NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The clackety-clack is back.
New Orleans yesterday resumed its streetcar service, which had been out of commission since Hurricane Katrina destroyed utility poles and metal tracks used to propel the city’s iconic streetcars.
Car No. 930, adorned with holiday garland and red ribbon, was the first to roll out from the French Market post at 7 a.m.
“It has taken so much to get here,” said Regional Transit Authority spokeswoman Rosalind Blanco Cook. “Evaluating the cars, trying to get the cars on different routes and getting the operators back — it took a lot of work.”
Six of the 35 historic New Orleans streetcars that before Hurricane Katrina ran along St. Charles Avenue — the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world — ran yesterday along the Mississippi Riverfront line and part of the Canal Street line. Two backup cars rode the rails as well.
The newer red cars that usually travel those routes were severely damaged by floodwaters and are not yet back in service. The New Orleans City Council had to enact an ordinance allowing the RTA to move the older green cars, which date back to the 1920s, to the new routes.
The transit authority is providing free bus service on the St. Charles route, where the infrastructure is not ready for streetcar service, Miss Cook said. She said it’s not clear when the service, which runs through the city’s Garden District, past mansions, Tulane University and Audubon Park, will resume.
The riverfront line was added in 1988 and the Canal Street line, which was abandoned 40 years ago, was restored in 2004. New Orleans once operated the largest streetcar system in the world.
Clarence Glover, a streetcar motorman for 22 years, instructed conductor Jerry Duplessis on yesterday’s first run. Before Katrina, Mr. Duplessis drove the newer cars, which had more automatic features. He had to be briefed on the older cars’ manual components, such as a foot pump that drops sand on the tracks for traction as the car comes to a stop. The newer cars drop sand automatically, Mr. Glover said.
Getting conductors back into the city was part of the struggle to resume streetcar service. Many transit workers, including Miss Cook, are living on a cruise ship docked at the riverfront after their homes were destroyed by Katrina’s winds Aug. 29 and subsequent flooding.
Mr. Glover, whose home in eastern New Orleans was flooded, left his wife and daughter with family in Houston to return to his job. He’s living in a hotel until he finds something more permanent. Mr. Duplessis, whose home was deluged as well, lives with family in Avondale.