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RTA History RTA History

The oldest component of the RTA is the St. Charles streetcar line. It began in 1835 as a passenger railway between New Orleans and a suburb called Carrollton, which has since been absorbed into the city. The St. Charles line was one of the first passenger railroads in the country, and it remains the oldest continuously operating street railway in the world.

RTA History RTA History

As the city grew, so did the transportation network. In the early part of the twentieth century, a number of different private streetcar companies operated various lines throughout New Orleans. They competed with each other, which ended up creating inconsistent service for the public and costly inefficiencies for their owners.

In the 1920s, the New Orleans city government formed an organization called New Orleans Public Service, Inc. (NOPSI), to consolidate not only public transit but also competing electricity and gas companies.

RTA History RTA History

In the 1960s, buses began to displace many streetcar lines in New Orleans. Worried that an important part of the city’s heritage would be lost, preservationists succeeded in listing the St. Charles line on the National Register of Historic Landmarks in 1973. Because of this special status, all the green St. Charles streetcars need to appear and be maintained and operated as they were in 1920.

RTA History RTA History

In the first part of the last century, utility companies across the country were often in charge of operating their city’s public transit systems, but these companies began to prefer focusing on providing power and looked to divest themselves of the public transport function. NOPSI (which later became Entergy) was no exception. As a result, the Louisiana State Legislature established the Regional Transit Authority in 1979.

RTA History

After a transition period, in 1983 the RTA became fully responsible for operating and maintaining all city bus routes and the St. Charles streetcar line. The RTA established the Riverfront streetcar line in 1988 and revived the Canal Streetcar line in 2004.

RTA History RTA History

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept through the city and damaged the city’s levees and caused catastrophic flooding. The flooding destroyed most of the RTA’s vehicles and facilities. Although recovery remains ongoing, the RTA has made tremendous progress in reviving its streetcar lines and bus routes, including replacing its bus and paratransit fleet with new buses, thereby making the city’s fleet one of the newest in the country.

RTA History RTA History RTA History

Part of the RTA’s renaissance includes higher environmental standards. Our new buses run on bio-diesel, which emits much lower levels of CO2 and other emissions when compared to standard diesel fuel. Tires are filled with nitrogen which better maintains tire pressure and leads to improved fuel efficiency. As always, streetcars are powered by overhead electrical lines, resulting in even lower net emissions than gasoline-powered vehicles.

Better mobility means a better quality of life.

With much of the pre-Katrina transit services restored, the public transportation system is once again the vital link between neighborhoods and business centers in the city and region. The RTA and its Board are committed to increasing equity and access, improving mobility throughout the city, and strengthening economic opportunities for all residents. We promise to continually strive for the day when our collective vision for a world-class New Orleans regional transit system becomes a reality.

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