Up To Speed

New Orleans streetcar line to get Super Bowl debut

New Orleans streetcar line to get Super Bowl debut.

New Orleans is poised to host the Super Bowl for the 10th time this February, and the first time since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. One of the many things The Big Easy is doing to prepare for the Super Bowl is accelerate the extension of its streetcar line in order to open it in time for the visiting crowds. More from USA Today:

For many locals, the streetcar is seen as more than a show of Super Bowl pizzazz. On Canal Street, travelers will be able to hop onto other streetcars and get to the nearby French Quarter, the National World War II Museum, the Cemetery District, the oaks of Audubon Park, the mansions of St. Charles Avenue and the art museum, golf courses and lagoons of City Park.

Funding comes from a $45 million federal transportation grant. The U.S. Department of Transportation is funding similar lines in other cities to connect long-distance railway travelers to streetcars. The target is a traveler like Lawrence Freeman, a 50-year-old photographer from Seattle. He had recently arrived at the Union Passenger Terminal by train from Washington, getting in late one evening. He walked from the train station to his hotel.

Up To Speed

New Orleans to lose its daily newspaper

New Orleans to lose its daily newspaper.

The biggest metropolitan region in Louisiana, New Orleans, will soon lose its last daily newspaper. As the Cincinnati Enquirer continues to cut staff and reduce print size, what might the downsizing of the Times-Picayune forecast for Cincinnati? More from Next American City:

Another outcome, this one more tangible and particular to New Orleans, is that the downsizing of The Times-Picayune disrupts the narrative of post-Katrina recovery. This disruption chips away at the image of an ascendant New Orleans. While the nuance of the newspaper’s cuts reveal that its media-giant owner, Newhouse, is simply testing a profit model on a mid-market city rather than making cuts based on on demographics of its readership, that nuance is often lost in transmission.


Nola tearing down the elevated I-10 over Claiborne?

Tearing down a major interstate highway through the heart of a major metropolitan area sounds crazy right? Wrong. Past case studies have shown that this has been done in places like San Francisco, Milwaukee and Portland, and has resulted in higher qualities of life and with little to no harm caused to driving times.

This topic is always a popular one with those in the Urban Planning/Design profession, and with a new planning interest in New Orleans post-Katrina the recipe might be just right for the demolition of Interstate 10 through the Treme neighborhood. Like many urban neighborhoods of the early to mid 20th Century, Treme was a once vibrant, unique and local that centered around its grand North Claiborne Avenue. What happened was the injection of the interstate system that plowed through Treme like many other neighborhoods including Cincinnati’s West End and downtown area.

The transition in Claiborne was even more intense as a grand boulevard was replaced by an elevated highway which facilitated the downward spiral of the neighborhood. Many older Nola residents remember North Claiborne Avenue as being the “black people’s Canal Street.” This is important as French Quarter activists were able to block a highway from tearing through their neighborhood which left the Treme neighborhood vulnerable to the interstate system’s wrath…and with that North Claiborne Avenue was gone.

North Claiborne Avenue in 1966 (left) and 2009 (right) – Source and Source

As with many urban neighborhoods across America, Treme is redeveloping and becoming attractive to residents once again. One problem though is that I-10 has caused lower property values and interest for those properties within its immediate vicinity (the exact opposite effect of transit service).

As Nola moves forward with its potential plans to tear down I-10 through Treme (area map), what can be learned? In addition to past examples (listed above) cities like Chattanooga, Buffalo, Seattle and Trenton are all considering the option of tearing out highways through their cities.

Cincinnati narrowed and buried its Fort Washington Way that connects I-71 with I-75 through the heart of downtown and its riverfront property, but could this have instead been removed with traffic instead utilizing the underused Central Parkway and Liberty Street, or even connecting via I-275? What about the Norwood Lateral that ate up the right-of-way that had been preserved for Cincinnati’s planned subway system?

These are important questions as Cincinnati examines how it is going to handle the $1 billion reconstruction of the Brent Spence Bridge, $1 billion reconstruction of I-75 through the Mill Creek Valley and considers the options of upgrading US 50 West to highway status via the 6th Street Expressway through Queensgate, and even possibly extending I-74 east through the city and its eastern suburbs so that it could eventually connect to Washington D.C. per the original Interstate Highway Plan – both of which present untold hundreds of millions (potentially billions) of dollars of public expense.

Are we going to continue to move forward with an antiquated view of transportation planning straight out of the Robert Moses playbook, or will Cincinnati too start to re-examine how it goes about planning for its city and its residents that make it special?


NolaCycle Bike Map Project

New Orleans, and its residents, are working to make the city a better place post-Katrina. One of those efforts is the creation of a “high-quality cycling map of New Orleans” that has engaged the community in a way that is truly special.

Lauren Sullivan, a soon to be School of Planning graduate, has been working closely members of the community, fellow bicyclists and Planners from the New Orleans area and started the whole project. Much work has already been completed and before the end of this year free maps will be available in print and online to help cyclists navigate New Orleans.

The final maps will include information about pavement quality, car travel speeds, lane widths, and other special caution areas for cyclists. This comprehensive data collection process was made possible through the help of volunteers that primarily participated in mapping events that made the whole process more of a social gathering. Volunteers also participated in the innovative NolaCycle DIY mapping (think wiki-style involvement in the real world) – see video below for more details.

The grassroots project has already garnered national attention and is currently in the process of applying for grants to help fund the remaining work. At this stage the group could use your help in receiving a $500 micro-credit loan through New Orleans’ Crescent City Farmers Market. The Farmers Market has opened the process up to voting, and you can help the NolaCycle cause by voting for the project.

The process is fascinating as it employs an innovative way to gather and engage community support. In the end, the community will have complete ownership, of the project, and will have also poured in tons of hours to help make it reality. This engagement organizes a group of people to create a new community asset for no cost at all to the taxpayers of New Orleans. For more on the project check out this brief video from The Times-Picayune.

UPDATE: NolaCycle was one of three winners of the $500 micro-credit loan