaur of a digital camera (Casio Exilim-Z850, 2006) only recognizes older SD cards and not newer SDHC cards. Oops. After getting a new old SD card, I walked around the strip mall next door, just to see if there was anything worth seeing.

I saw Grand Vision (6601 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 322-7525; www.mygvllc.com) and wandered in to see if they could help me with some issues I had been having with my new glasses. Even though I was a walk-in, the staff was friendly and Dr. Musselman quickly figured out the problem (incorrect pupillary distance, P.D.) leaving me with new lenses in about an hour. There were many name brand frames including Jimmy Choo, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and Armani Exchange, and Dr. Musselman told me one of his specialties is Keratoconus, an eye disease which causes multiple images, light sensitivity and streaking.

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(back on the bus)


The Veterans bus #411 is perfect for a bus adventure! There's a time and date marquee in the front, graduated seating, a fun print on the seats and announcements about approaching connections. Now I was pumped about the trip—my camera was working, my glasses were fixed, all I had to do was find some interesting places.

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That's where I was stumped. I knew there were a lot of chains in Metairie, but I never paid attention to how many were on Vets. When I reached the end of the line, Williams and 25th, I thought about stopping at Taco Tico but voted against it, as I didn't want it to seem like this feature is "Megan Does Mexican Martes" (exhibit A, B).

Now that I'm looking at their website, I'm thinking I should've gone to Perret's Army Surplus (2514 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 466-2532; www.perretsarmysurplus.com) to check out the tents and all-weather writing supplies, but I was hoping I'd see some other interesting, non-chain stores on the opposite side of Veterans, since my vision was obstructed on my beginning ride.

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(back on the bus)

I was confused when I got back on the bus since the side sign said it was the Airport bus, but the front said it was a Veterans bus. The driver told me to ignore the side signs since they aren't always accurate.

Again, I saw mostly chains and didn't really want to waste money by stopping when I saw just one quirky place, since Jefferson Transit buses don't have day passes either. That's one huge advantage of riding with the RTA. Before Katrina, patrons could ride both Jefferson Parish and RTA buses with an RTA day pass, and I'm sure ridership would increase if all the bus services worked together again.

To make the most of my bus adventure, I stopped in Lakeside Shopping Center (3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 835-8000; www.lakesideshopping.com) to find some pieces for the upcoming CUE. I saw that Storyville has a booth, which is new to me, even though it's been there since August.

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While in the ladies' room, I overheard a woman say to her elementary-school age son as she watched him use the restroom, "Aaron got a big ol' bird!" I could only shake my head. This pretty much ended my Lakeside visit.

I found all the local stores! They're all behind Lakeside and on other side streets that I couldn't see before because of the ad covering the windows of the bus!

BSI Comics (3030 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-5250; www.bsicomics.com) has been in business since the late '70s, originally on Fairfield Street in Metairie, under the name Book Swap Incorporated. When graphic novels were introduced, the store changed focus to a comic book store, but didn't want to alienate customers by changing the name, so they shortened it to BSI. BSI features the largest selection of comic books and graphic novels in the greater New Orleans area and has statues, vinyl, toys, stickers, posters and comic book preservation supplies.

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Another nifty shop behind Lakeside is Lakeside News (3323 Severn Ave., Metairie, 889-1425). The newsstand is open from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily, but was open 24/7 before Katrina. There are reading materials for everyone, including foreign magazines and foreign editions of popular stateside magazines, horror magazines like Fangoria and HorrorHound, martial arts magazines, non-local newspapers, Super Bowl XLIV collectors' periodicals and NOLA-centric books. There's even a nice size section of cigars.

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After all this I was hungry, and again feeling poor from having to spend so much money on bus fare. I've seen the Egg Roll House (3507 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 887-9364) on Vets for as long as I can remember and there's always a line in the drive-thru, so I figured I'd give it a shot. It's a kitschy little place, and the food was okay. Of course I ordered egg rolls, and I can't have egg rolls without fried rice. The mushrooms in the mushroom fried rice threw me off a bit, as they looked like canned mushrooms which gross me out. They also sell sushi, but I couldn't picture myself eating sushi there—I can be a snob sometimes. Service was really quick though and the food pretty much met my expectations, so I can see myself trying Egg Roll House again.

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I hope you enjoyed our bus adventure! Let's do it again next Tuesday! Here are some outtakes from this bus adventure.

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