May 19, 2011 | bfeldman | AIA, Sustainability, Travel

Back from New Orleans – AIA Convention

Last week I attended the AIA Convention in New Orleans.  The focus of convention this year was sustainability, and the rebuilding of the city after Katrina.  I had a great time down there – a big part of any convention is taking in the host city, and you can’t get more interesting architecturally than New Orleans.

The thing that fascinated me more than anything this visit was riding the streetcar.  My brother lives in New Orleans, uptown near Audubon Park.  It’s easy to catch the St. Charles streetcar from his house and ride downtown or to the French Quarter.  I rode it back and forth most days.   A couple of things really struck me.

Beyond the historical nature of the cars themselves, mass transit by this streetcar line seems like such a simple thing.  No tunnels.  No built structures to stop or buy tickets.  Just hop on, hop off from the median between the street.  Yes, it’s very slow.  But it’s also cheap ($1.25 per ride, as opposed to $2.25 for metrolink here).  Most importantly, if you are fortunate to live within the line, it runs from a place where a lot of people live and can walk to get to the streetcar, and takes them to where a lot of people work.

I’m not a transit expert, but is seems like pulling out a lane or two of traffic, adding a lane or two for the streetcar, or letting them run in the street like they do in other parts of the world would be both cost effective and a great way to move people through the city of Saint Louis.

Streetcar riders, New Orleans
Streetcar riders, New Orleans

More on the rest of convention later, including the new Green Building Code.

Back to News