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RTA’s new ADA streetcars enter service on St. Charles line

12/1/2020

New Orleans – Today, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) held a ribbon cutting for its ADA compliant streetcars along the St. Charles route at its Willow Street Streetcar Maintenance Facility.  The three new streetcars are equipped with wheelchair lifts at the front and rear of each car to better accommodate riders with limited mobility and those who use wheelchairs and walkers. To help riders identify the ADA compliant streetcars, the new cars are marked with the universal accessibility icon on the front and side indicating ADA accessibility. 

"Today signifies an important milestone for the ADA community, RTA, and the city as a whole,” said Flozell Daniels, Jr., Chairman, RTA Board of Commissioners. “The entrance into service of ADA compliant streetcars highlights the importance of the RTA’s Board of Commissioner’s commitment to accessibility for all riders and building equitable transit system.” 

The project also included modification of 12 St. Charles Streetcar Line stops, six inbound and six outbound. These stations were rebuilt to feature platforms wide enough for streetcar operators to safely deploy streetcars Limited Mobility (ADA) Ramps, installation of yellow tactile warning strips, installation of protective bollards, and re-grading stations to provide level ADA compliant surfaces.  The project was jointly funded by RTA and the City of New Orleans with $160,000 for engineering and construction administrative services and $400,000 for engineering costs. 

“On this, the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we are reminded of how transportation is as much an equity issue as it is an infrastructure issue. This administration has been intentional in the way we seek to provide equitable transportation options. Bringing the St. Charles Streetcar line into compliance for people with disabilities is a major example of this commitment. I want to thank my infrastructure team for doing the work on the ground, our ADA Administrator Eva M. Hurst for her diligence, the RTA leadership team for updating the streetcars, and the City Council for being invaluable partners in helping us literally move this city forward,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. 

“As the RTA continues to prioritize the needs of riders, our commitment to creating accessible transit options is critical”, said Alex Z. Wiggins, CEO, RTA. “Beginning today, transit riders with limited mobility will be able to more easily enjoy our iconic and historic St. Charles Streetcar line, a service long overdue for New Orleans residents and visitors.  This project is the first and important step in creating a completely accessible transit system.” 

Dating back to 1835, the St. Charles Streetcar Line is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the United States.  The line travels from the edge of the French Quarter all the way down St. Charles Avenue terminating at Carrollton Avenue and S. Claiborne Avenue. The line is a National Historic Landmark featuring the famed green and crimson “Perley Thomas” streetcars. Each streetcar is entirely fabricated in house by our skilled team of artisans at the Willow Streetcar Barn. 

The new ADA St. Charles Streetcars are three retrofitted Riverfront streetcars.  Each ADA streetcar required 1200-man hours to convert the Riverfront streetcars into replicas of the St. Charles cars. The cars were painted inside and out to match the Perley Thomas cars in almost every way. Riders will also experience a smoother ride due to the cars different propulsion system which is more in line with light rail on our other streetcar routes.   

“As an RTA Commissioner and as a transit accessibility advocate, I am excited the RTA is entering its new ADA accessible streetcars into to service today,” said Mark Raymond, Vice Chair RTA Board of Commissioners. “The modification of the historic St. Charles Streetcars and streetcar stops is a great first step in achieving the Board of Commissioner’s goal of building a fully ADA accessible transit system that serves all transit riders regardless of an individual's level of mobility”. 

"Public transportation provides a lifeline to jobs, education, and medical care for residents of all abilities and ages, and we must ensure that every rider can access our city's transportation system. This project reinforces that commitment, and it is a terrific first step to getting us closer than ever in providing a world-class transit system," said Transportation Chair, Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer. 

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