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The Net Takeaway: Back in New Orleans for a bit...


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Back in New Orleans for a bit... · 04/17/2004 06:10 PM, Personal

I grew up here in New Orleans, La. Its very similar to Boston with its emphasis on history and its own way of seeing things.

I came back for my mother’s headstone dedication, not a happy reason to come back. But it provides some closure, and a chance for family to gather, and reflect.

The city is celebrating (well, its always celebrating, but this week…) the opening, or re-opening, of the Canal St. Streetcar Line (more here). Most people are used to the streetcars on St. Charles Ave.,

But in 1925, streetcars were everywhere. You could get from one end of New Orleans to the other, out to the lake (Lake Pontchartrain), and all the places in between. The advent of buses started to kill that off, and by 1970, most of the streetcar lines were destroyed, replaced by buses and roads. St. Charles was one of the only ones left, and was added to the National Register to protect it.

But what do you know… tourists love the streetcars. And the opening of a line down by the old 1984 World’s Fair area off the Mississippi has been very popular (linking the French Quarter, the Casino (Harrah’s), and the Riverwalk (formerly the World’s Fair)).

Notice the red color, vs. the green of the traditional old cars…

So, this new expansion of the streetcars along Canal St., links City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art (holding one of the finest collection of Faberge eggs and jewelry in the world) with the rest of the city, a huge step for tourists. It was impossible to get out there without a car when you were staying Uptown or in the Quarter.

Canal St. is not the nicest of places. Its really gone downhill since the 50s, when it was a nice place to shop. While some attempts have been made to revitalize it (most notably the opening of the Ritz), its still full of tacky souvenir shops, athletic gear discounters, and unsavory characters as evening draws near. If you visit New Orleans, you will probably drive along this street as you come into the Quarter or the convention area… but you won’t have spent any time on it. So, this streetcar move is a good way to start giving commercial interests a reason to clean up a bit for the tourists.

What’s most interesting to me is that they put back the lines they had spent years removing, pulling out bus lanes and putting back the old tracks. Years of “technological advances in transportation” have been summarily ripped out. They’ve modernized things a bit (air conditioning and handicapped accessibility in the new streetcars), but for the most part, its really a step backwards.

And that’s just the way New Orleans likes it.

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