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Five years after the long-awaited return of streetcars to Canal Street, New Orleans transit officials are hoping to cash in on a rare opportunity to bring the popular service to other parts of the city.
Amid an expanded array of federal financing options and heightened local enthusiasm, the Regional Transit Authority is weighing the prospects of building as many as three new streetcar lines in the coming years. Although a $1.5 billion pool of federal dollars earmarked for transportation projects is fueling optimism, securing the estimated $200 million total needed for the three proposed lines remains a daunting challenge.
The new proposals being considered by the RTA call for laying tracks along the North Rampart Street and St. The brightest prospect for financing is a component of President Barack Obama's stimulus package known as the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant program.
Because the RTA projects are already on the drawing boards, local officials think they might have an advantage over other transit agencies. The Federal Transit Administration is also a potential source of funding, although it generally requires that half of the money be locally generated. Augustine said the new routes could be paid for through municipal bonds, a public-private partnership with businesses near the proposed streetcar lines, or a tax-increment financing district where a portion of all sales-tax revenue generated would help pay for the new streetcars.
Private-sector participation was key to making the Riverfront streetcar line a reality in 1988. James Amdal, president of the Riverfront Transit Coalition from 1984 until 1991, recalls that in the years after the 1984 World's Fair, as much as $1.3 billion worth of development was planned along the central riverfront, including the Ernest N.
Those entities, along with the Downtown Development District, all contributed to the Riverfront project. Advocates of the proposed Convention Center Boulevard and Loyola Avenue projects say those lines might be best positioned to attract private money.
Transit officials see new streetcar lines as critical to its strategy for rebuilding ridership, which is less than a third of what it was before Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of its infrastructure.

Proponents argue that streetcars do much more than provide transportation, generating excitement and economic development in ways that buses do not.
In fact, the latest ridership figures released by the RTA show that nearly half of the boardings so far this year have come on the St.
Supporters of the proposed downtown line point to contradictory trends in the areas as justification for why it should be made a priority.
A new streetcar line could support the expansion of the arts community and spur the redevelopment of the neighborhoods that line the corridor.
Cesar Burgos, chairman of the RTA board, said the board could vote to pursue all, some or none of the options. The French Quarter loop would travel along North Rampart Street from Canal Street to either Elysian Fields Avenue or Press Street and would connect with the Riverfront streetcar line at Esplanade and Elysian Fields avenues. Depending on routing, it would cost between $64 million and $86 million and span about four miles. The Convention Center Boulevard line would travel uptown from Canal Street via Tchoupitoulas and Poydras streets to Convention Center Boulevard. The proposed Union Passenger Terminal route would travel along Loyola Avenue between Canal Street and the Greyhound and Amtrak terminals.
One advantage of this route is that the Federal Transit Administration favors projects that offer "multimodality," or connections between different types of transit like intercity buses and trains with municipal buses and streetcars.
Work on the $161 million Canal Street line, which debuted in April 2004, spanned about 15 years from conception to completion. Unlike traditional forms of federal aid that require local matches of as much as 50 percent, the $1.5 billion fund will pay 100 percent of the construction costs of selected projects. Much of the real estate in those areas is controlled by large hotels and developers with deep pockets.

Claude because the developers that may be active in the corridor are certainly much, much smaller than the ones on the riverfront," Amdahl said. Claude route, which stretches from the French Quarter to Bywater, have been among the most vocal and visible supporters at meetings convened to discuss the proposals. For example, the agency, which once operated nearly 400 buses, now has a fleet of about 100. But if board members agree to go forward as expected, the plan will be presented to the City Council, as a courtesy, and ultimately to the Federal Transit Administration, which will make the ultimate decision. An alternative option would have the streetcar traveling uptown on Convention Center Boulevard, turning toward the river at Henderson Street and connecting with the Riverfront streetcar line behind the Convention Center. It would cost between $33 million and $38 million and would span about 1.5 miles, depending on the route. Loyola Avenue, with its stretches of office complexes, does not offer the potential for pedestrian-friendly businesses that benefit most from a streetcar route. All rights reserved (About Us).The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of NOLA Media Group. But a few blocks from those streets, historic buildings in many areas of Treme, New Marigny and Bywater are succumbing to blight.
Claude bus route, which the streetcar would replace, is the busiest bus line operated by the RTA.

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