Home > Newsroom > Message from the RTA Chairwoman 03-13

Message from the RTA Chairwoman 03-13

Message from the Chairwoman of the RTA

Since 1893 streetcars have carried the citizens of New Orleans to school, work, play and worship. The 13.2 mile St. Charles Line – the oldest continuously operating streetcar in the world – runs along historic St. Charles and Carrollton Avenues. In 1988 the 2 mile Riverfront line was opened running from the French Market to the Aquarium of the Americas. In 2004 the RTA reopened the Canal Street line which runs a 4.64 mile route from the French Market, along Canal Street through the Central Business District and into Mid- City, ending at City Park Avenue and the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park.

On January 28, 2013, with great fanfare, and led up Loyola Avenue by the St. Augustine High School Marching 100 Band, the 1.6 mile Loyola Avenue/Union Passenger Terminal loop made its maiden voyage. The Loyola/UPT loop is a great addition to the service we provide to the citizens and visitors and an important piece of the legacy that we will leave this city as Commissioners of the agency. Like most New Orleanians we all have memories of riding the historic streetcars in New Orleans. Commissioner Roth has fond memories of being all dressed up, riding the streetcar with her mother and grandmother, window shopping at the big stores. She remembers riding on Sunday afternoons and singing Christmas carols with the Lutheran Church on the St. Charles streetcar.

Commissioner Sharon Wegner recalls the St. Charles streetcar as her source of transportation to Loyola University where she worked on her Bachelor’s degree at night, to her job in the Central Business District and to the bus stop that would bring her home. "Without the transit system," Commissioner Wegner recalls, "I would not have had a way to go to school, so I always remember it as a vital part of my life and without it, probably would not be where I am today."

Commissioner Tillery remembers his service in the United States Navy and being told to always wear his uniform on leave – particularly in the South. He recalls his first ride on the streetcar, approaching the front door in his uniform and being told to enter through the back door and sit behind the sign. Years later he remembers another visit to New Orleans when the signs were gone. Even then he remembers the tension between Black and White passengers as the city struggled with desegregation, and more importantly, struggled to embrace the rights of all citizens regardless of race.

Like Commissioner Tillery I also have memories of streetcar rides from the back, behind a screen in the section reserved for people of color, and as Chair of the Board this memory guides my leadership of the agency. And while the opening of the Loyola/UPT line was celebrated as the fastest rail project in the nation, catalyzing over $2 billion in private sector economic development activity, the launch of the line was only one component of the 2013 service plan implemented on that Monday morning – only one part of an overall transit service plan designed to enhance services for all citizens in all neighborhoods. As the St. Augustine High School Marching 100 Band led the first car on the Loyola/UPT line, riders on the Canal Streetcar, the Tulane Bus serving Carrollton and Mid-City and the Morrison and Lake Forest buses serving Eastern New Orleans all had their wait times reduced by an average of 10 minutes. Citizens in Central City and Uptown got more service on the Martin Luther King, Jr., Napoleon and Magazine Street bus lines. Gentilly got the large articulated buses on Broad Street to provide more seats for more passengers. Residents in the Lower Ninth Ward got more access to the Bywater, Marigny and CBD Commercial corridors. We listened to our riders and put the Algiers Loop where our Westbank riders said service was needed.

We will always have with us our memories of public transit in New Orleans – back of the bus behind a sign and seated up front with pride at the successful launch of the new line. These memories, good and bad, ground us in a commitment to equity and serve as a constant reminder of who we serve – the citizens of New Orleans and the region -- every citizen, in every neighborhood.

Barbara C. Major


Regional Transit Authority Board of Commissioners

RTA Facts
RTA Streetcar Lines
13.2 Mile St. Charles Streetcar Line
4.64 Mile Canal Streetcar Line
2 Mile Riverfront Line
1.6 Mile Loyola/UPT Line
2.6 Mile Rampart Streetcar Line Coming Soon!

Reprinted from the letter for the Tribune, February 2012

Loading. Please wait.