Earlier this month, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) presented preliminary plans for the streetcar that eventually will link Canal Street to Elysian Fields Avenue along North Rampart Street and St. Claude Avenue.
Among the plans revealed at the March 6 meeting was news that the streetcar car would not occupy space on the neutral ground, nor would it have its own dedicated transit lane. Instead, the streetcar will share the left lane with traffic — except during peak traffic hours, when that lane will be reserved exclusively for the streetcar.
Last year, as planning was underway, the transit advocacy group Ride New Orleans gathered letters of support for a dedicated lane. A letter signed by all members of the New Orleans City Council added that under the city's master plan (which carries the force of law), transit projects should evolve to include "dedicated lanes away from automobile traffic." The Bywater Neighborhood Association, North Rampart and St. Claude Main Street organizations, the University of New Orleans and French Quarter Citizens sent similar letters.
At the March 6 meeting, RTA General Manager Justin Augustine said he fully supports a dedicated lane, but the RTA compromised with the city. Ryan Berni, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu, pointed to traffic studies that showed a "negative" impact on traffic if a lane were removed. — Alex Woodward