The South's Latest Streetcar: Loyola Avenue Streetcar

February 4, 2013 3 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Already home to the nation's oldest, continuously operating streetcar line, New Orleans is also the city with the nation's newest.

While the super bowl festivities are over, economic benefits will continue to flow in New Orleans with the January 28, 2013 opening of the $52 million Loyloa Avenue streetcar line.

Stretching 0.8 route miles (1.6 track miles), the state-of-the-art double tracked alignment operates between Union Passenger Terminal, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and the Canal Street streetcar line.

This project is a result of lobbying efforts partically on the part of a local advocacy group called Ride New Orleans.  The group was founded in 2009 to advocate for the RTA to construct a streetcar extension for residents as opposed to a previous project designed to cater to tourist.

Rachel Heiligman, executive director of transit riders' advocacy group Ride New Orleans, noted that in 2009 the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA) announced a streetcar-extension program focused on building a line on the Convention Blvd. neutral grounds. "That proposal would have served tourists over residents and duplicated service that the Riverfront streetcar line offers to the Convention Center," she said. NORTA opened the Riverfront line in1988 and expanded it in 1997.

The prospect of a Convention Blvd. line spurred the founding of Ride New Orleans, Heiligman said. "Advocates convinced the NORTA to shift its support to a Loyola Ave., N. Rampart Street and St. Claude Avenue line," she said.

A map of the Loyola Avenue Streetcar Line.

In 2010, the NORTA won a $45 million TIGER grant to pay for the new Loyola Avenue extension by meeting the U.S. Department of Transportation's grant requirements for projects that made multi-modal connections and have regional impact.  The Loyola Avenue project does this by connects Union Passenger Terminal, the post office, the Hyatt Regency Hotel, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, City Hall, the public library and downtown hospitals with the existing historic streetcar system.

Featuring spacious solar-lit stations and connecting the Superdome, Amtrak and intercity bus service with the French Quarter, the line is already spurring transit oriented development in the area.  One project underway is the $185 million South Market District.  South Market is intended to be a mixed-use, transit-oriented development combining 500 luxury apartments with 170,000 square feet of retail, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

South Market District locator map courtesy of

With the Loyola line now up and running, the NORTA is working on plans to expand the streetcar network to additional areas of the city.

Existing and proposed streetcar lines.

When will Jacksonville recognize and take advantage of the strong link between fixed transit and private sector transit oriented development to spur economic growth and job creation within its own boundaries?

Article by Ennis Davis